Bringing home a newborn is both exciting and overwhelming. I remember the exact moment we drove away from the hospital with our oldest. The thought, “they are really letting me leave with him?” crept into my mind. I read many books and took hours of classes. And I felt like I had received advice from anyone who saw my pregnant belly. But at that moment, I was thinking I had no idea what to do. I wish so badly someone had given me a cliff notes version for the first couple of months. So I thought I’d create my own newborn sleep tips cliff notes to share with you so you can feel prepared from day one! Here are 5 newborn sleep tips that you can start using TODAY to teach your baby to love sleep from the very beginning.
1. Establish Days from Nights
There is nothing like a fussy baby up from 10 PM – 3 AM and then sound asleep all day. Am I right? NO! It’s excruciating. But it happens. And this usually means your newborn just has their days and nights confused.
But the good news is that you can help them learn days and nights! Start by keeping it bright and noisy during the day and dark and quiet at night. Feed your baby with the blinds/curtains open and take your newborn outside during the mornings. The sunshine and light are so helpful for teaching them days.
2. Full Feedings
I realize on demand feeding is being recommended by many hospitals and doctors. And I completely agree that those first couple weeks this is definitely okay. But at some point, most moms I have worked with who have done demand feeding, just feed their babies every time they cry assuming they are hungry.
The problem with this is babies cry for just about everything, not just hunger. So if they are crying because they are tired, and you feed them, you missed the opportunity to put them down for a much needed nap.
Also, demand feeding can create snacking. If your baby is eating every 30 minutes to 1 hour, then they are not filling up. As a result, they will be likely be hungry in another 30 minutes to an hour.
On the other hand, if you try for full feedings, you can ensure your baby’s tummy is nice and full after that feed. I try for a goal of doing a full feed every 2.5 -3 hours. But keep in mind that this is just a goal. Sometimes it won’t be possible and that is okay. But most of the time you will find they easily adjust to this schedule. Also, if you have a NICU baby, your baby’s nurse likely put your baby on the 3-hour schedule. So just try sticking with this as best as you can.
The first month or so babies are so sleepy. And it may seem impossible to keep them awake to eat. But do everything you can to keep them awake to eat a good , full feed. You can try singing, keeping the lights on, tickling their feet, or taking off their clothes, or putting some cool water on their face with a washcloth.
Keep an eye on the time. If it’s been less than 2 hours they probably are not hungry. Remember, a good goal (and it is just a goal) is trying to eat every 2.5-3 hours. This does get easier each week they get older.
I also know moms who don’t want to be tied down by a schedule. But this actually gives you more freedom because you know when your newborn will be sleeping and when they are going to be awake.
As your baby gets a little older, closer to the 3 month mark, we really want to make sure that we’re breaking any feeding to sleep habits.
3. Watch the Wake Time
This is one of the most important of all my newborn sleep tips. So listen closely! Most newborns can only be awake for 45 minutes. That’s right…just 45 minutes! And that 45 minutes can go by in the blink of an eye.
By the time you feed your baby and change them (would could even be multiple times in one waking), it is almost time for them to nap again. Sometimes moms think the longer they keep their newborn up, the better. But in reality, the opposite is true! If you keep your newborn awake too long, then they actually get overtired. And then it gets really hard to put them down. Just be watching that time and keeping an eye out for any tired cues will help your baby fall asleep MUCH easier.
Try to put your newborn down “drowsy”, but not asleep whenever you can. This is one of the most important newborn sleep tips I can give. Why? Because newborns do not have the self-soothing skills they need to fall sleep. But if they are calm and drowsy, then this is a great time to put them down to fall asleep on their own.
Drowsy but awake teaches newborns the skill of independent sleeping. And it goes a long way when they start stretching nights and naps. The more they are able to fall asleep on their own, the more they will learn some very important independent sleep skills.
Since newborns don’t have the self-soothing skills, there will be probably more times than not when you will help them go to sleep and that is okay. Just be watching for the times you can put them down drowsy and this will help so much.
5. Outdoor Time
Go for walks…lots of them. There is just something about getting out of the house and moving around. Outdoor time is good for your newborn and more importantly for you. Even if you’re in your pajamas and taking a walk down your street, I promise no one really cares, especially with a newborn. You can even just get out to your mailbox. The fresh air can do everyone some good.
I can’t tell you how many times I have suggested to moms with newborns to get outside and they didn’t even realize they have been cooped up. It is refreshing and helps give a little break from being in your house all day with a newborn.
Newborn Sleep Help
Here at Live Love Sleep, we have newborn sleep packages that cater specifically to your newborn’s needs. And we will continue to follow up and support you until your little one is sleeping independently through the night.
Most of the time we find that if we can start helping you earlier, there is little to no sleep training involved because we are setting up good habits as early as possible. Let us know if we can help you. You can start by scheduling your FREE Discovery Call. But regardless, we hope these newborn sleep tips give you more confidence with your new baby. We know it is equally joyful and exhausting but lasts just a short little while.
To healthy sleep,
Baby & Toddler Sleep Consultant
Your Houston Sleep Consultant