Sleep - it’s a complex and often confusing issue for many new parents. In the first 12 months of life, baby sleep is constant cycle of ups and downs. And all babies sleep differently.
Many new parents feel pressure to establish a rigid newborn sleep routine for their baby from day one. The reality is it can take some time for a baby to sleep overnight. The frequent feeding schedule young babies require to gain weight, means they are really only capable of sleeping 2-3 hours at a time. The good news is, as they gain weight and get older, their capacity to sleep increases. But sometimes there are a few hurdles in between.
Setting up for successful sleep
There are a few simple ways you can help begin establishing your baby in a pattern for sleep.
You can also try these easy ideas below:
- Bath and Bed routine: to begin, try bathing your newborn at 10pm every night. Dress and wrap the baby, feed it then put it to bed around 11pm. The late bath is not forever, but it can be a very helpful routine for right now - with the aim of having baby sleep 2-3 hours initially then building up to 3-4 hours, 5-6 hours and so on. Be consistent and your baby will soon associate this routine with sleeping.
>>Watch Midwife Cath’s Guide to ‘Bathing Baby’
- Tummy time: important to a baby's development, tummy time also assists with sleeping. Placing your baby on their stomach (for one-two minute durations, ten times a day) helps develop the strength in their neck and shoulder muscles. This play time or baby exercise is also essential for the prevention of a flat head too, known as Plagiocephaly. This can occur when babies spend too long on their back. The exertion of energy used during tummy time can also help baby rest longer at sleep times.
>>Watch Midwife Cath’s guide to ‘Play and Development’
- Wrapping bub: I recommend securely wrapping baby for all feeds and sleep in the early weeks. Remember, baby has been in a safe, warm and buffered environment during pregnancy and it’s a big change when the baby enters its new surroundings. Wrapping the baby will help soothe and calm the baby by resembling life in utero and also settles their startle reflex.
>>Watch Midwife Cath’s guide to ‘Wrapping Baby’
- Reduce reflux:
gastric reflux is another common reason why some babies have trouble sleeping. Reflux (or heartburn) causes a lot of discomfort to the baby and can prevent their ability to settle. Lying flat for long periods can make this worse. Holding baby in an upright position and trying smaller, more frequent feeding can help. It’s important to seek medical advice if you have difficulty alleviating/managing reflux.
Babies need balance
The basic formula is simple to build up to a solid sleep. To generally sleep better, babies need adequate milk intake to gain weight and frequent, short sessions of tummy time. Once the baby is sleeping for longer stretches overnight, they’ll only require short, frequent sleeps during the day with frequent feeds. Some people refer to these as ‘cat naps’ which are normal for a baby.
My best advice is to try and be as flexible as possible. Right now, it’s all about catering to your baby’s needs. The sooner you can respond to their desire for a feed or comfort, the more relaxed the baby will become. Keep reminding yourself that even though it’s challenging and feels like a roller-coaster ride, it won’t be this way forever. Always seek help from your midwife or GP if you are concerned or need a helping hand.
Last Published* June, 2023
*Please note that the published date may not be the same as the date that the content was created and that information above may have changed since.