When your baby was born they have stored maternal melatonin (melatonin is a sleepy hormone) which is why for first few days they can be very sleepy. And then not so sleepy!
When your baby is around 2-3 months old they start to produce their own melatonin but their sleep is still pretty immature. Sounds silly newborn and immature! Once they go through their sleep progression also known as 4 month regression their sleep matures and they can possibly start sleeping for longer chunks of sleep.
Young babies often don’t have a pattern for naps so looking at their sleepy cues and awake windows can help.
4-5 naps of 30-60 minutes is common.
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.
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 and different ways of settling to sleep, on you, car, sling, pram, cot, crib, travel cot so it gives you more freedom as baby grows. If possible also good for babies to get used to other people putting them to sleep too.
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. If they have a room thermometer or monitor that gives off a strong light can you turn the light down.
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. When you go to them through the night try and keep the room as dark as possible and keep it unstimulating. I don't mean no eye contact, just keeping it low key.
For newborns, try swaddling, but as soon as baby shows signs of rolling stop swaddling or use a sleeping bag rather than sheets for safer sleep
Try shushing and patting your baby at the same time. There's a video of this in my closed Facebook group www.facebook.com/groups/trusttraceyclosed
Dress baby in cotton and check their sleep suit aren’t too tight around nappy area or feet – any annoying labels or buttons?
Think about safe sleep, put baby on their back to sleep on their own sleep space with an new mattress with nothing else in the cot/crib, no cot bumpers, loose sheets, wedges, soft toys. Recommends your baby sleeping in your room until at least 6 months
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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 see these as bad habits
Don’t compare your baby to other babies including siblings. Think about what is normal for your baby.
You are your baby's expert, you know them better than anyone else ever could. So by all means listen to other people's advice but do what feels right and works for your family.
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 through the 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! There are amazing things happening to your baby when they sleep.
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. Ask for help, it is not a sign of failure and if someone offers to look after your baby ACCEPT the offer, you would do it for your friend.