Before diving into the guide, use these quick links to access the information you need quickly.
You’re Not Alone.
Look. I know what it feels like. I know you’re probably reading this on your phone at 1:32 AM while your baby lays against you or your partner, quiet for the moment, but unable to be set down. I know you feel like you’re the only people in all the world. The first several days to weeks with a newborn can be incredibly isolating, depressing and arduous. Yes, you love your baby, yes they’re precious and amazing and everything you’d hoped, but this does nothing to stave off the tightness in your chest as the shadows lengthen and night falls.
I’ve BEEN there. I really have. I know you’re at your wits end and it seems like this hell will be your life forever. So before we dive into the guide I just wanted to say:
You are not alone.
In fact you’re in good company. Tens and tens of thousands of parents have been through this exact thing. We’re alumni of the school of sleeplessness, of pushing through another hour of exhaustion when all you want in the world is to drift away into sleep.
I promise you it gets better. This will pass. In a few shorts months this will be a memory and your life will be a new normal. Not like it was, but okay in a new way.
In the meantime though, this guide is here to inform you and provide you the answers you seek. Please reference the quick links above if you need fast answers. Otherwise read on.
My NewBorn Won’t Sleep.
This is the most common sleep related issue we encounter. It seems that in a stroke of cosmic irony the very time when new parents are in most desperate need of sleep is the one time of their life they are least likely to receive any.
If you want the answers fast click here to jump to the conclusions.
So what’s the deal with newborn sleep anyway? We looked into all the newest research and these are our findings.
It’s important to note that newborn humans are born with an underdeveloped nervous system which matures drastically in the first three months of life and continues maturing until adulthood.
Newborns are in many ways unprepared for life outside the womb, yet still, birth happens when it does and a newborn must do the best they can.
When in the womb babies will experience a much smaller spectrum of stimuli than they do outside of it. Imagine the shock of living months on end in a warm, dimly lit (So to speak) uterus, hugged on all sides continuously by your mother’s warm body. Never hungry, never cold, never gassy, never constipated. Noises are muted but constant. The dull thump of your mother’s heart is always in your ears.
Then in a flash of trauma and pain you’re born into the world. Cold air fills your lungs, bright lights sting your eyes, sharp loud noises fill your ears, and mother’s warmth, her heartbeat, her embrace are gone.
Now imagine the feeling of relief when you’re placed against your mother’s breast. You smell her, you hear her familiar voice and the old thumping of her heart again. You feel the warmth of her skin and are once more taken into her embrace. She quenches your first thirst and staunches your first hunger. She soothes your first fear.
This is the reality of life for newborns. It’s a traumatic event for them as much as for mom. By putting ourselves in their shoes we can better appreciate the magnitude of what we’re asking of them when we try to have them fall asleep in their bassinet away from all the comforts mom provides.
However, part of our jobs as parents is to give gentle pushes throughout our children’s lives to move them in a forward direction.
How long should a newborn sleep?
A newborn baby ideally should sleep between 1-2.5 hours at a time, waking to feed and to some extent when their diaper is dirty. Unfortunately not all babies fall into this neat of a timeline.
If your baby is sleeping between 1.5-2.5 hours at a time at night, congratulations! You have a perfectly sleeping newborn. If you can feed them and put them down with no problems you’re gold!
If your baby is sleeping less than 1 hour at a time between feedings you’re in the same boat my wife and I were with our second son. It’s going to be a rough ride.
What do I do if my newborn won’t sleep long enough?
If your baby isn’t sleeping long enough for you to get any rest, you may wish to try these:
- If your baby is sleeping flat on their back, consider a sleeper that puts them at a slight angle instead. These will alleviate acid reflux for babies who suffer from it. We recommend the Fisher-Price Auto Rock ‘n Play Sleeper because it also includes a rocking motor to help soothe your baby to sleep.
- Conversely. If your baby doesn’t like their sleeper (Like our second son) they may prefer being flat on their back. We suggest the Graco Dream Suite Bassinet.
- If your room is terribly quiet like ours, you may want to consider either a noise machine, or using your phone or tablet to play some white noise youtube videos. Our son responded VERY well to white noise (It was almost miraculous). Pretty much the industry standard is the LectroFan High Fidelity White Noise Machine. Which is very simply a “Fan sound” emulator.
- If it’s within the first 3-5 days after birth keep in mind that your baby is still learning how to feed, acclimating to the outside world and most importantly may not be getting completely full because your milk may not have come in yet if you are breast feeding.
- If your child keeps startling themselves awake consider buying a purpose-made swaddling blanket. Our recommendation is the HALO SleepSack 100% Cotton Swaddle. These special made swaddling blankets have Velcro bindings so the little one can’t wriggle their little arms free and start annoying themselves. We like the HALO SleepSack especially because it has a loose sack on the bottom half which prevents the hip damage known to be caused by traditional swaddling. It also features a reversed zipper design so you can diaper change without taking your child out of their swaddle.
