A new mom’s guide to newborn sleep

Baby’s here! Friends and family have warned you that you’ll get less sleep in the first few months of your baby’s life – and sometimes beyond. Here’s what to expect in terms of newborn sleep. By Tammy Jacks


What youve heard:

Youll be up every two to three hours to feed in the first few weeks

The truth:

This is true. The general guideline, according to The Nemours Center for Children’s Health, is that newborns need to feed between eight and 12 times in a 24-hour period for the first month. In fact, a newborn shouldn’t go without a feed  for more than four hours in the first few weeks – even overnight.

As your little one grows, she’ll drink more at a single feed and will sleep longer between feeds. This means that by the time your baby is eight weeks old, you’ll be feeding between seven and nine times in 24 hours. This also depends on the season (babies tend to drink more frequently in summer months) and whether you’re breastfeeding, since breastmilk is easier to digest than formula, so your baby might be hungry more often.

You little one will also go through a series of growth spurts where she’ll be more hungry than normal, and you’ll need to cluster feed (your babies feeds will be bunched together during certain time of the day) for 24 to 72 hours.

ALSO SEE: What to expect from your newborn the first 10 days

What youve heard:

You shouldnt co-sleep with your baby

The truth:

Keeping safety and SIDS guidelines in mind, you should do what enables you to feel as comfortable and rested as possible. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ new Safe Sleep recommendations, infants should share their parents’ bedroom for at least the first six months of life and, optimally, for the first year after birth. However, the policy states that babies should sleep in the same bedroom as their parents – but on a separate surface, such as a crib or bassinet, and never on a couch, armchair or soft surface to decrease the risks of sleep-related deaths.

ALSO SEE: Parents and baby should sleep in the same room, say new SIDS guidelines

Some moms find a co-sleeper cot works well. This is a cot that attaches to the side of your bed, so your baby is still within arm’s reach and it’s easy to feed and stay close to her without the risk of rolling onto her during the night.

ALSO SEE: Co-sleeping safety tips

What youve heard:

Your little one will sleep well between feeds

The truth:

Not always. They’re often fussy and niggly after a feed and won’t always settle easily. This might mean that you’re up most of the night and won’t get the chance to rest or do get much done during the day. “This was probably the biggest shock for me,” admits new mom Natalie Jones. “I thought I’d simply feed, change and burb my baby and she’d sleep well again until the next feed, but some nights she never went back to sleep or she’d grunt and squirm around next to me for hours and I couldn’t sleep either.”

Although this is pretty normal, as newborns are often gassy and uncomfortable after a feed due to their immature digestive systems, go through a quick process of elimination until you figure out why your little one is naggly. Perhaps she’s still hungry, or too cold, maybe she has a wind or she just needs to feel close to you.

What youve heard:

Newborns sleep a lot

The truth:

It’s true that young babies need a lot of sleep (between 17 and 19 hours in 24 hours), however you might hear new moms saying that their babies sleep well during the day but not at night. This happens often, but for good reason.

During your child’s first weeks of life, she won’t be able to distinguish between day and night. To help her develop the habit of sleeping through the night, paediatrician Dr James Dufort recommends feeding your baby just a little bit more before bed. This will help her sleep for a longer period between feedings.

It’s also important to expose your baby to some sunlight during the day and to limit any light coming into her room at night. It’s also never too early to start a bedtime routine to help your little one settle. After a few weeks, your baby will start to adjust.

ALSO SEE: Newborn sleep patterns what to expect in the first few months

What youve heard:

Your baby will sleep anywhere

The truth:

While newborns generally can sleep on the go, this isn’t optimal as babies tend to get easily overstimulated – and being out and about too much can have a negative impact on their sleeping patterns.

Because children start to develop sleep habits during the first weeks of life, it’s important to provide a consistent sleep environment. Sleep therapists recommend allowing your baby to sleep at home in her cot (or in the same place) as much as possible. To optimise the release of melatonin, your baby’s room should always be dark when she’s sleeping. If you have to let your little one nap on the go, drape a breathable blanket or cover over the pram or car seat to limit outside noise, light and stimulation.

It’s also a good idea to develop a sleep ritual before bed to help your little one wind down and expect to sleep. Try a warm, soothing bath followed by a milk feed, story and cuddle with a few lullabies. You can follow this simple routine right into the toddler years.

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