Newborns can be such unpredictable little beings, one day sleeping for long periods, other days just catnapping their way through the day. This is down to their immature biological systems - they have no circadian rhythm yet!
Circadian rhythm is a natural, internal process where hormones regulate the sleep-wake cycle. A newborn baby will generally only start developing their biological rhythm, producing their own hormones to regulate their sleep-wake cycle from about the 8 week mark, which is often when a more predictable day will start to evolve, a late bedtime may come earlier, and more structured periods of sleep start to occur overnight.
Until then, here are some tips to help:
- Short naps are very normal. If your baby wakes up happy, get them up and start a new age appropriate awake period. If your baby wakes up unhappy, try to resettle them back to sleep using the same approach you took to settling them to sleep initially.
- Young babies often require lots of assistance to fall asleep. Rocking, feeding and patting are all great tools to help your baby settle to sleep.
- Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get things perfect! In the first 3 months, sleep is 50% genetics, 50% nurture. Your friend who has a baby who sleeps for 2 hours straight for naps is likely just genetically more inclined to sleep well. The good news is, that after the first 3 months, nurture plays a much bigger part - meaning you can overcome the genetic element of a poorer sleeper!
- Utilise a baby carrier or the stroller as a backup for daytime sleep. Motion helps most babies settle to sleep, and if you need your hands free, these are both great options.
- Use an arms down/in swaddle like the SmartSleeper. This hampers the Moro (startle) reflex, meaning your baby won’t wake themselves up with their arms flailing around. An arms down/in swaddle also recreates that snug feeling your baby experienced while in-utero, helping them feel safe.
- Introduce white noise for their naps and overnight - there is noise 24/7 in-utero that can be as loud as 90dB! Have the white noise playing constantly for the whole duration of their sleep, about as loud as a running shower.
- Darken the bedroom after your baby is 3 weeks old - the first 3 weeks it’s helpful to sleep them in the light to help distinguish between day and night, but after this, limit the distractions by darkening the room. Remember, hormones play a big part in sleep as your newborn develops, and by the 12 week mark they will be producing their own melatonin (the sleep hormone). Melatonin can only be secreted in the dark, so a dark room can be very helpful for naps and at bedtime.
- Instigate a long wind down period before sleep - keep things boring for at least 10 minutes prior to a nap or bedtime (even longer as your baby grows!) Dads - this means no exciting play just before sleep!! Having a predictable, quiet wind down time can make it easier for your baby to feel settled and ready for sleep.
- Try to avoid having just one method of getting your baby to sleep - reliance on one way can become a strong sleep association that may cause difficulties later down the track. Use your go-to method as a backup if you are unsuccessful, but try a range of ways to get your newborn baby to sleep initially - feed, rock, pat, jiggle, bounce, carry, stroller, car.
- Give something a really good go before trying something else, when settling your baby to sleep - chop and changing between lots of people or ‘ways’ can be overstimulating, and may prevent your newborn from being able to fall asleep, even if they’re tired!
Enjoy the snuggles!