Newborn Sleep: What To Expect
Your baby has finally arrived and you can’t wait to play with them and show them the world! But, our little ones sure do seem to sleep a lot – sometimes up to 20 hours a day! What else can we expect from newborns and their sleep?
Let’s dive in and learn more about infant sleep.
These are the signs that babies show us which indicate they are ready to nap. The cues can look like yawning, eye rubbing, irritability or fussiness, staring off, pushing away from you, and excessive crying. When you notice a few of these cues, your baby is signaling to you that they may be ready to doze off. It’s important to pay attention to sleepy cues because if you wait too long to attempt a nap you may find yourself with an overtired baby. Unfortunately, once a baby reaches a stage of being overtired they are a little more resistant to falling asleep and it may be harder for you to get them to rest!
Wake windows are the number of hours your baby will typically stay awake in between naps. Newborns sleep a lot and nap often, usually spending no more than 60-90 minutes awake at a time for the first few months of life. Learning your baby’s wake windows will make naps a little bit more predictable for you.
Sleep training isn’t advised for the first few months of life, but some pediatricians give the ok as early as 2 months old. Generally, sleep training is not recommended before 4 months of age. Speak with your baby’s doctor to ensure their weight gain and development are on track before you attempt sleep training (as it usually results in fewer feedings, i.e. less calorie intake.) Not all parents choose to sleep train their babies and instead take the cues from their babies’ natural sleep rhythm and tendencies. But there are many reasons why a parent may want to have their baby sleep trained, for example, if you are preparing to return to work and need your baby on a similar schedule as yours. There are tons of sleep training methods to choose from including crying it out, Ferber, gradual fading, and others. Explore your options as each family is different. The important thing to keep in mind is no matter which method you ultimately choose, consistency is key as it can take some babies days or even weeks to follow your suggested routine.
Each Baby Is Different
If you are the parent of more than one child or have experience working with babies and children, you know very well how each baby can have different temperaments which can influence how they sleep. It’s important (and sometimes challenging) to not compare your baby to other babies you know. Some are born and quickly fall into an easy and predictable routine, making sleep a breeze for parents. Other babies may require more aids (such as bouncing, shhhing, babywearing, co-sleeping, contact naps- when baby stays asleep in your arms and wakes up as soon as they are put down or comfort nursing- when baby stays asleep while nursing and wakes up as soon as they are done). If you find that you have to assist your baby with falling asleep and staying asleep you may feel some frustration, as it usually leaves you less time to do other things, but you are not alone and it is usually developmentally appropriate.
Take an Infant Sleep Class
If the first weeks after birth are still making you nervous, don’t hesitate to invest in an infant sleep class with a trained pediatric sleep expert. Use this opportunity to ask questions and feel more confident once your baby is here. Our boober infant sleep class addresses everything you need to know to get optimal sleep with your newborn and will give you the roadmap to a clearly defined set of routines and expectations for an infant. Knowledge is power!
Ask for help (or hire support)
Newborn sleep can be draining to figure out. If you have family support it’s a great idea to reach out and get help so that you and your baby are getting the rest you need without feeling burnt out or over-consumed by your baby’s needs. This is also when hiring a postpartum doula is extremely helpful. Your postpartum doula can take some of the edge off by offering an extra set of eyes and hands when you are feeling overwhelmed!
Newborns are ridiculously cute and of course, you love your baby, but that doesn’t mean taking care of them is easy. Figuring out sleepy cues, wake windows, and sleep training can be a challenge for even the most experienced parent, as each baby is different and may have different sleep tendencies. You aren’t meant to figure everything out alone. Reach out to family or hire a postpartum doula. Sometimes all you need is a break to regroup so that you can return refreshed to figure out the rest.
Laura is a doula, a writer, a wife, and the mother of two. When Laura is not supporting new families or her own, you can find her trying out fun new recipes in the kitchen. Laura is available on the boober platform for matches.