Getting a newborn baby to nap can be challenging, frustrating and overwhelming sometimes. Often the saying “sleep like a baby” does not even make sense when referring to a baby who just won’t fall asleep easily or even stay asleep.
Newborn babies have irregular sleep patterns because their circadian rhythm has not yet been established, day night confusion can set in and they can be easily over stimulated and disturbed. You baby will sleep 18-20 hours in a 24 hour period in the first few weeks.
My top tips below will help you understand how to manage nap times and hopefully have a calmer and easier nap time!
The first thing I would recommend is know how long your baby is capable of staying awake for. 0-4 weeks your baby may only mange 30-60 minutes then they will start to show sleep cues…
What are those sleep cues?
Newborn babies often display signs of tiredness before they become overtired. Look for yawning, rubbing eyes, or becoming fussy, and respond promptly to these cues by starting the naptime routine.
Establish a routine
Don't be scared of this one, you will naturally get into a routine because your will be feeding your baby every 2-3 hours especially in the first few weeks. That in itself is a routine. When you feel your baby is ready you can create a consistent pre-nap routine that helps signal to the baby that it's time to sleep. This could involve dimming the lights, swaddling, reading a short story, and singing a song or gentle rocking. These things if practiced consistently will become a great cue for sleep that your baby will become to learn. It can also help you know what to do and when!
Find a comfortable sleep environment
Ensure that your baby's sleep area is safe, calm and quiet, and comfortable. Use a bassinet, crib, or designated safe sleeping space. A swaddle or sleep sack can also help provide a sense of security. DO NOT USE ANY SLEEP POSTIONERS OR WEDGES OR PILLOWS OF ANY SORT. They are not recommend by the Lullaby Trust and pose a high risk for SIDS. Even watching your baby sleep in a dock a tot you cannot see what is going on inside there neck so if they are on a soft apparatus and their neck is not flat their airway is being restricted. You cannot see that so clearly.
Some babies find white noise soothing as it mimics the sounds they heard in the womb. You can use a white noise machine or app to create a calming background noise during nap times. Play it consistently throughout the nap. Use the free App decibel X to determine the correct noise level.
Baby wearing or gentle motion
Many babies find motion soothing. It is something that is familiar to them from pregnancy. Babies love to be near you and many will only nap on you. This is very normal even though it can be extremely exhausting and inhibiting as you feel you can’t get anything done and are nap trapped all day.
If you are wearing your baby in a sling please ensure the sling is a correct fit and size for both baby and you. Follow TICKS
· I-In view at all times
· C – Close enough to kiss – do not strain to kiss the top of your baby’s head
· K – Keep off your chest so they have space to breath
· S – Supported back for both baby and you
SEE HERE for more information on safe babywearing
Feeding before naps
A full tummy can help a baby sleep better. Try to feed your baby just before their naptime, so they are comfortable and content and ensure they have burped or they will be uncomfortable and not settle easily and then wake mid nap. It is very common that babies will fall asleep on a feed. Still burp your baby. You need to feed your baby every 2-3 hours so f it has been 3 hours since last feed then wake your baby and get that all important feed in!
New-borns are easily overstimulated, which can make it difficult for them to nap. Keep the environment calm and quiet before and during naptime and try avoid engaging in stimulating activities right before sleep. You will have many visitors in their first few weeks after birth and everyone will want a cuddle. Too many new faces and cuddles can be very overstimulation for your baby so do not be afraid to say “no thank you not today, can we see you tomorrow…?”
Be patient and flexible
Newborns’ sleep patterns can be unpredictable, so be patient and adaptable in finding what works best for your baby. Every baby is different, so it may take some trial and error to figure out what works best for your baby.
Remember that your newborn baby will need frequent naps throughout the day, and their sleep needs may change as they grow. Don't worry too much about creating a rigid schedule in the early days; that will come closer to 16-20 weeks. Focus on establishing a consistent sleep routine and responding to your baby's cues, getting to know each other and what works for your baby.
If you have concerns about your baby's sleep habits or you are struggling I am here to help and support you though this. You can book in a free sleep assessment call with me to find out how I can best support you going forward.
You may like to join our next NEWBORN SLEEP WORKSHOP which covers all this and more. To find out more and book CLICK HERE
Your Paediatric Sleep Consultant