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What they don’t tell you about newborn sleep

It’s true that newborn babies sleep a lot, but they have much shorter sleep cycles which means they won’t sleep for more than one to three hours at a time, day or night. When you first get back from hospital this seems like a small price to pay and you happily put your own sleep on hold. However sleep deprivation can soon catch up with you, and (if you’re anything like me) after a few weeks you’ll find yourself feeling exhausted, anxious and wondering if it will ever end.
First off, it does. As everyone will tell you ‘its only a phase’ - not especially helpful when you’re at your wits end… but true nonetheless.
Secondly, try to avoid comparing your babies to others. Some babies need more sleep, others need less, and there’s always one mum with a newborn who has apparently slept through the night from the beginning.
And finally, there is no one correct way to sleep train your baby. Follow your instincts. You’ll find lots of information and advice online, some better than others. Use the bits you want and leave the bits you don’t.

To help you on this (sometimes lonely) journey, we’ve teamed up with Marissa, a gentle sleep consultant at Baby Sleep School, to answer some commonly asked newborn sleep questions. They offer professional sleep programs and consultations to give families the confidence they need to gently settle their babies so they become happier and better sleepers. We hope you find it helpful.

Your newborn sleep questions answered:

How do you get a newborn to sleep?

"Newborns need to be almost fully assisted to sleep. They want to feel the comfort and security like they did whilst in the womb. Most newborns will fall asleep if there is movement - rocking, patting, in a swing, walks in the pram and a little car drive."

How do you get a newborn to sleep without being held?

"From 3 weeks babies start producing their own Melatonin (sleepy hormone). This helps them to fall asleep and stay asleep. Melatonin is produced from darkness. We suggest sleeping bubs in their bassinet in a dark room (pitch black) for all day and night sleeps. This will assist with the Melatonin production. Also, white noise is very effective at this age, as babies are quite used to noise from being in Mums tummy. It provides comfort and security for them while trying to go to sleep.

Before putting them down, we suggest all newborns should be tightly swaddled, again this is comforting for them and being wrapped means they will not be startled by their arms during sleep (the ‘startle reflex’).

Once they are wrapped, we suggest popping them in their bassinet and patting them until they are almost fully assisted to sleep. More information in our guidelines on the correct technique."

Will swaddling help my newborn sleep?

"Yes 100%. Swaddling babies to sleep on their back is recommended as a safe sleeping practice. Swaddling recreates the snug packaging inside the womb and is the cornerstone of calming. It decreases startling and increases sleep. And, wrapped babies respond faster to other forms of soothing (dummy sucking and patting) because their arms can't wriggle around. To swaddle correctly, wrap arms snug – straight at the side – but let the hips be loose and flexed. Use a large square swaddle blanket, but don't overheat or cover your baby’s head. Note: Babies shouldn't be swaddled all day, just during fussing and sleep"

When should I start getting baby into a routine?

"We usually suggest from 3 months is a good time to start a solid routine. Babies at this age start to come out of their fussy stage and their gut has also matured more, allowing feeding times to be more settled and in a routine. We call it "coming out of the fog"...a good stage for Mum and Bubs."

When will baby start sleeping at night?

"All babies are different and will sleep through at different stages within the first year. Generally, once bubs is fully established on solids (3 meals a day) and the Dream Feed (rollover night feed) is dropped, then it's physiologically possible for bubs to sleep through the night. However, there are many other factors that may prevent this from happening- i.e.: reflux, colic. allergies, poor weight gain etc."

Sleep advice for newborns – top tips from Baby Sleep School

  • Sleep When Baby is sleeping (especially during the day). Even if it's only for 45 minutes

  • Try and go outside each day, even it just for a 10-20 minute walk. It will make such a difference to your overall health both mental and physical.

  • ALWAYS ask for help if you're not coping. Which is VERY NORMAL. It's really hard work during those first few months, especially if you have other children at home.

  • Every 2nd day rule - we promote this in our guidelines. If one day you’re out and about and have errands to run or catch up with friends, try and stay at home the next day and rest. It also helps to get bubs into a loose routine during those first few months.

  • Breastfeeding: One of the biggest challenges for Mums. And it's a controversial topic as well. Firstly: FED IS BEST - whether its BF, EBF or Formula Fed. If you would like to continue breastfeeding but are having trouble, we highly recommend seeing a lactation consultant. They are angels and can pick up any issues and offer recommendations and solutions. 

  • Sleep: It’s the number 1 topic for babies. Don't have high expectations for your baby to sleep or be in a solid routine. It's very normal for newborns' sleep patterns to be all over the place. Don't compare your sleep to other babies, as all are so very different. 

  • Wind/Colic/Reflux: Very common for babies. We highly recommend a paediatric Chiro or Osteo to assist with re-alignment (very gentle). Always see your GP first to rule out any illness.

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