Creating an effective sleep schedule for your newborn is kind of like learning how to ride a unicycle. It’s crazy hard at first, but once you find your balance…well, you still fall, but a whole lot less! We can’t teach you how to ride a unicycle, but we do have some great tips for getting your newborn on a decent sleep schedule! Let’s check them out!
The joy that comes along with having a newborn is indescribable – as is the sheer exhaustion! Sleep, as the parent of a newborn, is the holy grail. The key to your own sleep is figuring out the sleep schedule of this new addition to your family, and that can be hard work. As you determine the right schedule for you and your baby, keep the following in mind.
Creating an Effective Sleep Schedule for Your Newborn
1. What’s “Normal” for a Newborn?
Newborn babies (those up to 3 months of age) sleep a lot. Unfortunately, they may start out with day/night confusion, and it can take a few weeks for their circadian rythyms to get in line. During those first few weeks, it is important to work toward regulating your baby’s schedule. You may have heard the old adage, “Don’t wake a sleeping baby.” While that may be true later in life, in the newborn phase, waking your baby every 1.5-3 hours during the day will help him get on a schedule that affords you some longer stretches of sleep during the night.
2. Feeding Plays a Big Part
In those first few weeks, your baby will eat on demand, and if you’re breastfeeding, that will help establish your milk supply. During the day, plan on 5-6 feedings, plus another couple during the night. It is important to make sure your baby eats enough during the day so that she’s not waking up every couple hours at night to feed.
Feeding will likely make your baby sleepy, and that can be problematic if your baby only drinks an ounce or two before falling asleep. If you’re breastfeeding, this habit is particularly tricky because your baby is likely not getting the fattier hindmilk that is higher in calories and will keep his tummy full a little longer. During the day, try feeding your baby shortly after he wakes up rather than just before it’s time for him to sleep again. An added bonus is that you’ll be able to put him down for his naps still slightly awake, helping him learn to fall asleep on his own. Nighttime feeds are different – the goal is to feed your baby and then get him right back to sleep.
3. Decide What Works for You
Many schedules you find online are rigid in terms of times, and that just didn’t work for my babies and me. I also have two kids who naturally are different with their sleep preferences – my daughter is an early bird like me, and my son is a night owl like his dad. Follow your baby’s lead in terms of what time to start your daytime sleep/eat/play schedule. For some babies, that may be 6 a.m., and for others it’s 9. Start your schedule there, and develop your routine.
The same goes for nighttime. Some sleep schedules suggest 10 or 11 p.m. is when the longer stretches of sleep should begin for your baby, but that may not be your reality. If 9 is better for your family, go with it. Once you establish your routines, so long as your baby is eating 5-6 times during the day, and not sleeping for longer than 1.5-3 hour stretches other than at night, you’re on the right track.
If you’re having a tough time getting your newborn on a schedule, make sure you talk with your pediatrician. He or she will be able to give you tips and talk about your specific situation to help you establish a plan that works for you.