Congratulations on your beautiful, new baby. What a gloriously overwhelming time. As some readers may know I have had two very different newborn experiences. My first baby was the easiest little squish that ever did exist, and my second beautiful baby had a broken collarbone that I didn’t know about and he was just so sad and needed to be on me the whole time (super tricky with a high energy toddler in tow and my own birth injuries too).
So, I know what it’s like to have easy newborn naps and not so easy newborn naps. Here’s what I know both from my work and research as a sleep consultant, but kind of more importantly as a Mother.
Newborns march to the beat of their own. You can have read every book and sleep guide and even this blog post prior to bringing your baby home and still have days or weeks (or months) of feeling like you’re flying by the seat of your pants.
My advice? Surrender to it.
If you fight what is completely normal newborn behaviour you will most likely end up having a much bigger struggle.
Here are a few important things to remember and brush up on before your new baby arrives.
Newborn naps can be anywhere from 20 minutes to 4 hours long. If it’s on the shorter side, try extending it as a contact nap. Ie. in the carrier, pram, lying on your chest.
Swaddling is so important
Your baby has just spent 9 months in a very cosy, tight environment and has been born with a strong startle reflex. I don’t mind what kind of swaddle you use whether it be a traditional muslin wrap or something like the Love to dream, I just care that they are swaddled. Help them calm their little bodies and brains down by wrapping them nice and snug and making them feel like they’re back in the womb.
It is OK to assist your baby to sleep
Rock them, feed them, bounce them on your birthing fit ball. Drown out the noise that says this will create bad habits. Assist your baby as much as you need/want.
It is OK to put your baby down awake at the end of the wake window and see if they naturally drop off to sleep on their own. My first baby was a pro at this.
Active and quiet sleep
Newborns spend their sleep time in two states of sleep. Active and quiet. You might notice a whole lot of scrunching faces and wriggling and looking like they are unhappy or uncomfortable. Pause. They may just be in active sleep and about to drop back into quiet sleep.
Newborn wake windows are short
Don’t be alarmed at how quickly a wake window goes. A newborn generally only needs to be awake for 45 – 60 mins. After a feed and a nappy change, that may only leave time for a cuddle or a few minutes on the play mat before it’s time to be swaddled again and back to sleep. This awake time will extend as the weeks and months pass, so don’t worry, there will be plenty of play time to come.
Catnaps are okay
Babies can get very confused between day and night sleep. If you feel like your baby is up all night and then asleep all day, you can help to reset their little body clock by capping day naps at 2hrs in length.
My goals for clients with new babies are always very simple and despite being a sleep consultant, they’re not sleep related.
- Establish feeds, no matter how that looks for you and your family. A fed baby is a content baby.
- Skin-to-skin. Hold and kiss and enjoy your baby. Baby wear and bond with them and build up that attachment. It’s not always the instant love bubble you see in the movies and that’s ok. Meet yourselves where you’re at and have some skin-to-skin. It’s heaven.
- Keep to smaller wake windows and learn your baby’s tired signs. My first baby used to suddenly go quiet and look off into the distance. We called this her ‘glazed donut’ look. As soon as we saw that we knew it was time for a swaddle and into her bassinet.
- Surrender and ask for help. You can’t do it all and nor should you have to.
If you are looking for support with sleep and settling during the fourth trimester I can help.
Download my fourth trimester sleep guide and let it guide you through this unique time. I’ve been there. Twice. And I’ve even come out the other side with wonderful sleepers and a happy, thriving family. Book a phone consultation with me and we can talk about all things sleep and fourth trimester. I am here to champion you and I can’t wait to chat.