It is important to allow your newborn to do as much eating and sleeping as they want in these early days, however there are strategies you can use to encourage healthy sleep habits from the start. Three or four months of age is a great time for kiddos to begin learning independent sleep skills - they can do it more quickly and easily than any other age! And you can continue night feedings. If your little one is still struggling to attain healthy sleep habits (12 hours at night + 3-5 hours of naps) at that age, please contact me for a free evaluation and I can help.
Follow an “Eat, Play, Sleep” Schedule
Encourage full feeds during the day by following An EAT- PLAY- SLEEP pattern; this will ensure that your baby doesn’t always fall asleep while eating, which minimizes the creation of a feed/ sleep association. It also means that baby will be getting bigger meals and helps to avoid spitting up and reflux. Newborns sleep on average 16-18 hours a day, which is key for their growth and development. On average newborns are only awake 45-60 minutes before needing another nap, so don’t wait for tired signs, just begin the naptime routine after an hour of alertness.
Establishing a good bedtime routine early on is a great way to help your baby organize their days and nights and start to consolidate nighttime sleep more quickly. Starting a bedtime routine off with a bath or a quick wipe down can be helpful to cue them that bedtime is near. A suggested bedtime routine could be: Bath, Pajamas, Top-up feeding, Short book, Song, Kiss Goodnight.
Soothing Vs. Crying
It takes time to learn to self-sooth, so your challenge will be to give your baby the opportunity to put themselves to sleep. Often times babies will have a distinct self-soothing sound or action that they develop that is totally unique to them, but self soothing often sounds like “crying” to a concerned parent. Pay attention to your baby’s sounds and listen for the difference between fussing, moaning, “singing” and full-blown crying.
When your baby wakes up in the middle of the night, set a timer and wait 5-10 minutes before you respond. This wait time will help you determine the difference between true hunger and just a desire to cuddle and have some assistance getting back to sleep. If the cries are escalating, then it is time to offer some reassurance and possibly a feeding.
It is often hard to tell when the nighttime ends with a newborn. This is when we look at night or day as being a 12-hour interval. If baby went to bed at 8:00 p.m. then 8:00 a.m. will be the start of the day. Anytime baby wakes after that time signal to them that morning has officially begun: turn the lights on/open the blinds, say good morning and take them out of their room for the first feeding of the day.
Helpful Hints for Success with Newborns:
★ Swaddling is most effective during your baby’s first eight weeks of life. After that, you should leave one of your baby’s arms out of the swaddle for a week or two and then make the transition to have both arms free. By three months of age, your baby should no longer be swaddled or it might become a sleep prop.
★ Pacifiers can be a very useful tool for a newborn. They can calm a baby who feels the need to suck, they can buy you a bit of time if you just need to get a few things done, and they can also help your baby calm down and fall asleep. There is no problem with using a soother now and then, as long as you keep in mind that you do not want to let it become a sleep prop. A really good place to try a soother is to extend too short of a nap. If your baby is not interested in a soother don’t force it.
★ Work as a Team - It is most successful if both parents be as involved as possible in the routine. Get some rest when you can, the first few days of doing this are going to be difficult and tiring. Change is hard, but this is going to improve your energy and health in the long run.
★ Dark Room - Darkening the room as much as possible for a baby will help them sleep more soundly. I recommend a 7/8 out of a 10 (so dark you could not read a book without some kind of light) during the day and a 9/10 during the night, completely dark. I don’t recommend any night lights in a baby’s room.
★ White Noise Machine - If you live on a loud street or apartment, placing a white noise machine as far away from the crib as possible can be helpful to drown out any background noise that might be stimulating or arousing for babies.
★ The crib should be a peaceful, safe place to sleep. There should be no loose blankets or pillows in the crib, no stuffed animals, doc-a-tots, and no bumper (unless it’s a breathable one) in the crib. If you have any questions about the safe sleep guidelines, please check them out on the American Academy of Pediatrics website. Naps in strollers, car seats, or your arms are okay for the first few weeks, but keep in mind that the more your baby practices creating independent sleep skills in an optimal sleep environment, the better they will begin to sleep!