Flourish Maternity NZ Blog by Amy Wallace Sleep Consultant New Zealand

Navigating Newborn Sleep - By Amy Wallace

Navigating Newborn Sleep

By Amy Wallace - Little Dreamers


It is really normal in the first couple of months for your baby’s sleep and feeding patterns to be quite random and unpredictable, the fourth trimester is full of change!

The 12 week period following birth is a wonderful whirlwind of events bringing about so much change; both physically and emotionally. Your baby is adapting to life earth side and you are finding your feet as a new parent, as well as recovering from bringing your baby into this world (go you!). Focus on spending the first couple of months getting to know your baby; reading their tired and hungry cues and embracing those newborn snugs! You cannot create any “bad habits” by loving and showing your baby affection.

Here are my top 5 tips for supporting newborn sleep:

1. Awake windows & Tired Cues

Understanding your little love's awake times and learning to read their tired cues will result in a more settled baby, and parent! The awake time period is from the moment baby wakes through to the moment they are asleep again. It includes feeding, changing, playing and winding down for the next nap or bedtime.

Awake Times for the first 4 months:

0 - 3 wks: 45 - 60min 3 - 6 wks: 1 - 1:15 hour 6 - 9 wks: 1.15 - 1.5 hour

9 - 12 wks: 1.5 hour 12 - 16 wks: 1.5 - 2 hour

Tired signs is your baby communicating to you that they need to wind down, reduce the stimulation and get ready for some sleep.

Common signs are;

  • Clenching hands into a fist

  • Pulling at their ears or hair

  • Jerky or shaking movements

  • Yawning

  • Rubbing eyes

  • Vacant look/staring into space

  • Quieter/less chatty

  • Grizzling

  • Sucking thumb/hand

Being able to read your baby’s tired cues is important so that you can be proactive and offer sleep before they get overtired.


2. Sleep environment

Swaddling - swaddling mimics the snug, firm feeling your little one had inside the womb and helps to keep their arms tucked in. Babies moto reflex (the startled spreading out of arms motion) doesn't mature until 4-6 months of age so their flailing helicopter arms can make them feel unsettled and as if they are falling when you lower them into the bassinet/cot. Swaddle arms down until they show signs of rolling, even if intermittent, and then transition from a swaddle into a sleeping bag (if you need support with this transition check out the Little Dreamers Bed Transitions eBook)

Mimic movement - your little love was used to being rocked, jiggled and bounced as you moved around during the day during pregnancy. Having some skin on skin time and wearing your baby will help to calm and settle them. This helps with the bonding process, helps regulate their body temperature and is a great opportunity for your partner to get involved and share this special time. By rocking, patting, swaying and bouncing you are aiding their settling. Don't think of it as a negative sleep association - there is no such thing! You are supporting your little one to calm, settle and sleep - whilst enjoying a snuggle!

White noise is an amazing sleep tool that you can use for as long as you like. It mimics the whooshing sounds your baby heard from the blood moving through the placenta and uterus. White noise lowers your babys heart rate, reducing stress. This is particularly important if they are upset, overtired or overstimulated. White noise will calm your baby and once they are calm we can support them to settle to sleep.

Darkness - Darkness is essential for sleep in order to allow the production and release of melatonin, the sleep hormone. This hormone is only produced in darkness and will assist your baby in settling to sleep and staying asleep. The environment you create for your little one to sleep in is very important to ensure they have the best chance at not only falling asleep but staying asleep too.


3. Establish feeding and involve your partner

During the first 6 weeks your baby will need to be feed regularly. This is commonly called demand feeding and it is just that, feeding your baby when they show signs of being hungry. If you are breastfeeding your baby the first 6 weeks are really important as you both learn the skill of establishing a good latch, having a comfortable feeding position and encouraging a good milk supply.

Milk supply is established by having a supply and demand relationship. This means that the more your baby feeds, the more milk your body produces and makes available to them. During the first month your little one’s stomach is very small, so the capacity to stay full for long isn’t there. As they get older their stomachs grow in size and can hold more milk, which allows for longer periods of sleep and awake time between feeds.

Whether you breastfeed, bottle feed, formula or a mix your partner can be involved in feeding and settling. Skin to skin contact is a great way to support your newborn as it offers temperature regulation, comfort and bonding to both baby and partner. This can be so beneficial if your baby has been unsettled during the day, they need some comfort and reassurance or if Mum needs a break too.

Another great opportunity for your partner to be involved is during the bedtime routine. Mum can feed baby then the other parent can take care of the burping, bathing, dressing and story time. Getting involved is about finding those moments and realising there are so many more opportunities outside of feeding that allow parents to develop a relationship and share the load.


4. Have a loose routine that allows for flexibility.

It is very common for newborns to want to sleep on or near you, rather than in their bassinets. Start with just one nap a day in their bassinet at home and the other sleeps can be out and about assisted in the front carrier, pram or car. This will give you the opportunity to get out for a walk, grab a coffee or meet a friend. In the early days you might like to follow a feed, play, sleep routine which means offering a feed upon waking having a play together then winding down and settling them back to sleep at their age appropriate awake window.

Around 6 weeks old you might like to look at a loose routine for your little one: A loose routine means you might:

  • start to wake your baby at a similar time each day (around 7am)

  • offer their naps after their age-appropriate awake window

  • feed them on demand (at least every 2-3 hours or as directed by LMC/LC)

  • aim for a longer sleep in the middle of the day where possible (between 12-2:30pm)

If you're patting, rocking, bouncing or feeding your baby to sleep and its working and you're happy doing it then keep doing it. Most babies won't fall into any kind of routine or sleep pattern until closer to 4 months of age, which means they will rely on you to support them and assist them to sleep.

5. Look after yourself!

Be sure to make your own self care a priority during this time too. It can be incredibly overwhelming being a new Mum so ensure you take some time each day to catch your breath. Self care is taking care of yourself and needs to be at the top of your list. Having a newborn is demanding and you may feel exhausted and depleted. It can come with feelings of guilt; wanting to spend time away from your baby or partner and feelings of selfishness that you want to do something just for you. These are all very normal feelings and thoughts. Make a plan for both you and your partner to fit in self care on a regular basis.

If you need support with your newborn and some responsive settling methods grab the Newborn Sleep Guide to support you from 0-16 weeks and the 0-3 month routine ebook to navigate feed/sleep timings. 

If you need some sleep support and you are ready to make a change I'm here for you! Book a discovery call and let's chat about your little one's sleep and how I can help your family get the rest you all need to thrive.


Amy Wallace
Little Dreamers - www.littledreamers.co.nz 

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