Top 4 Newborn Sleep Tips from a Baby Sleep ExpertJan 18, 2022
It’s no secret that the days and nights with a newborn baby can feel hectic! If you’re feeling overwhelmed at trying to find a rhythm between all the feedings, diaper changes, and lack of sleep, you are not alone!
To help you find some balance in these first few weeks of your little one’s life, I’ve put together my top 4 tips for navigating life and sleep with a newborn baby. These tips are not meant to be stressful, but to help provide some semblance of structure if that’s what you’re looking for! You can’t put a newborn on a schedule, but you CAN feel prepared for newborn sleep needs.
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Top 4: Newborn Sleep Tips
If you’re thinking, “what do I do all day with my newborn?”, following an eat-play-sleep daily flow is a great place to start and also a great guide to getting a routine going with your baby over time.
I know that it can seem overwhelming to implement a “schedule” when adjusting to life with a newborn. But actually, eat-play-sleep should not be thought of as a “schedule”, but an “order of operations” for the day. Following this flow does not mean that you have to schedule your baby’s feeds or nap to an exact timing, but rather structure your day in that order of activities.
Paying attention to your baby’s needs and cues (both tired and hunger cues) will allow for this flow to happen, as well as better help you differentiate between these cues - making you able to meet your baby’s needs more effectively! Feed your baby when they wake, then after a short amount of time awake when they become fussy you’ll know they’re likely tired again rather than hungry.
2. Wake Windows
Understanding your baby’s appropriate awake time frames (or “wake windows”) is KEY to a successful eat-play-sleep routine. Wake windows are the length of time a baby can tolerate being awake between naps based on developmental age. When used in combination with an eat-play-sleep flow you’ll have an easier time avoiding a baby who is overly tired, and in turn, fighting sleep.
Here is what I recommend for how long your baby should be awake during the day, depending on their age:
- 0-8 weeks: awake for 45-60 minutes
- 2-3 months: awake for 90 minutes MAX
- 3-6 months: awake for 2 hours MAX
- 6-9 months: awake for around 3 hours MAX
- 9-12 months: awake for around 3-4 hours MAX
- 12-18 months: awake for 5 hours MAX
→ Want to keep these wake windows handy on your phone? Check out my FREE Sleep Tips Download for children 0-3 Years old for wake windows, nap transitions, & more!
As soon as you take your baby out of the crib, start their wake window clock and the eat-play-sleep flow. And if you’re wondering what the heck to do with your newborn during their wake windows or “play” time, check out this Instagram Reel for some helpful tips and make sure to read the caption!
If you’re in need of some extra support when it comes to finding the ideal time to put your baby down for a nap based on wake windows and tired cues, as well as learning to fall asleep independently without being rocked or fed to sleep over time, I have helped thousands of parents with my baby sleep guides all looking for help with this! It’s not ‘training’ for newborns, but setting up a strong sleep foundation for the whole family.
3. Tired Cues
Babies use cues to tell us what they need before they start crying. If you can read these cues, you’ll know what your baby needs from you!
A baby’s hunger and tired cues can look very similar. When eating and sleeping are often happening really close together or even simultaneously, it’s easy to get them mixed up and not be able to fully differentiate between the two.
Following an eat-play-sleep schedule can help you differentiate your baby’s cues and have an easier time meeting the correct need for your baby! There will be less crying, fuller feeds, and better sleep over time.
While watching your baby’s wake window, start to watch for EARLY tired cues around the time when their wake window begins to close. These cues will let you know that your baby is starting to get tired, or is ready for a nap immediately. Once you see these early cues, it’s a great time to start a nap routine (which can just be a shortened version of your bedtime routine) and put baby down!
Early tired cues:
- Zoning out or losing interest
- Avoiding stimulation
- Red brows or eyes
- Turning toward chest
- Sucking hands or fingers
- Tugging ears
If your baby starts getting fussy or crying, they’re most likely overtired at this point and exhibiting LATE tired cues. Once you see these later cues, it’s time to focus on getting your baby immediately down to sleep, or if necessary, calming your baby down before trying to put them down for a nap. In the case that a baby is difficult to calm, focus on doing whatever you can to help them to sleep.
Late tired cues:
- Getting fussy
- Hysterically crying and/or difficult to calm
Remember to use tired cues in combination with your baby’s age-appropriate wake window. Especially in the early days, I recommend putting baby down by the end of their wake window even if you don’t feel like you’re seeing tired cues yet. This can save you lots of tears and an overtired baby in the long run. As your baby grows, you can focus more on their cues than being strict with their wake windows!
4. Practice Putting Baby Down
Babies get used to what they’re introduced to! It’s important to enjoy those newborn cuddles and not stress about following a structured routine or “order of operations” perfectly! BUT, I recommend putting your baby down for just one nap a day in their own sleep space, wide awake! If they are not crying or upset, let them figure it out and fall asleep independently. If they start to cry, you can absolutely pick them up and help them to sleep. In addition, even if your baby only sleeps in their crib or bassinet for a small amount of time and needs to be helped back to sleep or finish the nap on your body, that’s still considered a win! It takes lots of time for babies to get used to something new and this is no different!
Practicing putting your baby down for sleep will help them learn how to fall asleep independently and discover their own set of soothing techniques over time. This is a super helpful skill for them to learn, as it will allow for naturally longer stretches of sleep as they grow! When babies know how to fall asleep independently, they are able to put themselves to sleep at bedtime, as well as fall back to sleep when they wake in the night or from short naps between sleep cycles.
These first few weeks with your newborn are ever-changing. Everything won’t go perfectly; in fact, most things won’t and that’s to be expected. Just practice these 4 things when you have the opportunity and energy (but don’t stress if you can’t), soak up all the snuggles, and enjoy your new baby!
Expecting a newborn and looking for lots more tips for everything from how to set up your postpartum stations to basic newborn care and sleep education? Make sure to download my FREE Expectant Parents Guide!
If you find yourself still struggling with your little one’s sleep, please know that you are not alone and that I am here to help. Download one of my comprehensive sleep guides or schedule a call with me for some personalized support.
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