Newborn Sleep and the Fourth Trimester

As I write this, I am horizontal on the couch patiently, (or rather not so patiently), awaiting the arrival of my first baby. Can you believe it? My very own baby? All mine!!

Apart from the fact that he/she is kicking me under the ribs as we speak/type whilst simultaneously hiccupping, it still seems very abstract to me and Mr G (Baby Daddy). We’re as ready as we can be, but it’s reminded me that I should probably brush up on my newborn sleep knowledge.

Technically speaking, babies are only newborns from birth to 1 month and I can only imagine how quickly that time flies.

During this time, babies sleep most of the time, sometimes up to 18 hours a day. This sounds heavenly, doesn’t it? It’s important to remember though, that just like adults, babies have their own patterns and variations.

This newborn sleep may present in 3hr chunks timed beautifully between feeds, or perhaps it’s in 45 min chunks during the day and then partying wide awake overnight – less desirable. The 4th Trimester refers to the period after giving birth until your baby is around 3 months old. I personally am a huge believer that babies are born to be loved and loved hard. This time is precious, and life changing and needs to be respected.

Not only is your baby adjusting and learning to be in this whole new world, but we are born as parents and I’m totally ready for that to be a whole new world for us too.

It’s important, therefore, to have realistic expectations during this time.

It’s important to remember that without an established circadian rhythm (our biological clock) newborn babies have no understanding of the difference between night and day.

They march to the beat of their own drum.

During this time, I always encourage parents to soak up the skin to skin time and newborn cuddles whilst they get to know their baby as well as themselves in this new role.

I also believe, however, that wonderful and gentle sleep habits can start during this time that can help set you all up for an easier transition to non-newborn sleep.

Here are a few key points to try and incorporate when you can.

Feed – Play – Sleep

This pattern should be kept in the back of your mind to help establish the beginnings of what will be a very useful routine in your day-to-day life as baby gets bigger. Don’t panic when your baby falls asleep from a feed though at this stage. Feeding can be exhausting for them, and who doesn’t love a milk drunk baby cuddle?! A nappy change may be the extent of ‘play’ time or even just a stretch of their legs on the playmat.

Swaddle, swaddle, swaddle

Babies have been curled up so nice and tightly in our tummies, that it’s quite daunting for them to be flailing around once they’re born. That’s why a lovely swaddle to keep them nice and tight is wonderful to help calm them especially at sleep time. There are so many swaddling options out there – even I got overwhelmed at Baby Bunting. The truth is, you can just use a good ol’ muslin cloth. If you’re after something a little snazzier, Love To Dream are extremely popular. I personally love swaddling babies with their arms down, so I will be trialling the Ergobaby Swaddler and will be happy to give an honest review once baby has arrived and is swaddled.

White Noise

I love white noise for babies. Inside the womb, the rush of blood from the Mother’s beating heart is the equivalent to someone vacuuming in the same room as you. So, when babies are born we put them in quiet rooms on their own? This doesn’t make sense to me. They’ve spent 9 months hearing every beat and gurgle and whoosh inside you and so a little comfort noise helps to settle them.

Make sure the white noise is at an appropriate volume and goes for the duration of the entire sleep. This will become another great sleep cue for them when they’re older.

Tired signs

Newborn babies have an awake time of roughly 45 mins before they need to go back to sleep. Sometimes that may only be the length of a feed, nappy change and taking a cute photo to send to the adoring fans. As time goes on, you’ll start to learn your baby’s tired signs, which is their way of showing them that they’re ready to go back to sleep. This may be really obvious, or a tad more subtle.

Classic examples include:

  • Rubbing eyes
  • Yawning
  • Grizzling
  • Irritability
  • Crying
  • A sudden change in mood, as in one minute they’re happy and the next they’re crying
  • Losing interest in what’s around him/you
  • Going quiet and vacantly starring off into the distance

When they’re ready to go back to sleep as newborns please remember that assisting your baby to sleep during this time is normal and wonderful. Some babies may easily fall asleep on their own at times, and some may need to be rocked, shushed or patted. Don’t feel guilty about this during this time. You can always wean out the assistance later on down the track.

If you’re babe can happily drift off to sleep in their bassinet on their own though, embrace and encourage that.

So, now having said that, please remind me of all of these tips when I’m dealing with my own sleep deprived newborn phase. For now, I’ll pour myself another cup of raspberry red leaf tea whilst bouncing on the fit ball – let’s get this baby show on the road!

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