So, you’ve got a brand-new baby who is spending most of their time eating, filling their diaper, and sleeping…or not sleeping.
Some newborns are natural sleepers, while others struggle from the start. Regardless of how it starts, there are lots of things you can do to lay the foundation for a lifetime of loving sleep, setting your child up for success from the start.
With these baby sleep tips, you can avoid many common pitfalls that parents come to me to help solve at four months old, eight months old, even two years old.
1. Pay attention to the clock!
Newborn sleep cues are super subtle and easy to miss. When in doubt, know that babies up to about 10 weeks old can only tolerate 45, with a max of about 60, minutes of awake time until they will need to sleep again. It flies by when you fit in a feeding, some possible tummy time, and a diaper change.
2. Create an Eat > Play > Sleep pattern throughout your day.
This helps you out in a couple of ways! Number one, it encourages nice full feeds when your baby is more awake and alert. Number two, it gives small tummies a time to digest that milk before they go into their bed, reducing disruptions due to spit up or gas. And finally, it helps to disassociate (or not create a strong association with) sleep and feeding. This last one will prove to be super helpful for you as your baby grows!
3. Develop a bedtime and nap time routine.
This may not be something you or baby are ready for right from the start, but some families start a solid bedtime routine from day one. When you feel ready, know that creating a predictable bedtime routine will help prepare your baby’s body and brain for sleep, and they’ll come to know that sleep is coming when you begin the routine. Check out my previous post with age-based bedtime routine suggestions.
4. Encourage self-soothing.
No, I’m not asking you to let your newborn cry or asking you to “sleep train” a newborn. That isn’t realistic or a good idea. That being said, if you slowly start to work on giving your baby a few minutes of being drowsy, but awake, in their bassinet or crib after laying them down for sleep, it will start to encourage them to take the final leap into sleeping on their own. When they get fussy or start crying, comfort them, help them soothe, even pick them up and carry them around the room for a few minutes before trying again. It’s not an overnight solution, but it can gently encourage your little one to learn healthy sleep skills from the start!