Super secret newborn sleep help

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Congratulations! for the wise decision to teach your baby healthy sleep habits right from the beginning of his life.

Baby will be eating and sleeping a lot. He will be taking many naps a day with only 45 min- 1 hour of wake time between naps, which includes feeding and diapering. He will be sleeping approx. 20 hours a day.

Your newborn guide

Sleep Props: One of the most crucial elements for teaching children to go to sleep and stay asleep is helping them develop self-soothing strategies. We all have them; some of us have to be in a certain position in order to fall asleep, some of us need the window open and socks on, some of us need to listen to music in order to fall asleep.

Whatever it is, we all have ways that we soothe ourselves into sleep. If your child depends on a “prop” to fall asleep – such as breastfeeding, bottles, pacifiers, patting, rocking, or even sucking on parents’ fingers– then they will find it difficult to get back to sleep without their “prop.” It is important that we teach our children skills so they can fall asleep themselves and begin to sleep more peacefully. At this stage, one of the most common sleep props is breastfeeding, so have in the back of your mind that you will try not to feed (breast or bottle) to sleep. Of course, this is next to impossible to achieve 100% of the time and putting your baby down in his crib already asleep from time to time will not be the end of the world.

Eat, Play, Sleep: This is the most important thing you can do in the first few months of life to create a great sleeper. Encourage full feeds during the day by creating an EAT- PLAY-SLEEP pattern. Newborn babies (up to three months old) will need to take four to five naps per day, and these naps should ideally be between one to three hours. Most newborns should only be awake for 45-60 min at a stretch before they will need to take another nap.

Ensure baby is put back down 45 min- 1 hour after he wakes.

Feedings: Somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes provides adequate feeding time for newborns (this is true for both breastfed and bottle-fed babies). For most babies, feeding times will be every two to three hours.

Twelve hours of “Day,” Twelve hours of “Night”:

An ideal schedule looks something like this:

8:00 Wake up: Feed upon waking in a bright room (not the bedroom).
9:00 First nap, roughly 1½–2 hours: Feed upon waking
12:00 Second nap, hopefully another 1½–2 hours: Feed upon waking
3:00 Third nap: Feed upon waking
6:00 Fourth nap: Feed upon waking
8:00–8:30 Bedtime: Feed before bed

The important thing is to keep an eye on the time and make sure that your baby is not awake for longer than 60 minutes at a time.

Bedtime Routine: Establishing a good bedtime routine right from day one is a great way to help your baby organize days and nights and start to consolidate nighttime sleep more quickly. I suggest starting a bedtime routine off with a bath – it’s a great step one. It’s such a significantly different experience that your child will soon learn that a bath means bedtime is near.

Bedtime Routine

  • Bath
  • Pajamas
  • Feeding
  • Swaddle (only up to 8 weeks)
  • Song
  • Kisses goodnight and into crib with white noise

Last feed: Your routine should always include a full feed to ensure baby’s tummy is full. And it will likely be a tricky time of day to keep baby awake during the feed. Keep a close eye on him and try to keep baby aware of his surroundings by stimulating with touch or talking. You might actually have to remove him from the breast/bottle so he stays awake and is able to continue feeding. Keep him awake while you are burping as well. Keep burping to a minimum and make it a little less comfortable so he has a harder time falling asleep. Your number one goal here is to place him in the crib awake.

He may be drowsy, but needs to be awake.

If baby starts to cry: If your baby fusses, you can pick him up and walk around the room a bit until he is calm. Once calm, you should return him to his crib. If he fusses again, wait a few minutes to see how he will respond. If the fussing turns to crying, you can pick him up again. Walk around the bedroom until he is calm, and then put him back into the crib.

Repeat this process as many times as it takes for him to fall asleep. Resist the temptation to let him fall asleep in your arms. If this continues long enough that another feed is needed, then feed your baby doing the best you can to keep him awake, then right back to the crib and keep trying.

You can also stand or sit by the crib using shushing, patting, jiggling the mattress, talking or whatever you can to encourage sleep, without picking baby up.

Your third option is going in and out of the room every 5 minutes. Stay 1-2 minutes and provide some support as outlined above. Leave again for 5 minutes. Repeat until sleeping.

