Although newborns sleep a lot, they don’t necessarily do it when you’d like them to! Over a 24-hour period, babies nap for up to 18 hours, but only for three or four hours at a time. They can be easy to wake too – newborns spend more time in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is a light sleep, as this is necessary for the changes happening in their brain. But don’t panic – from three months, your baby will need fewer feeds and should sleep for longer stretches…
5 steps to a sleeping baby
1. No solo sleeps For the first six months, your little one should be in the same room as you when asleep, both day and night. Always put your newborn to sleep on their back with their feet at the foot of the cot.
2. Cot care Make up the cot with a fitted sheet, top sheet and a honeycomb blanket, and keep it free of any toys. Make sure your newborn never overheats. This is a particular problem if you share a bed with your baby, and is why you must at no time fall asleep with them on the sofa.
3. Night and day Keep lights low at night, even if you have to do a nappy change. Try blackout blinds if brightness is an issue, but let some light come in during daytime naps to teach your baby the difference.
4. Quickly and quietly If your baby stirs, see to them quickly so that they remain dozy. Avoid talking, but some eye contact can be the reassurance they need to drop off again.
5. Bedtime routine A wind down with a feed, bath and lullaby will make your baby feel secure, relaxed and ready to snooze.
Get into training
From around four to six months some parents want to try ‘sleep training’ – teaching your baby to fall asleep by themselves (although talk to your midwife if your baby has any medical conditions). There are lots of approaches, from not rushing to your baby when they cry to see if they settle themselves, to attempting a routine where babies are put down for naps at the same time every day. Different ideas work for different families.
“What I wish I’d known…”
“When Daisy was about 13 weeks old, I almost crashed the car because I was so tired. That’s when I knew I had to teach her to settle herself so that I wasn’t up and down all night. Rather than rush to Daisy every time she murmured, I waited a few minutes to check she really needed me, and she soon learned to go back to sleep.” Becky, mum to Daisy.