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Newborn Sleep

No matter how prepared you are for the arrival of your baby, nothing actually prepares you for the realities of newborn sleep!

Newborn sleep is both unpredictable and unique. This can be the most challenging time for new parents, however there are certainly things that you can do to help calm and settle a newborn baby and lay down foundations for good sleep habits along the line.

Here is what to expect from your newborn in those early weeks:

  • Your newborn baby will sleep in short bursts, up to 4 hours at a time, and at random intervals throughout the day and night.

  • On average your baby will sleep between 14 - 17 hours in a 24-hour period.

  • Your baby will only be able to stay awake for 45 minutes – 1 hour before they require another nap.

  • Your newborn can’t differentiate between day and night yet (this happens at around 11 weeks).

  • Newborns are awakened easily.

  • Your newborn is likely to be a noisy sleeper – moving around, grunting, crying out and thrashing their arms or legs.

It’s really important to know that all of this is completely normal for newborn sleep. Similarly, don’t worry if your baby doesn’t do all of the above. Every baby has their own characteristics and you will get to know them very quickly. Here are some of the best tips for newborn sleep:

Your baby will be quite active in their sleep, moving around and making noise, which can be mistaken for your baby waking up. Don’t rush in to soothe them, that could have the opposite effect and disturb them, waking them up. Watch them on a monitor to see if they are actually awake and hungry or if they are just wriggling.

Swaddling can be very helpful for newborn babies. Studies have shown that swaddled infants showed improvements in their sleep and awoke less often. Swaddling can provide warmth and security for your baby, as it mimics the tight conditions they experienced in the womb. If you choose to swaddle your baby, ensure you follow The Lullaby Trust’s advice on safe swaddling -

Slings are another useful sleep aid for newborn babies. Close contact has benefits for both mum and baby. If you use a sling you’ll have some hands-free time and can even breastfeed on the go. The close contact should help your baby to sleep longer as they can hear your heartbeat and feel your movements, which keeps them calm and secure. Always follow the advice on safe use of slings

You may also wish to consider incorporating some baby massage into your routine. This has been found to be beneficial for babies as it helps them to feel less stressed and cry less. Massage may also help babies to fall asleep more easily and sleep for longer.

Direct exposure to natural daylight is helpful to establish your baby’s circadian rhythm. Although this won’t happen until they are closer to 3 months old, incorporating a 30-minute walk into your morning routine is good practice from as early as you feel able to do so. On the other hand, it is best to avoid artificial light in the evening – remember that as your baby develops, light is the signal that will tell their brain to delay the onset of sleep.

Most of all, enjoy your newborn and remember that they’re not meant to sleep through the night, no matter what your “helpful” relative says! You can’t form bad habits at this age – do what works for you and if you know where we are if we can be of any help!

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