How many times did people tell you to enjoy your sleep while you could? Is age old advice expectant parents hear a lot.
Now that your newborn has arrived do you know what they meant by that? Ahh, the sleeplessness of it all! Are the inconsistent zzz’s catching up to you?
Being up through the night is normal for brand new babies and parents. While it is a way of life during this phase there are things you can do to make it more manageable.
Today’s post will uncover important information about newborn habbits and tips to help you get through the sleepless nights as a new parent.
Newborn Sleep: What To Expect
Your mindset is a great asset to helping you survive newborn sleep habits. Knowing what to expect, as in what is developmentally appropriate, gives you the proper perspective of what your little one will and won’t do. You can more than likely expect needing to feed your baby at some point in the night. You can more than likely not expect your baby to put themselves to bed every night…that skill comes later.
Knowing what to expect of your baby in this newborn stage helps you understand how to best care for your infant and also gives you realistic things to work on. It helps you focus on the things you can do and not get stuck on the things you can’t!
So what are these newborn sleep expectations?
Expect Not Knowing The Time Of Day
When babies are in the womb for 9 month everything is dark. When they enter the world they stick to their instincts and can’t tell the difference between night and day.
That’s why babies eat, sleep, and poop all day. It doesn’t matter if it’s 1 am or 1 pm, they just go off of their natural urges and get what they need in the moment regardless if you’re awake or not. A newborn’s vision isn’t fully developed and they don’t pick up on other cues like a sunny sky or star filled night.
Expect Not Sticking To A Routine
Since there is no awareness of night and day and no rhyme or reason to a sleeping or eating schedule in those early days it’s natural not to expect babies to follow a routine.
This can be hard for adults because we are accustomed to following a flow like waking up, getting ready, eating meals, and going to bed everyday.
Even if a baby appears to follow a flow one day doesn’t mean it sticks to the next.
In the first few weeks of life newborns are adjusting to everything around them. Their five senses are getting acclimated to new surroundings. Their bodily functions are still developing. Some days they may be really gassy. Other days they may eat a lot more because of a growth spurt.
All of these factors contribute to them not sticking to the same routine. One night you may find them sleeping for a 5 hour stretch and then the next night they are up 5 times!
Expect A 4th Trimester For Newborns
The first 3 or so months is all about adjusting to the world outside of the womb for infants. Just think of it, your little one was in a quiet, dark, warm spot for their entire existence! Now contrast that with the world outside of that cozy spot.
To adapt to the outside world babies need fully developed reflexes, senses and movement. Instead you have newborns that have a startle reflex, are immobile, can’t stretch out their arms and legs fully and don’t have a full eyesight. This all contributes to what they need to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Babies like to be bundled up. White noise or shushing is soothing. Being rocked or held close lulls them to sleep. These actions all mimic what they had while inside their mom. This is what the 4th trimester is all about, spending the first couple of months replicating the womb while babies adjust to their new world.
You might gather or be living in an unpredictable world right now! If so, that’s normal newborn life!
You yourself might be finding you’re taking a shower or eating lunch at different times. Your bed time might vary too.
You celebrate the nights your baby gets in a 4 hour sleep stretch but realize it won’t last. You sit through cluster feedings, but realize it won’t be like this everyday. Your sleep is broken up into different chunks every night.
When you reset your expectations and match them up to meet where your baby is at you are ready to tackle the newborn sleepless nights!
How do you do that? Let these expectations steer the ship.
Tips For New Parents To Get Through Newborn Sleepless Nights
Teach Newborns The Difference Between Night And Day
The first step in getting your baby and yourself some good shut eye is to teach them the difference between night and day. Daytime is for being awake. Night-time is for sleep. If only we can simply tell our babies that!
So how do you teach them the difference between night and day? Here’s how:
- During the day keep light and noises at a normal day-time level
- Be active during the day, meaning do normal day-time rituals
- Keep rooms light during naps
- At night darken the rooms
- Lower activity level in the evening
- Lessen noise volumes at night
Over time your baby’s internal clock will catch on to the activities surrounding them and catch on to the daily cycles
Establish A Flexible Routine For Newborns
Newborns may not stick to a routine at first. You can introduce them to the concept though. The key here is flexibility! In the first few weeks your life naturally won’t follow the same routine day-in and day-out. You can still set the stage though by loosely doing the following:
- Simple Daily Routine: Regardless of waking up at different times you can do the same activities with your infant after the rise for the day. For example you might pick them up, feed, change diaper, get dressed, then play.
- Simple Nightly Routine: While the specific time may vary in those first few weeks the steps in your nightly routine can stay the same. For example nightly, change diaper, swaddle, feed, rock then lay your baby down.
- Simple Diaper Change Routine: Follow the same steps for changing a diaper. May sound silly but this simple step helps your baby catch on to consistency. Here is an easy diaper changing tip that prevents sleep interruption.
- Change the baby before you feed so if she falls asleep you can just put her down. Doesn’t matter if they just go #1 because night time diapers can keep baby dry for a long time. Of course if baby goes #2 change them.
Create A Slee Friendly Environment
In the first few weeks of life babies want to be kept warm and cozy. Sometimes cribs are too uncomfortable. Maybe the room temperature is off. To set your son or daughter up for sleep success try the following:
- Let the baby sleep in a pack and play or bassinet that helps them feel cozy and secure.
- Check lighting, temperature and sound and set them at a level that promotes sleep.
- Keep your baby close by so you can get to them sooner. Keep your baby in your room in the first few months so you can attend to their needs quicker so they don’t fully wake-up.
Recreate The Womb
This strategy is essential in the 4th trimester as mentioned above. The outside world is still new to them and giving them the comforts of the womb help them adjust and sleep better. You can recreate the womb by doing the following:
- Swaddle your baby: This helps limit their reflexes, regulates their temperature and helps them feel secure
- Use a pacifier: Giving them something to suck is a soothing reflex that helps them fall asleep and feel comfort
- Use whitenoise similar to womb sounds: Radio static works just fine, otherwise you can find a CD or an app that has sounds that are similar to what they heard in the womb.
- Rock your baby with a swaying motion: You baby naturally was rocked from your movements, which were mostly swaying motions when you walked. Mimicking this motion helps them fall asleep.
It can still be stressful not being able to plan out your day or night. Unpredictability can be a life-changer if you’re not used to it. Adjusting to this new schedule along with learning to function on little sleep and taking care of a newborn can be overwhelming.
We all have our tough moments so don’t feel like you have to do everything or know everything. When you are stressed try to:
- Ask for help. Let others know you need a break. Ask a friend to come over to take care of your newborn so you can nap.
- This too shall pass. This is a season of life and you will get your sleep back. As your baby grows they will become better sleepers.
- Give yourself grace. Parenting is hard. Try not to beat yourself up if your baby isn’t sleeping.
- Go with the flow. On days you didn’t get much sleep plan for an easy day. On days you have a lot of sleep, celebrate with fun outings or productivity.
- Seek guidance from a sleep coach if you feel like you need extra sleep support!
Welcoming a brand new baby into your life definitely is a wonderful experience. There are a lot of adjustments too. Sleepless nights are a big one. Resetting your expectations and tweaking a few things can go a long way for both your and your newborn so you can get through those sleepless nights!