Note from Tinyhood: Love and need your sleep? We’re with you. While having a newborn does mean (at least for a little while!) you’ll likely be up in the middle of the night, there are ways to make sure you establish healthy sleep habits from the start.
Our online course, Baby 101: The Parenting Prerequisite, teaches expecting parents the skills to understand their baby's sleep cues, prevent overtiredness, create a safe sleep environment, soothe and calm a fussy baby, and troubleshoot sleep challenges that may come up along the way.
When you’re expecting, you get a slew of unsolicited advice from well-meaning friends and family members. Everyone has their own opinion on everything from strollers to diaper brands and must-have “equipment” like diaper pails, wipe warmers, etc. However, everyone seems to agree on one thing: when you have a newborn you will be TIRED.
Before I became a mom, I knew this. I expected to be low on sleep. But when I was up in the middle of the night with Charlie, or trying to get him to nap, I found myself having so many questions that I didn’t know the answer to. How much sleep should he be getting during the day? How do I make sure he’s eating enough? Do I have to wake him up to eat? Why are his naps SO SHORT?! Will letting him sleep in a carrier or in the stroller ruin his sleep habits forever?! How exactly do I lay the foundation for him to become a good sleeper?
As these questions constantly swirled through my head, I realized there was way more to newborn sleep that no one told me. So, now that Charlie is 7 months old, and I am “through” the newborn phase with him, I wanted to pass along a few things I learned about newborn sleep that could help other moms out:
Bedtime routines can help from the start. Even young babies can begin to pick up on a routine, so establishing a short bedtime routine from the beginning is helpful. Things like consistently giving them a bath, an infant massage, reading a book, feeding or singing a song before bed can queue your baby’s brain that it’s time for sleep. We started this when he was about 6 weeks old, and I swear it helped signal to him “this is bedtime.” I then started to do a shortened version of it for naps, too.
Note from Tinyhood: Get our bedtime routine checklist in our online course, Baby 101: The Parenting Prerequisite.
Feeding should take priority over sleep. In those early months, it’s important to make sure your newborn is well fed for health reasons. But also,because newborns often have their days and nights mixed up, they can sleep a lot during the day… which means they end up waking up more often at night to eat. Make sure to feed them every 2-3 hours during the day to ensure they are getting enough food. Also, another thing that will eventually help your baby to learn their nights from their days is to keep nighttime feeding / diaper change interactions as boring as possible so they know that nighttime is not for "play."
Create a serene sleep space. While they may look cute, toys, mobiles, etc in or around your baby’s bassinet or crib can be distracting. These items are not only a potential safety hazard, they don’t encourage sleep — again, you want a sleep environment to be as “boring” as possible.
Note from Tinyhood: Babies should sleep in a completely empty crib with nothing in or around it. For more info on how to create a safe sleep environment for your little one, check out our course Baby 101: The Parenting Prerequisite.
Learn your baby’s unique sleep cues. An overtired (or undertired!) baby will NOT sleep well. Unfortunately, until you learn the sleepy cues of your little one, this will likely happen a time or two. You can use average wake windows as a guide for how long your baby should be awake, but every baby is different so learning to identify their sleep cues is the first step in making sure they get the sleep they need. Early sleep cues include jerky body movements, becoming quiet, and staring off into space. When you start to see these, begin the bed or naptime routine.
Note from Tinyhood: To learn early, mid and late stage sleepy cues, how to identify them, and what to do when you see them, check out our Baby 101, online course.
Non-crib naps are OK! In the newborn days, don't overly stress about perfect crib naps. Whether it’s in a stroller, in your arms, while babywearing, etc, utilizing all the things you can to help your newborn get sleep during the day (or to extend a nap!) is not going to set them up to be a “bad” sleeper in the future. Seriously.
Note from Tinyhood: If you’re expecting, be sure to check out our Baby 101: The Parenting Prerequisite online course, now. Designed by certified experts, this is the crash course in parenting, including everything you need to know about newborn sleep, safety, soothing techniques, newborn care and more. Plus, learn how to begin to create a schedule (and get sample schedules!), address and overcome sleep challenges that may arise. Plus, you can always reference back when you need it the most.