Updated: Sep 22, 2019
So let's talk sleep
When babies are born they have stored maternal melatonin (melatonin is a sleepy hormone) which is why for first few days they can be very sleepy. It's not until babies are around 2-3 months old they start to produce their own melatonin.
Until around 3-4 months (which people talk about the dreaded 4 month regression) a baby’s sleep is pretty immature. Around 4 months their sleep is maturing, changing and starts to become more complex. Note this can happen anywhere under 6 months but is common around 4 months – although they may sleep less, try and see it as a good thing as they are developing normally and their sleep is maturing. So let's not see it as a regression but more of a progression!
Young babies often don’t have a pattern for naps so looking at their sleep and engagement cues rather than sticking to a routine often works best.
4-5 naps of 30-60 minutes is common and they spend most of this in REM. (Rapid eye movement or dreaming sleep)
So, don’t worry if your baby only sleeps for a short time – totally normal although may mean you can’t get much done! This is where a sling or carrier may become your go to baby item.
Yes naps are important but don’t get too stressed about it. Look for baby’s awake time (age examples below) and how they are responding to you rather than sticking to a strict schedule.
It’s more important baby has a nap rather than where they nap, so prepare to be flexible and its also a good idea that baby gets used to sleeping in different places, on you, car, sling, pram, cot, crib, travel cot so it gives you more freedom as baby grows.
Having a nap ritual (or nap routine as they grow older) same thing you do before bedtime is a good idea. For young babies singing the same song or nursery rhyme can help them associate that with sleep time. A portable white noise machine and a snooze shade can help to block out environmental sounds and light.
Tips for sleep and young babies:
Have a predictable pre-bed ritual (I don’t mean a full on bedtime routine) just the same song or nursery rhyme you always sing before bed or nap time.
Try white noise, continuous not something that is on a sensor or switches off after 20 minutes, ideally something that plugs in so you don’t spend a fortune on batteries. A portable version for when you’re out and about helps for naps too.
No blue lights, no light projectors, no screens so don’t play white noise through an ipad (also the noise isn’t great a white noise machine works best) don’t spend a fortune you can get good ones for around £30. Babies don’t need night lights and any light blocks production of melatonin.
Dark room. If you have worked with me, you’ll hear me go on about this. Sleeping in a dark room is the best environment for your baby (and you!) it helps the production of melatonin (sleepy hormone) and develop circadian rhythms (24 hour body clock) You want it as dark as you can get it, babies aren’t afraid of the dark.
For newborns, try swaddling, but as soon as baby shows signs of rolling stop swaddling
Try shushing and patting, happy to demonstrate this or join my closed Facebook group for a video
Dress baby in cotton and check their sleep suit aren’t too tight around nappy area or feet – any annoying labels or buttons?
Sleep with a muslin and put it near baby’s sleep space (do not put anything in baby’s sleep space, always follow safe sleep guidelines
Massage - did you know I'm a fully trained baby massage instructor 😉
As much as possible get baby used to different ways of falling asleep, feeding, rocking, shush pat etc and also different people too so they don’t become too reliant on one person or one way of falling asleep.
Sleep associations like rocking, holding and feeding to sleep can work wonders with newborns. There’s nothing more special than your baby sleeping in your arms. You can always wean off these as your baby grows.
Don’t compare your baby to other babies including siblings. Think about what is normal for your baby.
It is perfectly normal for babies of all ages to wake during the night, research shows only about 20% of babies sleep through the night at 6 months and most wake 1-2 times per night until at least 12 months.
Remember babies wake for more than just hunger.
Example awake times:
1 month approx 45 minutes awake time
1-3 months approx 1 hour awake time
3-6 months approx 1 ½ - 2 hours awake time
0-3 months babies need around 14-17 hours in 24 hours
3-6 months babies need around 13-15 hours in 24 hours approx 9-10 hours of this at night, 4 naps per day
Don’t use this as gospel all babies are different and have different awake and sleep times
Sleep cues: Overtired cues:
Decreased activity Yawning
Slower motions Fussing
Less vocal Rubbing eyes
Weaker and slower sucking Irritable
Baby appears disinterested
Eyes less focused
Try not to let your baby get overtired. An overtired baby is really difficult to settle to sleep and can cause frequent wake ups during the night.
Finally I want to end by addressing mum guilt. Should we feel guilty for wanting sleep? Absolutely not! Sleep is a fundamental need for everyone including your baby and YOU! You need sleep to function, it’s a powerful thing. Us mums are made of strong stuff. Our bodies are capable of coping with sleepless nights for the first few months but this can not be sustained long term.
Your baby needs sleep to grow and develop, there’s amazing things happening to your baby when they sleep.