Most people expect sleepless nights with newborn babies, there is no getting around the relentless feeding through the night. What people don’t realise though, is that there are things you can do even from those very early days to encourage healthy sleep habits going forward. This is so that as baby grows they are more likely to self-settle when they are biologically ready.
Below are my top tips for getting more sleep as a new parent, please remember that sleep is a biological need not a luxury, it’s not something you should put at the bottom of the list long term. Sleep deprivation is closely linked to problems with mental health and it’s something I am passionate about educating new parents on. Don’t suffer in silence, if you’re struggling say so and reach out for help.
Following this advice will ensure that you get a head start on babies sleep needs and make it more likely you will avoid issues at the 4 month sleep regression. This is when babies sleep needs change and they become more wakeful, meaning any sleep associations they have can suddenly become an issue as they wake more frequently for them.
Top Tips for sleep success
Awake Windows. Aside from colic and pain/wind related issues, much of the unsettled newborn behaviour is due to overtiredness. Avoiding this makes all the difference in how well your baby naps and so how well they sleep at night. To do this, find out what their ideal awake windows are for their age and put them to sleep within that time. Yes it’s boring and repetitive and will take some commitment to establish but if you can do this it will pay off hugely as baby becomes easier to settle and stays asleep longer.
Bedtime Routine. Focus on establishing a bedtime routine, which will come once you implement the awake windows. Many of my clients end up with bedtimes that are too late and so not age appropriate. This can lead to overtiredness which will cause night wakes and early morning wakes. Babies from 6-8 weeks old do well with an early bedtime of 6/6.15pm, it’s a great thing to establish from a young age as it means you get a few precious hours to spend with your partner or to go to bed early yourself!
Awake Feed / Dream Feed. Once cluster feeding is over after the first few weeks, implement an awake feed about 10/10.30pm. This helps to tank baby up so they sleep a good few hours afterwards. Keep them awake for about 40 minutes to build some sleep debt. Once baby gets to about 16 weeks this can change to a dream feed, you are then in a good position, if baby is a healthy weight to start dropping night feeds down to just one
Don’t Rush In. Give them the chance to settle themselves, many of the sleep associations I help remove for my clients are there because they never gave their baby a chance to settle themselves in the early days. Babies can self settle from 16 weeks so at this point, hold off rushing to them when they wake and you may just find they don’t really need you at all. If you do have sleep associations you want to remove, find a settling method, follow it consistently and you’ll soon teach them to self-settle which means they won’t look for you at each wake – yes, the dream of sleeping through the night is actually possible from this young age.
Most of all make sleep a priority. Don’t accept that sleepless nights are a certainty you just have to endure. After the chaos of new-born days are over it’s never too early to get a routine in place. Babies thrive on routine but more than that babies need to sleep just as much as we do for their development and further down the line their behaviour.
Asleep At Last
Certified Baby Sleep Consultant working with newborns though to children age five.
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