Newborn Sleep Tips For Exhausted New Parents
There’s nothing that matters more to new parents than knowing their baby eats well, sleeps well and poos well! It takes time for newborns to adjust to their new environment during their first three months of life. They also learn at an incredibly fast pace, which requires lots of energy and explains why they need to eat and sleep so much.
If you find it hard to soothe your baby to sleep, or find them wide awake at night (it’s most likely because they sleep too much during the day), it’s time to learn more about your baby’s biological needs and body cues so you can all get back on the sleep train.
1. Help Your Baby Set Their Internal Clock (aka circadian rhythm)
Newborn babies literally can’t tell the difference between daytime and night, and it’s up to us to help them set their internal clock. In order to help your baby establish a sense of time, you can expose her to daylight by drawing the curtains open and letting natural sunlight come through during the day.
Studies show that babies who get natural light during the day sleep better at night and adapt to a 24-hour time cycle faster than those who only get artificial light indoors.
When it’s nighttime, dim the lighting at home to create a more calming environment. Being exposed to light also decreases your baby’s melatonin level and can affect their sleep.
2. Pay Attention To Their Sleepy Cues
While your baby can’t talk and tell you their needs just yet, you can learn to read their body languages and pay close attention to their sleepy cues.
As soon as your baby yawns, rubs their eyes, or zones out, it’s time to spring into action and help them settle down to sleep.
Newborns don’t stay awake for too long during their first three months of life, and when they do, they’re usually awake for no longer than one to one and a half hours. If you miss the sleep window, your baby will get overtired and struggle to fall asleep.
3. Make Sure They’re Well Fed Before Bedtime
Newborns grow extremely quickly and need to consume enough nutrients to support their physical development. Having a regular feeding schedule helps ensure your baby is getting all the nutrients she needs, and having a full tummy will help her sleep better too.
If you’re thinking of night weaning your baby, don’t rush into it just yet! Newborns have a small stomach and can only nurse in small portions multiple times throughout the day, so it’s normal they’d need to be fed during the night too.
How often and how much you should feed your baby depends on how much milk your little one wants. Keep an eye out for your baby’s hunger cues - if you find them smacking their lips, moving their mouth, or sucking their fingers, that’s a good sign they’re getting hungry (preferably before they start crying).
If they’re still actively suckling and swallowing while feeding, you know they can still eat more. When the baby relaxes and has that sleepy, dreamy look, you know they’ve had enough. Make sure you burp your baby after feeding, since having extra wind in the baby’s stomach can cause discomfort and affect their quality of sleep. You can also go for anti-colic feeding bottles to minimize winding during feeding.
4. Give Swaddling Or A Swaddle Bag A Go
Swaddling is an increasingly popular way to soothe babies to sleep, as it helps distressed and irritable babies to calm down. Wrapping your baby in a swaddle mimics the same warmth and snugness of the mother’s womb, and studies have shown that mothers who swaddled their babies experience less maternal anxiety and bond better with their babies! Swaddling also helps prevent your baby from startling themselves awake because of random arm movements.
If you haven’t quite figured out how to wrap your baby in a swaddle and prefer something more convenient, go for a swaddle sleeping bag instead. It keeps the baby snug, secure and warm (which also means better sleep quality!) and you can pick different TOG rated ones according to the temperatures.
5. Set Up A Sleep-friendly Environment
The rule of thumb is to keep your baby’s room dark and quiet. Babies are very light sensitive and light can decrease the level of melatonin in your baby’s body, which in return affects their quality of sleep. If your baby naps during the day, use block out curtains to shield off sunlight. Having white noise in the background can also help them fall asleep faster and sleep longer.
Think twice before you place a music mobile to help your baby fall asleep. These decorations can easily distract your baby and keep them awake since they’re designed to stimulate the baby’s senses. There are also potential risks of the mobile falling down and harming the baby.
6. Sleep Train Your Baby… At The Right Time
It’s every parent’s dream for their baby to sleep on their own, and some parents even start training their babies as soon as they reach one month old.
However, newborns actually need time to get used to their new environments and they look for comfort and soothing from their parents as they fall asleep. It’s best to leave sleep training until your baby is a little older. You can also try to have your baby sleep in your bed occasionally to get them used to sleeping in a bed. However, make sure you position your baby with care so you don’t roll onto your baby by accident.
Article by Baby Sleep Well
Charlotte Ma is an International Certified Child Sleep Consultant (IACSC, APSC and IAPC) and founder of Baby Sleep Well HK. Charlotte is currently the only local Child Sleep Consultant Trainer in Hong Kong. Since 2019, she has provided her baby sleep consulting service to over 900 families, promoting healthy baby sleep habits one family at a time.
Facebook/ IG: babysleepwellhk