Our Newborn Sleep Routine
My family and I are in the middle years. Two of our children are in elementary school and one is now a young teenager. As they grow up, I will always cherish those early years when they were newborns. The purity of a newborn is precious and unmatched. It must be said that some of my best days have been spent caring for my three children as newborn babies.
I love babies! I adore their innocence and how their big eyes stare back at you with unconditional love. I treasure the moments I catch them learning something new and then watching as they perfect that very thing they just learned.
For some new families, the change of schedule and the lack of sleep can turn what I believe to be some of our best days into very difficult days to be endured rather than cherished. In an effort to help the adjustment become some of your best days ever, I have recorded the things I did to help my children take on a sleep schedule that would fit our family routine best. It’s all about teaching that sweet “lemon drop” the difference between night and day!
Each of my babies was different. One turned out to be a little on the OCD side: an early riser, full of plans, and personal expectations. The second is my “fairytale author”: imaginative and happy as long as we’re having fun. The last child is “the little general”, taking charge and keeping her older siblings in line.
Despite very different personalities, each responded positively to my nine-step routine outlined below. Please keep in mind, I began this routine the first day home from the hospital, so it could take extra practice if your baby is already used to something else.
NINE STEPS TO GET MORE SLEEP WITH A NEWBORN IN THE HOUSE:
1. Establish the time period you want to have the longest stretch of sleep.
In the beginning, this probably means four hours. If you are nursing, you don’t want to hurt your milk supply by going very long without feeding. For me that was 12am-4am. In my opinion, 12am-4am is definitely when I would want my baby sleeping. I guess you could say for me, that is officially night. So for me, 12am was bedtime.
2. Designate ONE nighttime sleeping location.
This could be a co-sleeper, pack-n-play, or bassinet in your room. I do recommend keeping the baby in your room so you can respond to her cues more quickly.
I did not put the baby in his nighttime bed until “bedtime” for any reason. This is so that once it was truly bedtime, this new location would be another clue for him to go to sleep.
Where did the little lump sleep during the day?
We utilized baby-wearing, swings, pack-n-plays, bouncers, a blanket on the floor, carseats, etc. for daytime sleeping. We also always kept the baby nearby us with lots of light and sound so he knew it was daytime and there was a lot going on! Yes, even babies can have “FOMO”!
3. Cluster-feed your baby before bedtime so she’s had lots of mommy-time and her belly is full.
Three hours before the bedtime, breastfeed the baby on each side or bottle-feed a small amount (say 1-2 ounces). Then play with and interact with your baby, let her swing, or have some tummy-time. Keep the activity going.
Repeat one hour later feeding on both sides (starting with the side you left off on). You may have to wake your baby by undressing and changing. Repeat one hour later with the same process. This is the last official feeding of the night.
4. Complete your bedtime routine.
Change the baby into pajamas and a fresh diaper. Next swaddle your baby. Yes, sometimes they try to wiggle out, but a little perseverance is worth it. I often double-swaddled to keep my little darlings tightly wrapped.
5. Put the baby to bed.
Lay your baby in her nighttime sleeping place. It’s great for the baby to go down awake, because she will learn to fall asleep on her own. At this point, you can feel fairly confident that your baby is full and ready to sleep after all that eating!
6. Prepare for a calm, consistent atmosphere.
I left on a very low light so that when the baby did wake in the night I didn’t have to ever change the lights to check on my babies. You don’t want to change the atmosphere with harsh lighting.
Keep it quiet. It’s sleeping time: no talking, television, or light throughout the night. Only “shhh” if it’s really needed.
7. Meet your baby’s feeding needs throughout the night, as quickly as possible.
If you put your baby down around 12am, then schedule the next feeding sometime around 4 am.
If the baby begins to wiggle in bed and seems to be rooting around, go ahead and feed her. It’s better to meet these needs before she is struggling and crying. You may have to spend extra time calming her if you wait until she is upset. Then immediately re-swaddle and place her back in her bed. If breast-feeding is firmly established, you may want to consider offering a pacifier.
8. Try to master the side-lying hold.
If you are able, breastfeed your baby in a safe, side-lying hold so that you can get some rest while she eats.
9. Stretch out the four hours of solid sleep.
Once your baby is falling asleep at the bedtime you have picked and sleeping for four hours consistently, begin moving the bedtime back hour by hour. Eventually I worked all of my babies back to 7pm.
Sweet dreams everybody! Our best days as parents, well, they come each day.
DISCLAIMER: I am just a mom, not a pediatrician and I don’t know your unique situation. This method has been a healthy and successful plan for my family and many of my friends. I hope it can help some of you. I’m sure there are many other great ways to get sleep and sanity but this is the plan that worked for me.