Did you bring home a new baby? Are you sleeping? First off I’d like to congratulate you on bringing home your baby. As for not sleeping - this is normal. I’ve been a parent of a newborn twice and both times I was in shock that they let me leave the hospital with this new little human. I also did not sleep much as a new parent. I’m not sure if it was fear that something would happen when I slept or if I was frequently waking for night feeds. These are both concerns many new parents face. I’m going to share a few tips to help you get a better night's sleep.
Sleep Cycles - Newborn sleep is often hard to understand as it is so different from adult sleep. Everyone repeats multiple sleep cycles during sleep, alternating between Light Sleep (REM Sleep) and Deep Sleep (NREM Sleep). Babies sleep cycles tend to be short (30-50 minutes) while adults are 90-110 minutes. During these sleep cycles adults transition between light and deep sleep throughout the night. Initially newborns tend to wake shortly between each sleep cycle and often need help falling back to sleep. With time they will learn to link their sleep cycles.
Night and Day Confusion - Newborns (0-2 months) sleep 17-20 hours in 24 hours. Their wake times will increase as they mature and by 4 months (adjusted) you will find your baby is ready for longer wake times and will sleep an average of 14-15 hour in 24 hours. During the early days, many babies can easily fall asleep in any environment but be careful as they quickly change and need more structure. Try starting 'House Hours' - 7am-7pm your house is awake. (Lights on, normal levels of noise, normal voices, playtime). 7 pm -7 am house is asleep. (light low, voices are calm and quieter, the house is dark, sleep time). * *We still generally use these hours at home now with my daughters.
Routines - Newborns are not ready for daily routines but starting the pattern early will help make them part of your daily life. Start trying to use a short bedtime routine. For a newborn when you transition to Night Hours try adding a regular nighttime routine for sleep as well. A sleep routine could include a bath, feeding, swaddle or sleep sack, book or song, cuddle and into their safe sleep environment on their backs. Starting now might feel useless but as they get closer to 4 months and you begin with clocked timed naps these will become their sleep cues.
Feeding to Sleep - In the beginning we are generally feeding on demand or following a prescribed feeding schedule with newborns. Trying to limit how much babies feed to sleep is very helpful for mom and dad’s sleep. Trying to limit the association between eating and sleep will help you when you start to teach your child independent sleep. You can start this as you get closer to 4 months of age (adjusted). I like the sleep, play, eat routine for daytime as this helps reinforce this practice.
Safe Sleep - A safe sleep environment is the most critical aspect of newborn sleep. I follow both the Canadian and American standards for safe sleep. ABC's of safe sleep
A-Lone - have your child sleeping alone in their own space.
B-ack - always place a child on their back for sleep.
C-rib- sleeping in an approved crib. You can continue to room share.
A couple of additional safe sleep tips. We have all seen the cute photo of a baby sleeping on a parent’s chest. Capture the moment and take the picture but place your child in their crib for sleep. If you are both sleeping you risk your child's safety.
The newborn stage will not last forever but be sure to ask for help from your partner, friends and loved ones. Calgary has many resources available: postpartum queens - who have boxes to help moms after baby; lactation consultants who are very valuable assisting with ensuring your child is well fed; community services that offer support to groups like mommy connection to connect with fellow moms. These resources are invaluable to new moms and families. Enjoy your time as a new parent. However, remember asking for help is a sign of strength not a weakness. You’ve got this ….. sleep will come.
I share safe sleep tips regularly over all my platforms - blog, Facebook and Instagram. Be sure to follow along and ask any questions either on a post or by direct messaging me.