The First 6 Weeks - Five Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Had My Newborn
Newborn babies can be such hard work. I remember before having my first I thought I would be so easy breezy - I'd just sleep when the baby slept!
Unfortunately the baby didn't sleep!
Newborns are neurologically really immature.
This means their sleep can be really disorganised and sometimes it's hard to know whether you're coming or going and how on earth you're going to get through those first few months.
Prior to your first baby you'll be told lots of things about how to prepare, and often they'll be quite contradictory. The narrative we're given prior to having a baby often doesn't reflect the reality of newborn life and so I wanted to share my top tips for helping your newborn to sleep.
Often initially your newborn will sleep wherever, whenever! Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking we have this amazing dream newborn in the first couple of weeks because of this. However, this is usually due to the maternal melatonin your baby gets from you - it makes a lot of them super sleepy and so portable first the first couple of weeks! Sadly this tends to wear off around week three and you'll notice your newborn 'wakes up', and this can come as a real surprise! Ensuring your sleep environment changes to support their sleep here is really important!
Make sure baby is in a firm arms down swaddle - the Moro reflex is really strong at this age, and babies also lack the control needed to soothe with their hands, so they'll often upset themselves. A firm arms down swaddle like a miracle blanket helps mimic is snugness of the womb and is super comforting.
Darkness - Darkness is magic! You've probably heard the old 'sleep your baby in the light to teach them day from night' but this can cause more harm than good. As long as your baby is in the light during their awake time and having feeds, and you're not letting them nap excessive lengths of time during the day (try waking after two hours if they're napping well), using a dark room for sleep is a really good thing because melatonin, the sleep hormone, is far more readily produced in darkness.
White Noise - again this mimics the environment of the womb. You want a constant stable sound, like white noise or heavy rain, and aiming for the volume of about a shower faucet. White noise needs to play for the entire duration of the nap to be effective.
At this age the best approach you can go for is a hands on one. We wouldn't recommend using any more traditional ‘check in’ style approaches just yet - remember your baby is super new and genuinely probably needs your help to fall asleep. I would suggest trying to shush and pat your baby, starting in your arms and then moving to their crib, for 30mins and if they're not asleep in that time use a backup method like rocking, feeding, holding to get them to sleep. There's nothing worse than an overtired newborn on your hands! There is nothing wrong with using a backup method if you're worn out - promise you won't make 'bad habits' just yet! Just remember to ensure baby sleeps in a safe environment.
Establishing a good feed pattern takes time, so be super kind to yourself here. Whether you're breast or bottle feeding, ensuring your newborn has a full tummy will help you in feeling confident that they can sleep well. We want to establish feeds and see baby growing well before we consider implementing any kind of schedule, so if you’re worried baby is hungry, try two feeds in an awake time. This way you’ll feel confident they’ve had enough to have a good rest.
Age appropriate awake time vs routine
How to establish a routine is something we get asked all the time, and for the first few weeks its often not really achievable. A better option to begin with is aiming for an age appropriate awake time for your baby. This will help you to have some idea of when baby will need to next sleep, without the pressure of trying to adhere to a routine with a newborn. As you get closer to three months of age, encouraging baby to sleep at regular periods during the day becomes a lot easier, but for now, keep an eye on their tired signs and aim for age appropriate awake time between naps instead.
Don’t compare, and don’t panic!
This is probably the most valuable advice I can give you. Sometimes, especially if you get a really tricky newborn with reflux of colic, it can be really easy to feel like you’ll never get out of those hard times, especially if you know of other people whose babies are sleeping well. Everyone will have their own challenges with their babies, and I can assure you at this age there’s not much you can do that can’t be sorted out down the track. Talk to people lots, and get help from wherever you can – there is absolutely no shame in letting others help you – most people who’ve had a newborn know just how difficult it can be.
We’re here to support you if you feel like you need some guidance, so if you’re starting to feel like your grasp on things isn’t where you’d like it to be, reach out to us any time and we’ll help you get through.
Infant and child sleep consultant
Our Baby Sleep Program helps tired parents TO DEVELOP HEALTHY SLEEP HABITS BY FOCUSING ON NAPS, SETTLING AND NIGHT SLEEP.
- Empowered: Feel empowered as a Mum as you learn to understand your growing baby's needs and cues.
- Simple effective settling: Gentle, proven self settling, evidence based techniques.
- Content happy baby and parents: Better sleep creates content babies & happy parents.
- Freedom: Predictable routines and longer nights creates freedom. Solve your sleep problems for more freedom.
- Work with your babies circadian rhythm: Work with your babies biological clock for faster easier results.
