There’s nothing more joyous and exciting than bringing home a new baby…Until sleep deprivation kicks in! Newborn sleep is complicated and erratic, but if we understand why newborns sleep so crazy, we can also understand how to help them sleep better. I will go over some things you may have already heard about, like day/night confusion. But I will also discuss some things you may not know about. Like why is it that the moment you bring your newborn home that’s when all of the sleep troubles begin!? Here are my best newborn sleep tips!
So let’s take things back to the womb! Think about the environment your baby was sleeping while in the womb. Things were snug, warm, contained, noisy, the list goes on. That cute little bassinet you are expecting your baby to sleep in, is NOTHING like what your newborn is use to. Recreating this environment (safely of course) will help your baby transition to the outside world.
Now that we have the sleep environment down, let’s talk about what happens after birth. Before your baby was born she had an endless supply of nutrition delivered via placenta with no effort on your baby’s part to obtain what she needs. The food came in, and your baby was happy! Now your newborn has to feed around the clock. During the first couple of days, your baby still has the nutrition that was given to her in the womb, once this starts wearing out, that’s where the real fun begins. Which is ironically about the same time you will be going home from the hospital. So here you are excited with a new bundle of joy, that’s screaming her head off because she’s constantly hungry and still has to master this whole eating thing. Sure sucking is a natural reflex, but let’s be serious sucking on a nipple, whether yours or an artificial one is not quite something your baby is use to. So your newborn will have to learn. Also, let’s talk about the fact that your newborn’s stomach is about the size of walnut when you take her home. Meaning she can barely hold an ounce of milk. But don’t worry, your baby’s tummy will grow very quickly, and by the end of month, her stomach will be the size of large egg!
Now let’s talk about really happens with your baby’s sleep. First of all your newborn has no melatonin (the hormone that helps her sleep). This doesn’t get produced until about 3 months of age. Small amounts will start to develop over the next several weeks, so you should start to see your baby’s sleep improve. But without this, your baby has no concept of when she should be going to sleep. Also, her days and nights are completely mixed up. She was soothed to sleep by your movement during the day, and was up at night while you were sleeping. Now that she’s out here in the real world, that’s exactly what she wants to do.
Now let’s piece it all together. Your newborn is used to sleeping snugly, has never had to work for her nutrition, and is use to sleeping during the day and partying at night. Her sleep is erratic, has no pattern, and revolves around the need to eat. All of this spells for a recipe for sleep disaster! Because of this parents will do whatever it takes out of desperation to get their newborn to sleep. They rock, swing and bounce all day. Often overfeed hoping to get some extra Zzz’s and sacrifice themselves as a human pacifier. They even let their baby sleep while holding them, often dozing off themselves EEK! I get it, desperate times call for desperate measures, I have been there myself. But when does it stop? Often it doesn’t. Most of my clients that come to me have been doing these exact behaviours for the last several months, sometimes years, until they reach a breaking point and contact me to help. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are many ways to start instilling good sleep habits right from day one. I’m not saying you should never hold, rock, or feed your baby to sleep. That’s the best part of having a newborn. The cuddles are amazing! But doing this all day everyday for every sleep time is sure to set your baby up for dependency on these things to sleep. What this means is your baby will expect these “props” not only at bedtime or naptime, but everytime he/she has trouble getting from one sleep cycle to the next. And since your newborn has many sleep cycles (double that of an adult), that’s when he/she starts waking frequently.
Luckily you can help your baby start sleeping well and start instilling good sleep habits from the very beginning. I would be glad to help with this by creating a sleep plan specifically tailored for your newborn, and guide you through the entire process. The earlier you start instilling good sleep habits, the easier and faster your baby will learn to sleep well. And there will be no sleep troubles or need for any “sleep training” down the line. Please take a look at my sleep packages HERE. I would be glad to help your newborn sleep wel