A newborn sleep guide - what to expect
Since announcing that you’re expecting a baby, how many jokes have people made about how little sleep you can expect when your baby actually arrives?
It’s true to say that, in the first few months, you will all get less sleep throughout the night as your baby’s little tummy can only hold a certain amount of milk which inevitably means they will wake every few hours for a feed.
How much sleep do babies need?However, it’s equally important to remember that in the first few weeks, your baby will most likely sleep for up to 16-20 hours per day! Newborns love to sleep so try and rest when you can while they are asleep. If they aren’t sleeping as long as this, it might be that they aren’t filling their tummy up on the feed, and are therefore less content, so it's wise to check on their feeding habits, if this is the case.
Sleep schedulesBecause of how much they sleep and feed, newborns don’t really have a sleep schedule. If you find that your baby is sleeping longer stretches in the day than at night then you may find they have their day and night confused. This is completely normal as when they are in mummy's tummy during pregnancy they would have slept in the day as she moved about rocking them to sleep. Then at night when mum is lying still trying to get some sleep herself, your little one would have been awake wiggling about.
Introducing a routineIntroducing a bedtime routine from early on can help babies start to differentiate between day and night. This can be as simple as giving them a wash or baby massage at a set time every evening, say 7pm. Once they are in a fresh, sleepsuit, make sure all their feeds and sleep take place in a dark, low-stimulating environment until morning time, that way they can begin to make the adjustment between night and day. For daytime, you can change the tempo! Daytime naps and feeds should take place in a light and buzzing environment. Where possible, introducing fresh air is also very helpful for correcting their day and night rhythm so start taking them out in the pram for naps. Getting babies used to sleeping in a pram is good for flexibility around their sleep patterns. As they get older, you’re out and about much more at baby classes and meeting other parent friends so getting babies used to napping in different environments other than at home is key.
Feeding & SleepingIf your newborn is sleeping very long stretches during the day, it’s totally fine to gently rouse them for a feed and stimulate them with some interaction. If you do this for a few days continuously, you should then begin to see more of their ‘awake time’ in the day rather than at night which hopefully starts to give everyone some longer stretches of sleep! When feeding at night, keep the lights low and use a night light that’s dim, with a red or amber glow if possible; the red or amber glow is less stimulating than that of a blue or white light.
Finding comfortDuring the first few months of a baby’s life, many babies find a lot of comfort from white noise. When they are in the womb, the swishing noise of the body and muffled hum of everyday life is very different to suddenly being out in the big wide world. Winding a baby is one of the most important factors for contributing to a baby’s comfort, as is allowing them to lie on their back in the crib so they are happily settled. Continue to make sure you are still winding your baby at night, even if they fall asleep during the feed (just remember one burp is usually not enough and you should be looking for their tummy to be nice and squidgy which tells you the air has all gone).
Safe sleepAbove all else, it’s critical to follow some key safety principles when it comes to babies and their sleep:
- Babies should always be put down to sleep on their backs, with their feet at the bottom of the cot, moses basket or crib. If you use a blanket, it should be tucked under your baby’s arms and neatly at the sides.
- The ideal room temperature should be between 16-20 degrees with the relevant tog sleeping bag or blanket to supplement their night wear such as a sleepsuit
- It’s advisable for you to sleep in the same room as your little one until they are 6 months old
- A baby’s mattress should be firm and, if possible, new as opposed to second hand
- The crib or cot should remain empty of toys or comforters until they are at least 1 year old
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