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Nurturing good sleep patterns for your newborn

 
New parents often ask how they can encourage their newborn baby to have good sleep patterns. However, it’s important to remember that newborns have very unpredictable sleep patterns in the first 6 to 8 weeks of their life and that each baby is different.
New parents often ask how they can encourage their newborn baby to have good sleep patterns.

However, it’s important to remember that newborns have very unpredictable sleep patterns in the first 6 to 8 weeks of their life and that each baby is different.

Sleeping through the night and/or taking long naps are not markers of a good baby or what constitutes a great sleeper. As parents, these are expectations that we hope to meet with our babies, but it’s important to keep expectations realistic.

Good sleep evolves from a few things. It is a combination of getting the sleep they need, as well as ensuring they are receiving quality sleep.

During these early weeks, when your baby is going through a rapid period of growth, they will require more sleep. Helping your newborn get the quality sleep they require will be something you can help set in motion.
 

Nurturing good sleep patterns for your newborn

 

Sleep in the first few weeks


Newborn babies don’t have much consistency as to when and how long they sleep throughout the day and night.

They may sleep all day and want to be up all night as the day and night cycles will not be set in the early weeks.

You’ll be more prepared if you expect that your baby will be waking every 2-3 hours for feeding around the clock. That means BOTH day and night.

Their tummy is very small and they will need to wake frequently to feed and have their needs met.

The key to good sleep during this unpredictable time is to nap when your baby naps (where you can) and go to sleep at night when your baby does.

Share baby duties with anyone who is willing to help. Call in support and have others help with cleaning, shopping, meals and siblings.

If your partner is able, set up a schedule so that each of you can take shifts, ensuring that you both get a good block of sleep of at least 3-5 hours.

Take heart and know that sleep will not always be this challenging. Things will begin to start taking shape when your baby reaches 6-8 weeks old.

Until that milestone, plan on being creative at scheduling in sleep for yourself and your partner. It’s important to get rest when you can so do your best to make it a priority.
 

Help your baby to adjust their days & nights


Newborns have a tendency to sleep all day in the midst of lots of noise and activity and be up more at night after they are first born.

You may have noticed this pattern while you were pregnant. You may recall sometimes your baby would be quiet and still during the day but at night the party would start while you were trying to sleep.

As adults, our bodies are cued to feel sleepy at night and awake during the day. In a perfect world, we would like our baby’s sleep cycles to be in sync with our own. The good news is you can gently help your baby adjust to more normal sleep cycles, starting during the very first weeks of their life.

During the day, expose your baby to lots of sunlight or brightly lit areas inside when they are awake. You may also want to go outside for a walk, which will expose your baby to sunlight and fresh air.

Sunlight is a natural environmental cue that helps set your baby’s day and night rhythms, making them feel more awake during the day and helping them to sleep better at night. A daily walk in the morning or early afternoon hours will provide you with some gentle exercise and help everyone sleep better at night.

Also encourage some healthy and developmentally appropriate play time when your baby is having an alert phase. This can be simple such as singing songs or carrying them around the house, pointing out different objects. Tummy time, activity mats, and play gyms are all great options as your baby grows and has longer periods of alertness.

To further promote better sleep at night for your baby, keep the sleep environment dark and only turn on a dim nightlight if absolutely necessary (for feedings, nappy changes, etc.).

When your baby wakes at night, tend to them quietly and then quickly get them back to sleep afterwards. This will help set the tone that night time is for sleeping and not for playing.
 

Create a relaxed sleep environment for your baby


Create a sleep space for your baby that is relaxing and conducive to sleep.

Here are some easy ways to optimize your baby’s sleep environment:
 
  • Make sure the room is dark. Use blackout shades, curtains, or blinds to help darken the room.
 
  • Keep televisions, computers, cell phones off in the room where your baby is sleeping at night. Studies have shown that the light emitted from electronics can overstimulate the brain and make it harder for your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep.
 
  • White noise is a very effective tool that can help your baby sleep better. Actual ‘white noise’ is the best rather than ocean waves or sounds of trains, birds, etc. Keep the white noise on during the entire sleep duration and turn it off as soon as your baby wakes.
 
  • Swaddling during the newborn months can help extend sleep periods and help if your baby is sensitive to the startle reflex. Make sure to always practice safe sleeping.

These few tips can help gently nurture your baby into nice sleep patterns.

In these early weeks, you will need to help them along. You may notice a big difference or subtle changes, but rest assured that over time these things will lead to healthy and smooth sleep patterns in your baby.


Cuddles to sleep


Very young babies need their parents to cuddle and comfort them. At this point in their development, they don’t have the means to do it themselves. They may need you to help replicate the warm and cosy feeling they felt when they were in the womb so that they feel secure and fall asleep.

Take advantage of this time to bond with your baby so they can grow and thrive. Relax, knowing that at this young age you will not teach your child any ‘bad habits’ by snuggling them to sleep.

Source: This article was kindly written for us by Baby & Beyond Baby Sleep Consultants
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