If you’re like most parents, chances are you’ve found yourself at one point or another desperately typing in to Google “baby won’t sleep through the night.” With swaddling, rocking, co-sleeping, baby wearing, and breastfeeding all promising more sleep to parents, it’s easy to think your child will sleep like an angel from day one.
This is far from reality and a trap most parents fall into. The truth is, newborns aren’t made to sleep through the night. Heck, some toddlers don’t sleep through the night. And whether you stand firmly in the camp of sleep training or nursing to sleep, it’s important that you don’t obsess too much over your child’s sleep.
When a baby is born they’re going from a warm, cozy, dark environment (literally in mommy), that makes them feel safe and secure. Once born, babies have a lot of adjusting to do. They’re not as close to mom. Food doesn’t come on demand. And, more than anything, they’re suddenly having to establish a circadian rhythm.
Newborn babies can nurse on average 12 times a day. And when a baby goes through a growth spurt they tend to cluster feed. That means that you can spend hours feeding baby. The good news is they tend to sleep for quite a while after cluster feeding.
But when a newborn isn’t eating or in need of a change, what is “normal” for their sleep?
Newborns typically sleep 17 hours a day. But it’s usually in small chunks that are anywhere from 2 to 4 hours.
As your baby adjusts to life outside the womb (this is often called the fourth trimester), it’s important that you help them establish their circadian rhythm. Helping them through this stage will make it easier for them to establish healthy sleep habits down the line.
Helping Baby Establish a Circadian Rhythm
Create a Routine
Establish clear and consistent times in which baby naps, plays, eats, and sleeps. Baby might not always stick to the routine, but it if you do they will eventually get it. Even on those fussy nights, rest confident that you are on the right track.
Show Baby Natural Light Cues
Try your best to get baby to understand natural light cues. When the sun rises help them wake up. When it’s dark, help them sleep. One of the best things you can do to help with this is to use blackout curtains to make the room dark when baby is ready to go down for the night or nap.
Create a Bedtime Routine
Bedtime routines can be hard to stick to, but they’re super important when it comes to giving baby a healthy sleep start. Choose a bedtime that works for baby, then about 20-30 minutes before the time, start the process. It might include a bath, PJs, book. Some parents choose to nurse to sleep before putting baby in the crib or co-sleeper.
Aside from nursing to sleep, make sure your baby also gets enough breast milk throughout the day. This is an important part of keeping them full, so they aren’t starving in the middle of the night and prone to more wake ups.
Remember, every baby is different. The key to helping your baby sleep is to understand their cues and work with your doctor so serious issues aren’t overlooked.
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