Night Feedings: When your baby wakes up in the middle of the night, you should wait just a couple of minutes before you respond. If he is hungry, you’ll know! If he fusses for longer than a few minutes, you can go into his room and feed him. However, before you start the feed, delay it by changing the diaper first. This is to delay the gratification of the nighttime feeds. Your baby will then be less likely to connect waking and crying with feeding. Keep an eye on baby through the feed, and do your best to keep him awake, so he can go back to his crib aware of his surroundings once the feed is finished.

You should keep baby in his room at night. Keep the lights low and your voice quiet so that he doesn’t become over-stimulated. Nighttime is for sleeping, so resist the urge to watch TV or turn on lights. This will also help you resettle faster when you get back to your own bed.

It’s Morning: 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., 8:00 a.m. will be the start of the day. The best way to signal that the morning has officially begun is to take baby out of the room and feed in a bright daytime environment such as the living room or the kitchen.

Nap time Routine: Creating a clear and predictable nap time routine will help your baby make the transition and take a nap more readily.

Good examples of nap routines:

  • Diaper change
  • Cuddle time/with songs
  • Story book
  • Avoid feeding right before naps as this will only encourage a feed/sleep association. We really want to stick to the wake, eat, play, sleep schedule.

Once the routine is complete, put your baby in the crib or bassinet awake. If he fusses or squirms, wait a minute or two to see if he can settle himself. If he gets more upset, you can pick him up again and soothe. At the first signs of drowsiness put him back down again. Repeat this process until your baby has fallen asleep or one hour has gone by. If your baby has not fallen asleep within this hour, then get him up and offer a feeding. Do your best to keep baby awake through the feed, and then put him in the stroller, swing, carrier, or go for a car ride so he can get some sleep.

Rules for newborns are flexible. 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 his own sleep skills, the better he will begin to sleep!

Short naps: If your baby wakes before an hour is up, try for 20 minutes to coax him back to sleep. Go in as soon as you hear him stir. You can pat, shush, jiggle the mattress, doing whatever you can to encourage baby to go back to sleep. It is better to try to preserve the nap so that the feed schedule stays on track, rather than worry about following all the rules for independent sleep habits. If you have tried for 20 min with no success, then get your baby up, wait a few minutes before offering a feeding, and try again at next nap time.

Helpful Hints for Success with Newborns:
If you have been diligent in creating healthy sleep habits in your newborn by ensuring he is not relying on props and is able to fall asleep on his own, chances are he will wean himself off nighttime feeds somewhere between 10 and 13 weeks of age.

Beware of your baby monitor! With a monitor we respond to our babies at the slightest whimper instead of allowing our babies a chance to find their own way back to sleep. Without a monitor, it might take a few minutes for you to hear the baby and a few more to actually respond. By that time, he may fall back asleep on his own!

White noise is used to trigger the calming reflex in newborns and helps babies sleep longer well into their toddler years. It needs to be quite loud equaling the volume of your baby’s cry. Please do not turn it to maximum volume and put it near your baby’s head. It is to be used throughout the night and during all naps.

Focus on bedtime and first nap of the day to start with!

What Ifs:

WHAT IF…..he won’t go down and it’s time for a feed again?

If you think he is hungry then feed him. If he ends up falling asleep feeding, just put him back in the crib. Try to keep him awake though so he can go into the crib awake to fall asleep.

WHAT IF…..he falls asleep but wakes up before it’s time to feed again?

A typical sleep cycle lasts about 30-40 minutes. Newborns sometimes have trouble falling back to sleep once they wake from a sleep cycle so they run the risk of not having a full nap.

If he wakes up after 30 or 40 minutes, don’t assume he is done sleeping. Wait a minute or two to see if he will settle. If the cries get more frantic, go in and see if you can encourage him to fall back asleep. You can use a soother at this point.
If he is still awake after 20 minutes of trying, get him up, feed him and try and get him to fall asleep on his own for the next nap.

So, there you have my top sleep tips for newborns! I know, it’s a lot of information all at once.

You’re always welcome to reach out to me anytime. I’d love to hear from you because I LOVE working with newborns and teaching them to be great sleepers right from the start.

Jo Anna is such a pleasure to work with; detailed, clear, and intentional with all instruction and help. She was encouraging and compassionate but also firm with me when I needed it- very mothering and empowering. I'm so grateful for her. It goes without saying that she helped us with sleep: both with my toddler and my newborn. I love her approach and couldn't recommend her more highly. If you are wondering if it's really worth it, I can promise you, it is.
- Melanie

It's never too early or late to start working on healthy sleep habits.

Now is the time to get your baby’s sleep back!