Supporting your baby with their sleep is something that I am often asked about as a midwife. It is a common concern for new parents, but the good news is babies aren’t generally born with sleep problems! The womb environment where they have spent the last nine months is very different to the outside world, and so my advice for new parents centres around supporting their baby with this transition. Understanding what to expect can help you in those first few weeks with your newborn baby.
How much sleep does my baby need?
Each baby is different – some babies will need more sleep than others. In general, newborn babies will sleep a total of 14-18 hours in every 24 hour period.
Generally, babies will sleep in short naps – often waking every 2-3 hours for a feed. They will cycle between lighter (REM) sleep, and deeper sleep. It is common for babies to wake or stir between sleep cycles, and they may need some rocking or a cuddle to help them fall back asleep. This is a normal sleep pattern for babies.
How can I support my baby to sleep?
Most babies will sleep better when they are swaddled, as this replicates the womb environment, and also means that their natural startle reflex doesn’t wake them unnecessarily. It is important to stop swaddling your baby when they are starting to show signs of rolling, which is generally around three months of age.
In the first few weeks, having your baby in a well-lit room for their day sleeps, and a dark room at night may help them to work out the difference between day and night. This allows their sleepy hormone melatonin to regulate. Once your baby is over four weeks of age you might like to try keeping the room dark for day sleeps as well, as some parents find this helps their baby to fall asleep more easily.
Should I implement a routine with my newborn?
I generally don’t recommend sleep routines in babies under 12 weeks of age as they are not neuro-developmentally ready. Babies at this age generally aren’t able to self-settle and require hands-on support to fall asleep. Babies will also breastfeed on demand, so when we implement a sleep routine or schedule this may affect how many feeds they have throughout the day, which could reduce milk supply.
If you are struggling with your newborn’s sleep there are many services where you can seek support. You don’t have to work it all out on your own! You may like to reach out to a private midwife, child health nurse, or lactation consultant if you also have concerns around your baby’s sleep.
Article supplied by PBC Expo Midwife Hannah