When you bring a newborn home from the hospital it can seem like you will NEVER get any sleep.
The baby is up at all hours — especially during the night, you have to nurse or pump, and there are always endless bottles or pump parts that need washing. Add to that potentially having to take care of an older child and maybe sometimes putting food on the table and it’s no wonder you’re overtired and overwhelmed.
Mama, let me tell you – there is hope. Read below for my proven tips and tricks to set yourself and your baby up for sleeping success.
We have all heard the stories. Babies who come home from the hospital and then proceed to sleep for 12 hours through the night with no waking up. Babies who sleep and feed on schedule, while generally behaving like little angels. Like any good old wives’ tale, these stories still get told to moms everywhere.
In reality, let’s be honest, almost no babies do this. And certainly not for any extended period of time. Your baby might sleep through the night one day. But the next day they might wake up every hour with a cry that can wake the dead.
So as a baseline, remember that newborns:
- Will not keep to any schedule for the first weeks of their lives
- Wake and sleep on irregular patterns because their internal clocks are confused
- Nap – but do so at different times and for different periods
- Sleep on average 14-17 hours in a 24-hour period (but some might sleep more)
- Feed irregularly, sometimes going 2-3 hours between feeds and sometimes eating more often (also known as cluster-feeding)
Remember – every baby is unique. What you might have heard about other babies will most likely not apply to yours.
Safe and Comfortable
It can be super exciting to set up the baby’s nursery as you prepare for your child to come home. Just remember, for babies younger than 12 months, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends room-sharing to decrease the risk of SIDS.
From the beginning, your newborn should sleep in their own crib or bassinet, instead of sleeping in your bed. This is for both safety and long-term comfort. If you allow your baby to sleep in bed with you it can make the transition to independent sleep more challenging.
Keeping your baby in your room but in their own sleeping space is the best of both worlds. The baby is close to you for nighttime feeds and easy access. And they learn to sleep more independently from the very beginning.
Never Too Early for Routine
After everything I just said it might seem crazy to talk about routines. If the baby sleeps whenever they choose and doesn’t stick to any schedule, why would you use a routine?
While your baby does not follow a schedule yet, it does not mean you can’t start implementing a simple sleep routine for naps and bedtimes. Following a routine for sleep will help baby sort out their days from nights and sleep time from wake time faster and easier. It will also make sleep less complicated later. Most adults follow a routine to get ready for bed. Helping your baby do the same gives them a heads-up that they are about to hit snooze.
Here are some easy things you can do to establish a sleeping routine:
- Figure out some simple steps you can take before each bedtime (a simple routine might include a feed, diaper change, swaddle, song, and a quick cuddle)
- Complete the steps in the same order every time
- Keep the baby’s sleeping space dark (you can use blackout curtains to make this easier)
- Expose the baby to lots of light during the time they are awake
- Go ahead and turn on a white-noise machine during sleep time
Wake Windows – What in the World?
At this point, many parents have heard the term ‘Wake Windows’. But if you’re like most people you might not know what these actually are. Or how they can help you get your newborn to sleep better.
In simple terms, a wake window is the amount of time your baby can stay awake before needing to sleep again. Knowing your baby’s wake window is key to ensuring that they don’t get overtired. As crazy as it might sound, an overtired baby won’t go to sleep easier. They’ll actually have a harder time falling asleep. So keeping an eye on when your newborn needs to sleep again is key to sleep success.
As you can imagine, wake windows change throughout your child’s life. In the newborn stage, a wake window of 45-75 minutes is normal. Remember that the wake window will include: feeding time, changing time, and a little bit of ‘play’ time.
You can read more about how to avoid an overtired baby here.
As I mentioned earlier, wake windows are key to ensuring that your baby is getting the rest they need and learning to regulate their sleep-wake cycle.
In the beginning, it’s important to try and stick to the wake windows until you learn your child’s sleep cues. As you spend more and more time with your baby you’ll start noticing the things they do to show you they’re tired and ready to go to sleep. This will help you get a clearer picture of their unique needs. You may find that their particular wake window is longer or shorter than what’s recommended and will need to account for that.
While you’re learning your baby’s individual sleep cues you can look out for:
- Early cues: yawning, eye rubbing, redness under eyes, staring off into space
- Late cues: increased body movement, agitation, full-out crying
You’ve got this
There’s a lot to think about when you get home with a newborn. With these newborn sleep tips under your belt, you’ll be on your way to better sleep for everyone in the family in no time.
If you’d like to learn even more about all things newborn sleep you should definitely check out my Born To Sleep course. It will teach you in detail about:
- How much your baby should sleep at different stages
- How many naps your baby should take
- What wake windows are and why you should track them
- How to make sure your baby is safe while sleeping
- How to set up newborn sleep routines
- How to get a baby that’s resisting sleep to go down
- Not creating future sleeping problems
For a limited time use code WELCOME100 to save $100 and start sleeping better now.
I am Leann Latus, a sleep coach who has helped thousands of children find better sleep over the last 10+ years. My team and I have witnessed babies who went from waking every hour to sleeping a solid 12 hours all on their own. We’ve seen toddlers find consistent napping schedules, easier bedtimes, and learn to stay in their beds all night. And I know what those exhausting, sleepless nights feel like because I was there once too. If you’re new here…welcome! You can learn more about me and why I’m so passionate about helping parents get their children sleeping.