6 baby sleeping recommendations
If you’re a new parent then you’ll most likely have experienced all sorts of ups and downs in your sleep cycle trying to work together with your baby’s sleeping habits. We’re here to help you understand your baby’s sleep habits better so that it’ll be easier for you to choose the best sleep strategy for your family, giving you some peace of mind.
1. Newborns sleep better when near you or on you
The first 12 week period after you’ve had your baby is known as the fourth trimester, and is a crucial time for your baby to adjust to being outside of the womb. Providing skin to skin contact helps stabilise your newborn’s temperature and also releases a bonding hormone production called Oxytocin, which will allow your baby to sleep easier. The more physical contact you provide to your newborn, the better they will sleep in their crib at night. Contact napping is the best way to provide higher quality sleep for your newborn, which you can do through either holding them, babywearing, or even laying down with them and they will take much longer naps. This will allow them to get the best night of sleep, and for newborns, day sleep really affects their night sleep so if they’re not getting enough sleep during the day, their sleep at night will be worse.
2. Help sync your newborn’s “internal clock” with a 24 hour day
Day and night confusion is where your baby sleeps during the day, but seems to want to stay up playing and eating all night long. To correct or prevent this, it’s best to have your newborn nap out in an open, bright, noisy room with no swaddle, and wake them at or approaching 2 hours. It’s important to ensure you feed them every 2-3 hours, and finally include a bedtime routine with no artificial lighting that allows your newborn to understand that this next stretch of sleep is different from all their other naps.
3. Adhere to nap times and age appropriate wake windows
From birth to 2 months, your newborn will have really short wake windows, which means that if they’re kept awake for too long they’re going to become over-tired. Your newborn shouldn’t be awake for longer than 45-60 minutes. After 4 months old, you want naps to be a bare minimum of 45 minutes, but preferably 1 hour long, which ensures your baby is getting one full cycle of sleep as any less than that their sleep is not high quality. This in turn affects their development and also their sleep schedule. It’s important to ensure that they stay in their crib for the 45-60 minute window so that your baby will learn that they’re going to need to try and go back to sleep because you won’t let them get out of their crib right away.
4. Avoid doing their favorite thing as soon as they’re awake from their nap
If you’re in the habit of feeding your baby or playing with them as soon as they wake up, they might try to wake up earlier just to do their favorite activity, which in turn could prevent them from getting their full cycle of sleep. Instead, change their diaper first or do something that’s not their favorite thing before feeding or playing with them, and this will in turn encourage them to nap longer.
5. Swaddling provides comfort and better sleep
Swaddling lets your newborn feel right at home - a reminder of what it was like in the womb, safe and secure. It helps prevent their arms and legs from moving about, which can trigger their startle reflex, potentially causing them to wake up. It can also really help them fall and stay asleep on their backs, which is what’s recommended to help prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Babies do not need to be swaddled, however, if you choose to do this there’s a number of things to take note of when swaddling, including only swaddling with a breathable thin fabric - keeping their face and head uncovered, and to start as soon as possible until your baby starts to show signs of attempting to roll. Swaddling, when done properly, is completely safe and recommended for newborns and helps them sleep better for long periods of time. It’s important to note however that as they grow and become more mobile, you would need to transition your baby out of swaddling at the right time to avoid it becoming unsafe - generally this would be around 2 or 3 months.
6. Self-soothing for babies does not exist
From birth your newborn is in a stage development called trust vs. mistrust - the goal here is for them to develop a sense of trust in you and in their world. They don’t have object permanence until well after 6 months so if they can’t see you, then to them you don’t exist. Your baby needs to be able to regulate off a calm caregiver who they are attached to for their systems to properly calm down and find comfort. Their cells are still moving to where they need to be in a process called migration, and it’s largely influenced by uncomforted stress, hence letting your baby cry themselves to sleep will affect their ability to be calm and handle stress well later in life. If you leave your baby alone to stop crying on their own, this is a process known as protest-despair-detachment, which is a resigned, self-protective approach of giving up. This is why it’s critical that you tend to your baby as much as you can whenever they cry and to not let them cry themselves to sleep.
These are just some of many recommendations that you can apply to help your baby have better quality sleep, meaning your entire family gets better sleep too. Please note however that not all of these tips may apply to your baby and it’s best to get realistic expectations about your baby’s sleep habits so that it’s not forced upon them, which can consequently result in lasting sleep problems instead. Every baby’s different, so if these tips do help then that’s great! You can then choose to implement them in your sleep strategy for a good night sleep for the whole family. If at any point you suspect that your baby’s problems are caused by a medical condition, it’s always best to speak to your paediatrician regarding your concerns.