Guest blog from Jenna Wilson, Co-Founder of Little Dreams Consulting
Firstly, if you are expecting, or you have a newborn, huge congratulations. It can be one of the best, but also one of the most challenging, times you may go through but always listen to your motherly instincts and ask for advice and support where you need it. Firstly, the most important thing you need to remember when it comes to newborns and sleep is sleep safety. As a new mother it can be the thing most parents worry about, especially in the first few weeks and months. The Lullaby Trust are a great resource that you can access and has all the advice you will need to make sure your baby has a safer sleep. Want to know more about what to expect? We have put together everything you need to know about newborn sleep so you can feel a little more at ease with the arrival of your little one.
Sleep in the first 6 weeks
It is important to bear in mind that little ones of this age can only stay awake for about 45 - 60 minutes before they need another sleep, so try to keep that at the forefront of your mind (whilst you are juggling everything else)! They also spend around 50% of their time in deep sleep (where a lot of growing takes place) and 50% of their time in REM (dream) sleep – where they will be making sense of their day. During the first six weeks, don’t worry at all about “creating a rod for your own back”. You may be told that by cuddling or feeding (or doing anything to your baby) you are creating a problem, in reality the most important thing is to rest, recover and get used to your new family dynamic, this isn’t something you should be worrying about at this stage.
The only goal we would suggest you work towards during this time is teaching your little one the difference between night and day. Make nighttime dark and quiet and daytimes brighter and more chatty, if you are exhausted you can even just put the television on for this. Swaddling can work really well during this time and white noise (or pink noise) together with a dummy, can help sooth your newborn. As far as you can, try and enjoy this first few weeks, but also be gentle with yourself as it can be a huge change.
Newborn sleep between 6-12 weeks
Around the age of 6 weeks your little ones’ sleep will, in relative terms, mature and they will start to be able to do 4-5 hours of consolidated sleep (depending upon their tummy). Their awake windows have also increased a little and they can stay awake for about 60 -90 minutes before needing another nap. There are some sleep goals that you can work towards during this time but, what is really important, is that if what you are doing is working for you don’t change it as every baby is different.
Our Top 3 Sleep Goals:
Try and help your little one fall asleep without relying upon something.
Your newborn will fall asleep feeding, in the sling, in the car, in the pushchair but once every day or two, try and allow them to fall asleep independently. This does not mean that if they are upset, you leave them to cry, so if they can’t manage it, it is fine to assist them to sleep. If you practice, however, you may find that your little one is able to drift off to sleep without too much of a wriggle or a moan. This will also help them when they develop sleep cycles (often referred to as the ‘4 month sleep regression’ when it can be trickier to get back to sleep each time they come to the edge of sleep).
Try to begin a feed - play - sleep pattern.
This will encourage your little one to have full feeds and also reduce them falling asleep whilst feeding. This can help independent sleep skills later down the line.
Have a bedtime routine
You can introduce this at any time but if you haven’t introduced it by around 8 to 10 weeks it’s a great time to do this. This could include a bath or a wash, a little massage and, of course, feed before having a little story or song and placing your little one in their cot. Around eight weeks is a great time to start removing the swaddle and you can do this by removing one arm for a couple of nights, then the second one (and swaddling their trunk) then transition them into something like a sleeping bag.
If you are pregnant and would like to learn more about what to expect with your little ones sleep when they arrive, we have created our antenatal package to educate parents about newborn sleep early, so that they don’t need us to solve developed sleep issues later. Please do get in touch with us if you would like any more advice or information.
Jenna, a mum of 3, set up Little Dreams Consulting 7 years ago, following 12 years working as a solicitor. She has trained with Sleep Sense™ and The Sleep Charity (UK) and has attended a multitude of courses with the NSPCC and The Lullaby Trust.
The demand for sleep has grown so much that the Little Dreams Consulting family is growing and is looking for franchisees across the UK to join their successful team of sleep experts. To find out more, pop them an email at email@example.com for a (no obligation) chat.