What you need to know about newborns and sleep from Justine Kinsella, Baby & Toddler Sleep Consultant.
November 17, 20193 min read
I absolutely love working with newborn babies and their mums and dads! There is a lot of inaccurate information out there around what sleep consultants do and how this translates to the little ones. So, here’s a little bit about what I do, and it’s really simple…
I work with mums and dads to give them the knowledge, tools and confidence to help their baby get the restorative sleep they need to support their rapid growth and development.
Newborn babies do not have the ability to self-settle, so we need to help them find sleep! This is very normal and something which I wholeheartedly support. Feeding or rocking your baby to sleep is not creating bad habits… if it’s what you need to do to get your baby to sleep, then absolutely do it! Getting the right amount of sleep for your baby is a priority no matter how it is achieved (within safe sleeping practises of course).
We can help our babies find sleep in a way that still allows us to set up really great healthy foundations for sleep in the future.
Here’s a few facts to help you on your way in understanding what’s happening for your baby when it comes to sleep. Empowering yourself with this knowledge will allow you to respond and meet the sleep needs of your baby at each key age and stage of their development in their first 3 months:
Newborn babies have lots of maternal melatonin present which makes them naturally sleepy for the first 3 weeks of their life. After this time, the maternal melatonin wears off and your baby will start to really wake up! This is the time where you may find you need to help your baby to sleep a lot more than you did initially
A baby’s circadian rhythm starts to develop around 7/8 weeks, so this is a really good time to bring their bedtime forward to 6:00pm / 7:00pm as they will have a natural drive to sleep at this time.
Newborns need between 14 and 17 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. They sleep… a lot! And this sleep is essential.
Your baby will need short awake windows before they need to go down for another nap. Short awake times will help you to stay in control of their tired levels (or sleep debt as it’s sometimes called) to ensure they’re not getting overtired. Keep an eye on their tired cues but keep one eye on the clock too… some babies aren’t very reliable with their tired signs!
1-3 weeks – 40 – 60 min awake time
4-6 weeks – 60-90 min awake time
7-12 weeks – 90 mins +/- 15 mins awake time
We need to avoid having an overtired baby at all costs! Overtiredness can cause a lot of unsettled behaviour and it can mimic or be similar to how a colicky baby acts. Overtired babies are also notoriously difficult to settle to sleep so it’s really important to keep on top of this.
We can turn on a baby’s calming reflex by replicating some of the sensory and physical conditions that were present in the womb:
Swaddle –safely! Below the shoulders, nice and firm so it doesn’t ride up and it’s important it’s nice and loose around the hips
Side settling -settling strategy only, not a sleeping strategy! The only safe position for sleep is on their back. Babies love to be on their side so it’s a great way to settle them to sleep but they then must be rolled onto their back
Firm, rhythmic bottom pat while they are either on their side in their bed, over your shoulder or cradled in your arms
Sucking –some babies have a very strong sucking reflex and using a dummy can be an effective way to soothe and calm newborns. If you don’t want to continue with the dummy long term, ditch it around 12 weeks and it will be relatively easy to do so at this age
Darkroom -when your baby is 7/8 weeks, they start to produce their own melatonin. This is a really good time to start sleeping your baby in a nice dark space. This doesn’t mean your baby won’t be able to sleep anywhere but in cave-like conditions! But it does mean that when you’re at home, you’re helping your baby sleep in a sleep-inducing, calm and relaxing space to encourage the best quality, restorative sleep possible
If you need any further support with your newborn please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I would love to help you!