I had the honor just last weekend to partner with Twin Cities Midwifery to speak with new parents about understanding sleep for newborns. Between my sleep consulting and my postpartum doula work, I spend a lot of time with brand new parents answering questions about sleep. And the ironic thing is, I get a lot of the same questions! Today I’m going to address some of these common questions about newborn sleep. Pass along to any of your friends who have just had a baby; or are expecting soon.
How much sleep should my newborn get?
Newborns pretty much spend their days and nights sleeping, eating, and pooping! The trouble is, the sleeping typically comes in small spurts because newborns need to eat frequently – typically every 2-3 hours. So as new parents, it is your job in these first weeks to focus on these three very important tasks with your baby. Newborn babies should get somewhere between 16-20 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period and its common for newborns to sleep about 2-3 hours at a time; which coincides with their feeding needs.
How long should my newborn stay awake during the day?
One of the biggest pieces of information I think many parents are missing is the importance of the “wake time” for a newborn. But if there is one thing you should remember as a parent of a newborn is that newborns can’t typically handle being awake longer than 60 minutes. Yep… only 60 minutes; and some babies can only handle about 45-50 minutes. This gives you just enough time to feed your baby, burp your baby, change their diaper, and maybe get 5-10 minutes of “play” time. Then its time to sleep again! If you can honor this one simple rule, your newborn will go to sleep so much easier!
Other than looking at the clock, how do I know when my baby is tired?
Every baby gives us cues that they are getting sleepy. The early cues are things like yawning, rubbing their eyes with their hands or rubbing their face into your shoulder, and staring off and/or no longer making eye contact with you. Later sleepy cues are things like an increase in fussiness, crying, and seeming a little more agitated or active. Your job as the parent is to start your baby’s sleep routine when you see the early cues.
Should I swaddle my newborn?
Swaddling is a fantastic tool for newborns because it helps them better control their reflexes. I’ve seen many babies, including my own, sleep longer stretches once they are swaddled. Most babies do well in a swaddle and if they don’t appear to like it immediately, give it a couple tries! And don’t be afraid to make it a little snug. If its too loose all it will do is create frustration for your baby because there is just enough looseness for them to wiggle their arms; but not get them out. Because many babies are learning to roll between 4-6 months of age, I do recommend weaning your baby from their swaddle at this time as well.
There is so much to learn and explore with your newborn. So above all else, enjoy this sweet, precious time! And even though there are many questions that come up, don’t doubt yourself. You have what it takes. Follow your intuition and you will be great!
In Tender Care,