- You may wish to consider a nook as well. Bear in mind that newborns have a tendency to push them out of their mouths and we didn’t have a lot of luck with them personally but some swear by them.
- Finally, remember that there will be some adjustment no matter how many sleep aids you’ve purchased.
- If you’re planning on co-sleeping please click on the co-sleeping link the Quick Links section at the top of the guide for co-sleeping specific sleep aids.
Once your milk has come in, and you’ve acquired the set of sleep aids that work for you, it’s important to remain consistent. As hard as it may be, don’t give in to strange gimmicks and strategies to get your baby to sleep. You are forming the basis for your little one’s sleep behavior even at this young age and you don’t want to lay a shaky foundation.
3 Month Old Won’t Sleep.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations, the hardest part is most likely over. At 3 months most experts consider your little one old enough to begin sleep training. Some babies may not be ready to sleep all night until they’re closer to 6 months old. If that is your baby, don’t push them too hard, just follow these simple guidelines to encourage them in the right direction.
- If you’ve not already, now is a good time to begin a bedtime routine. Whether it’s reading a book and snuggling. Listening to music or singing lullabies. Rocking your baby in a rocking chair or swing. Whatever works for your family, it’s important to stay consistent. Babies and children are very much creatures of routine. If you establish a routine and break it, your little one will become stressed which is counter productive.
- Ensure your nap schedule and bedtime are consistent. If your baby is waking and sleeping at all different hours of the day and night, it will be difficult for them to learn when “night-time” is and when “Daytime” is. Try your hardest to stay on schedule with naps and bedtime.
- Consider techniques to encourage independent sleep. Some are advocates of the CIO (Cry it out) method. Although this method is somewhat controversial, it DOES work quite well at encouraging independent sleep. There are some concerns over whether or not the CIO technique may be emotionally damaging to your child and we encourage you to research the pros and cons of this technique before making your decision.
- Put your baby to sleep awake. This may sound like an oxymoron. What we mean is, try putting little one down in their bassinet or sleeper while they’re still awake. This will begin training them how to sooth themselves to sleep, rather than requiring a feeding session or input from mom and/or dad.
Your baby may also be suffering from colic (Although it is much more rare past 3 months), digestive issues or acid reflux. Don’t be shy about speaking with your provider about your little one’s sleeping habits to ensure there is no medical reason.
Is It Safe To Swaddle Your Baby?
Swaddling can be a great boon to sleep deprived parents looking for a solution to their little one’s sleeping problems.
However, many parents are leery of swaddling. They may have heard reports in the news about the dangers of swaddling, dangers such as overheating, increased risk of SIDS and hip damage.
So is swaddling a good idea for you?
In general swaddling is considered to be safe as long as the proper precautions are taken.
When swaddling follow these guidelines.
- Ensure your baby is laying on their back. Swaddling ceases to be safe around the two-month mark when babies are able to roll over on their own.
- Make sure your swaddling technique is correct and that your swaddle does not come loose as loose blankets can increase the risk of SIDS.
- Don’t swaddle your child’s hips too tightly. Tightly swaddled hips have been known to lead in some cases to hip dysplasia in infants.
- All of these concerns can be addressed easily by using a purpose-made swaddling blanket such as the Halo Sleepsack Swaddle which are much safer, more secure and loose on the bottom to avoid his issues.
Co-Sleeping, Is It Safe?
Cosleeping has been a controversial topic for many years now. Although the general recommendation is that parents do not co-sleep, there are some new data that suggest it may not be as simple as that.
According to research conducted at the University of Notre Dame there are some ways to cosleep relatively safely.
If you are considering co-sleeping, ensure you follow these guidelines.
- You must not use any mind altering substances, or be overly tired or sick when co sleeping. All adults in the bed with the baby need to be of completely sound and sober mind.
- The baby mus not have any risk factors for SIDS, such as smoke exposure.
- The baby must be laid on its back on a smooth, firm surface, no pillows nearby, no heavy blankets. There must be no gaps nearby into which the baby may become wedged. There must be no drop nearby from which the baby may fall.
- All adults in the bed must be made fully aware of the baby’s presence and that cosleeping will be occurring.
If these guidelines are followed, it can be safe to co-sleep with your baby.
Please bear in mind that almost all pediatricians and experts will NOT agree with co sleeping. This is a special case that parents should think over carefully and discuss with their health care provider.
If you decide to co-sleep there are some products that can make it much safer.
We suggest the SwaddleMe By Your Side Sleeper which vastly improves the safety of co-sleeping while retaining the advantages.