Once the pregnancy news has been announced, due dates are confirmed and you’ve been quizzed by friends and family on the gender, it’s not long before the sleep warnings begin to roll in.
Parents-to-be are often jokingly advised to make the most of their lie-ins now, as once baby arrives, a good night’s sleep will be a thing of the past! It’s a pretty accurate prediction, because although newborns sleep from around 11 to 16 hours a day, most aren’t down for more than a 4- to 6-hour stretch, day or night.
This phase is expected to last for the first 3 months after birth (also known as the Fourth Trimester). During this period your own sleep pattern will, of course, be affected too. Nutritional needs make the sleep patterns and habits of a newborn unpredictable, as your baby generally requires feeding every two to three hours in the first month and every three to four hours in the second month.
However, there are some tips and tricks to getting your baby to sleep, as well as maximizing on the amount of sleep you can hope to get as a new parent!
Sleep routines are proven to be more effective for older babies and children, but there are still benefits to introducing one for a newborn. Just as we have our own bedtime routines, which likely include things like brushing our teeth, washing our face and putting on pyjamas - babies can benefit from bedtime cues, too.
Try things like bathing your baby, applying lotion, swaddling them (or putting them into their sleep blanket) and rocking them. This can signal to even very young babies that it’s time to go to sleep.
Parents often nurse their baby before putting them down to sleep. If your baby is still sleeping by the time you go to bed, you can quietly lift them out of their crib for another feed. Babies can drink milk while still being almost fully asleep. Leaving your baby with an extra feed can help them sleep longer, giving you some extra shut-eye, too!
Say No to Visitors and other Responsibilities
Adding to your family is such an exciting time, but adjusting to life with a newborn can also be overwhelming at times. While visitors mean well and it can be lovely to see your friends and family meet your precious new bundle, it's important to let them know when is a good time for you.
If the baby has a rough night and you’re tired, tell your friends and family that you greatly appreciate that they want to meet your new baby, but you’re just not up to it that day. People understand, and you can reschedule for another time!
Don’t Overthink It
Exhaustion can make us spiral into negative thinking, and it can be easy to feel helpless if you feel your baby isn't sleeping as much as you'd like. but it's important to remember that many of the factors behind infant sleep are outside of our control.
Dr Greer Kishenbaum PhD is a neuroscience, doula, mother and infant sleep consultant - which gives her of a kind of superpower status when it comes to infant sleep. "We trust many things about our baby", Dr Greer explains, "but we don’t trust that their body will sleep as much as it needs to. There are loads and loads of false claims out there that can make us lose trust that our baby will sleep enough.
“The truth is your baby’s brain will take all of the sleep it needs. When we set up optimal conditions for sleep - examine any health issues that might influence sleep, use tired cues to time naps and bedtime, provide a comfortable sleep environment, provide coregulation and presence when needed - the infant brain sleeps very well.
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