When you have a newborn, there is no more popular topic of discussion than sleep. Sleep is important for everyone in the family, not only for the baby, and figuring out how to get more of it is often the biggest goal in the first few months of your baby’s life. While turning to the experts definitely helps, there are a few pieces of advice that I found helpful in those early days: Be consistent, be flexible, and listen to your baby.
Consistency is key when it comes to sleep. Bedtime routines should be consistent and predictable, using signals to help the baby understand, even in the earliest weeks, that nighttime is here. Many people use bathing, a last feed, songs, books, and swaddling as parts of the bedtime routine. The setting for bedtime, whether it is a crib or bassinet, should be the same every night. Having a few sets of your favorite crib sheets and blankets also helps. You can pick what works best for you, but it is very helpful for everyone to have a set routine, following the same steps at the same time each night.
Flexibility is also important, which seems a bit contradictory to the first tip, consistency. Consistency matters from one day to the next, and flexibility happens over time. As newborns grow and change, their sleep patterns shift, and we as parents need to be able to adjust to that. Some babies in the early weeks do not go down for their longest stretch of sleep until 9 or 10pm. Once they are five or six weeks old, though, this shifts to be earlier as their sleep consolidates. Watch how they are napping during the day, and as nap patterns change, so will bedtime patterns. Some new parents work very hard to keep babies on a set schedule, growing increasingly frustrated when the schedule is no longer working. Staying flexible and aware will help you make adjustments before frustration sets in.
Last but not least, listen to your baby and your instincts. Families approach sleep differently, and babies are individuals. Note what is working for your child and for you. If your newborn naps three times a day and only sleeps for a stretch of five hours at night before waking to feed, it does not matter if your best friend’s newborn sleeps for seven hours and takes three naps. If you are happy and feel that you and your baby are getting enough sleep, do not doubt yourself. Seek the advice of others when you are concerned and struggling and enjoy the bliss – and the rest - when it is going well.