If you’re reading this, you are likely expecting a baby or have recently welcomed your new arrival. Congratulations!

Welcoming a newborn into your life is a joyous occasion and brings with it many new experiences and challenges – especially when it comes to sleep. Sleep may have not even been on your radar during preparations for having your baby. However, it can soon become the ONLY thing you can think about.  Many parents report that the first night after their baby is born goes fairly smoothly compared to night two.  This is down to the fact that your little one has been through an exhausting labour, too.  Night two can be very different once your baby is more alert and tuning into the changes in their environment.

Understanding Newborn Sleep Patterns

Newborns have unique sleep patterns that differ from older babies and adults. During the first few weeks of life, babies spend most of their time sleeping. The length of sleep periods is influenced by environment, discomfort and the need for frequent feeding. Your little one will spend equal amounts of time in either an Active or Quiet sleep state.  Tuning into the difference between these states is key to newborn sleep.

In a quiet sleep state, your baby will sleep as we imagine baby sleep to look. Peaceful and still.  During active sleep, your newborn will move, wriggle, grunt and even look like they have their eyes open. Many parents rush in during active sleep as they think their baby needs something. Pausing to ensure your baby is actually fully awake can positively impact their sleep patterns.

Tips for Promoting Healthy Newborn Sleep

  1. Create a Calming Sleep Space: Establish a peaceful and soothing sleep environment for your newborn by keeping the room dark, quiet and comfortably cool. White noise machines are helpful in blocking external noise which could disturb sleep and should play continuously for the duration of sleep if used.
  2. Follow a Consistent Bedtime Routine: You can introduce a simple bedtime routine as soon as you feel ready. Helping your newborn differentiate between day and night is the aim here.  Lowering lighting and noise levels, giving a warm bath and changing into fresh nappy and sleepsuit at the same time each evening is a great place to start.
  3. Practice Safe Sleep: Always place your newborn on their back to sleep in a crib or bassinet with a firm mattress and tight-fitting sheets. Avoid using soft bedding, pillows or stuffed animals that could pose a suffocation hazard.
  4. Respond Promptly to Your Baby’s Cues: Newborns rely on their caregivers to meet their needs, including hunger, discomfort and the need for comfort. Respond promptly to your baby’s cries and cues, offering comfort and reassurance as needed.
  5. Daytime Tips: Help your newborn differentiate between day and night by exposing them to natural light – especially in the mornings. Engage in stimulating activities during their waking periods. Keep daytime feedings and interactions lively and in the usual light and noise of your home while nighttime feedings should be calm and quiet.

Dealing with Common Newborn Sleep Challenges

  1. Night Wakings: It’s normal for newborns to wake frequently during the night for feedings and comfort. Be prepared for interrupted sleep and rest when possible.
  2. Day/Night Reversal: Some newborns may have their days and nights mixed up, sleeping more during the day and staying awake at night. Get out in the fresh air and natural light in the mornings and keep waking periods active. Make your home darker and quieter in the evenings and follow a simple and predictable bedtime routine to support their circadian rhythm.
  3. Colic and Winding: Colic can make it challenging for newborns to settle and sleep well. Experiment with soothing techniques like gentle rocking, swaddling, and babywearing to help calm your baby and promote sleep. Ensuring you spend sufficient time winding your baby after each feed makes a huge difference as a baby with trapped wind will not settle. A winding session can often take longer than your think – often 20 minutes or more – and not necessarily done after one burp.

Navigating newborn sleep can be a challenging experience for parents.  Especially when you are recovering yourself.  During those first weeks, you will likely feel tiredness like never before.  It is important to know that there is no right or wrong way for your newborn to sleep as long as you adhere to safe sleep guidelines (visit lullabytrust.org.uk for up-to-date guidance). There is only what works for you and your baby. If things do feel too much, there are many support options available.  Lean on family and friends, speak to your midwife or health visitor or reach out to a sleep consultant like myself.     

I am a certified infant sleep consultant and formerly sleep-deprived parent.  I have been right where you are now! 

I can work with you to take a deep dive into newborn sleep, offer guidance on safe sleep and advise you on how to optimise your baby’s sleep space as part of my Newborn Navigation package.  Have all your questions answered and learn how to lay the first foundations for sleep.

Interested? Book your 1 hour Newborn Navigation Consultation here.

Elizabeth Nixon

North Star Sleep Consultancy