When you are pregnant with your precious little one - no one forgets to remind you how limited sleep will be once the big day arrives. Of course you know in the back of your mind you won't be sleeping much but if you are anything like I was with my first, I wasn't prepared for the lack of sleep a newborn would bring.
Newborn sleep is very erratic. This is due to the fact that their circadian rhythm is underdeveloped, and remains this way until it starts to develop around the 6 week point. Around 3 months of age your baby will start cycling melatonin and cortisol - hormones that are responsible for sleep and connecting sleep cycles. The underdeveloped circadian rhythm explains why newborn sleep is so erratic, unpredictable and alternates frequently between waking and sleeping.
So how can you help your newborn (and you) get some sleep?
Day/Night Confusion #tiredbaby
One theory of why babies sleep all day and stay up all night is because of what happens while they are in utero. While mom is awake during the day and moving about baby is being rocked to sleep by the motion. Come night time, when mom is calm, baby becomes active due to the lack of movement. This is believed to carry on after baby is born. Another factor that contributes to day/night confusion is the underdeveloped circadian rhythm.
Every baby is different, and some babies can take 2 weeks to straighten out days/nights while others may take until 8 weeks.
How to work on this:
-Keep things light and active during the day. Lights on, music on, carry on about your day like you normally would.
- At night, keeps things calm and dark.
- Baby should still nap in a dark environment with white noise. Keeping things light and active during wake times is key.
Dr Karp's 5s's #soothebaby
Dr. Karp is a well respected doctor who created this technique to help calm tired and/or upset newborns.
All 5 S’s should be used in combination to get the best results.
-Swaddling: Swaddle baby tightly but correctly in a swaddle sack or swaddle blanket. Please be aware that baby likely will not enjoy this but will calm after inputting the other aspects of this technique.
-Swinging: Create a rhythmic motion with baby in your arms.
-Sucking: Allow baby to suck on pacifier, bottle or clean finger.
-Stomach Position: Hold your baby so his/her belly is on your forearm. Baby should always be put down on back for sleep.
-Shushing: Create a shushing noise with your mouth or use white noise.
*Please note: Swaddling for sleep is only safe until 8 weeks. You can continue to use this method until 3/4 months but baby should only remain swaddled until calm.
You can watch Dr. Karp preform the 5s's technique here: Calming Technique
Watch Wake Times #babysleepschedule
Following an age appropriate wake time schedule at this age is going to be essential to creating a good schedule. My personal rule with wake times at this age is to start trying to get baby to sleep 10-15 minutes prior to the recommended wake time. This way you are sure not to miss the window if your baby begins to fight sleep at all.
Wake every 2 hours during the day:
This is an important one for helping with day/night confusion as well. By waking your baby from a nap every 2 hours and feeding during that awake time, you are ensuring two things; baby isn't going to max out on sleep during the day, and baby is getting a good amount of calories during the day which will likely help lengthen their night sleep.
Many parents get concerned that their newborn doesn't go to bed until 9-10pm but that is a completely acceptable time for newborns! The reasoning behind the late bedtime is to ensure baby is getting a good amount of calories, to accommodate for witching hour and so parents can get a good amount of sleep during that first stretch. The first stretch of sleep is almost always the longest stretch at this age. When a bedtime is late, parents can feel good about going to bed at the same time as baby and get some sleep.
Creating a bedtime routine at a young age can be helpful in signalling to your little one that sleep is near. Bedtime routines don't need to be anything fancy - all that matters at this age is that they are calming and remain consistent!
Set the scene:
Setting the scene for naps and nighttime sleep is essential at this age. The biggest piece of advice is to use white noise & darkness to your benefit. Your baby is used to being in a noisy and dark environment - but now that baby is out of the womb suddenly everything is quiet and some noises are startling. White noise is a familiar sound to them and can help calm your baby into a deeper sleep.
This can be a trying time for many families. Baby's are demanding, parents are tired and mom is healing from delivery. It's important to not only be patient with your little one while they figure out this new world but also to remain patient with yourself while you figure out this new human!