- Awesome naps & nights: You'll create consistent naps and nights with our support.
Try our online sleep program, complete with FREE email support.
My baby has reflux can you help?
When your baby has reflux, feeds can be difficult and your baby can be in a lot of pain both during and after feeds. This pain can cause feeding aversions and failure to thrive. This is why true GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) needs to be treated by a doctor. Once your baby's doctor is satisfied your baby is feeding well, and you have the right medication or formula then we can start a sleep plan and you will be successful.
My baby has colic will this help?
Colic is defined as 3 or more hours of crying per day in infants. Crying subsides in the second second trimester. If you are still experiencing colic symptoms speak to your baby's doctor about whether this could be reflux, an allergy, or over tiredness. We can help you work on better sleep with this program at the same time as your doctor investigates the pain and crying.
What if the program isn't working?
We have a dedicated help line to ensure your success. Just email our team via the details in your program and a certified, experienced and friendly sleep consultant is ready to stare you in the right direction to ensure your success!
My baby was born early, can you help?
Sleep is neurological so we always work off your babies neurological age, that is their corrected age. When you look at our sleep programs purchase the program that your babies corrected age fits into.
What if I have questions or need more help?
Our sleep programs come with private email support. You don’t have to post in any public forums or groups, just email the exclusive helpline that our team of certified sleep consultants look after and we’ll answer all your questions and help you on your way.
Can this program help with my babies night sleep?
Yes, all our online sleep programs contain night sleep plans. We will teach you how to move from multiple night feeds to 2 or 1 or none (depending on what is age appropriate and appropriate for your baby.) Don’t worry we will show you to figure this out too. If your baby is unsettled at night but not feeding, our plans will help you with consolidate night sleep and self settling when age appropriate.
My baby is cat napping can you help?
Cat napping is a very normal physiological stage that your baby goes through. At this stage (3-8 months old), cat napping can start to be a long term issue and compound into over tiredness and affect night sleep and your babies happiness. Good news, this is a great age to work on re-settling, self settling and better longer naps!
I have 3 children, can this work with my family?
I totally understand how busy life is with 2, 3 or more children! Even if you need a flexible schedule we can still work on settling regular naps (some on the go!), and better evenings and night. Flick our consultants any specific questions about your family's schedule of activities and we can help you work out what is possible nap wise.
I don't want a fixed routine, can you still help?
Yes. A fixed routine is one option, regular naps and regular awake times is another. Both are valid and you are welcome to do what works for your family. We understand you are all different and what works best for one family won't be best for another.
I'm formula feeding, can you still help?
Yes we have specific advice for formula feeding parents, and we support your decision to feed any way you choose. We even have a special video series on formula feeding and everything you need to know. Just ask our consultants about this extra if you need it.
I'm exclusively breastfeeding, can I follow your plans?
Yes! While breastfeeding babies need to feed frequently they still need quality sleep day and night. We have specific advice for breastfeeding mums and an exclusive discount on Julia Daleys breastfeeding course if you need extra help.
I'm bed sharing, can your program help me stop?
Yes. We often fall into bed sharing, we call this reactive bed sharing. Or we have simply changed our mind, and moving on from bed sharing we need some support. Our programs and consults will guide you through gentle sleep methods, which are more appropriate for most bed sharing babies who are moving towards independent sleep in the cot.
I'm feeding to sleep, can you help me stop?
Yes. Feeding to sleep is a common sleep association and one that works well for lots of newborns. Often we need to move on from feeding to sleep when it starts to cause short naps, or prolonged settling or frequent night wake ups as baby looks for their association to go back to sleep over and over again at night. We can teach you how to teach your baby to self settle and move on from feeding to sleep when the time is right.
I'm rocking to sleep, is their a solution?
Yes. These are common sleep associations, we refer to this as assisting to sleep. Let us show you ways you can develop independent sleep and settling strategies with our online sleep program, or one on one consult.
Is this program based on Cry It Out?
No. Cry it out is the common name for a sleep training method where you put baby down and don’t respond or check until they are fast asleep. There is no CIO involved in this program as we feel this should be only done under proper supervision. Instead we have included all our very gentle approaches and more mainstream techniques for you to choose from.
Is this based on Science or Art?
Both! As a scientist I (Emma) have spent over 8 years researching the science of sleep. I have educated and certified over 500 consultants around the world as sleep consultants, and have worked with thousands of clients. I love the scientific explanations of why we see the sleep patterns we see, and this science helps us to shape plans and solutions that we know will work. But there's an element of art to getting a baby to sleep, understanding the right combination of things that will work best, and this is where your instinct comes in.
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