Anyone will tell you that one of the most difficult things about being a new parent is getting baby on a good sleep schedule so you can finally catch a few ZZZs of your own. Most newborns have a tendency to act like nighttime is party time, which may not coincide with your way of doing things. It helps to be well-informed about newborn sleep, and to nail down your sleep techniques early on so you can stick to them. Consistency is key when it comes to establishing a newborn sleep schedule.
How Much Should a Newborn Sleep?
Newborn babies (those under 3 months of age) need upward of 16–20 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. That’s a lot! So why does the newborn crew get such a bad rap when it comes to sleep? It’s because they sleep in very short intervals during these early weeks, and that doesn’t change at night. Newborn sleep patterns are super erratic. Most newborns don’t sleep more than one to two hours at a time when you first bring them home, and trying to get baby on any sort of newborn sleep schedule can feel like a hopeless endeavor. The best thing you can do is just soldier through the first couple of weeks until baby has the capacity to start consolidating some of her catnaps (and feedings!).
Where Should Newborns Sleep?
Outside of ultrasounds and hearing baby’s heartbeat, there’s nothing more fun during pregnancy than pulling together a dream nursery that’s just perfect for your little prince or princess. But don’t stress if you don’t get it finished in time for the birth, because scientists and pediatricians alike now strongly recommend you have your newborn sleep in your room, at least for the first few months. The American Academy of Pediatrics “recommends the arrangement of room-sharing without bed-sharing, or having the infant sleep in the parents’ room but on a separate sleep surface (crib or similar surface) close to the parents’ bed.”
James McKenna, PhD, a fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, readily agrees with the idea, adding, “infants should always sleep on their backs, on firm surfaces… in the absence of (secondhand) smoke… and their heads should never be covered.” All of these newborn sleep recommendations are made in an attempt to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which occurs when a baby dies in his sleep without warning and without being otherwise ill or impaired. Peaking between the ages of 1 and 5 months, the risk of SIDS can be reduced by incorporating the following newborn sleep tips:
- Always have your newborn sleep on his back, not his side or tummy
- Always have your newborn sleep on a firm surface with a tight-fitting sheet under him
- Never use blankets, pillows, crib bumpers or stuffed animals in baby’s crib
- Always use a fan to circulate air in the room where baby is sleeping
- Have baby sleep in your room for the first several months of life
- Never smoke in or near baby’s room
- Avoid co-sleeping with newborn babies; instead use a co-sleeper.
What to Do If Your Newborn Won’t Sleep
It can be frustrating when baby refuses to sleep, because sleep is so not overrated. First, take a deep breath, remember to take care of yourself when you can, and know that it’s okay to ask for help! The early days, weeks and even months with a newborn are incredibly tough, so give yourself a break. After you do that, give baby a break—tiny babies are simply not wired to sleep for long periods at a time.
That said, to keep baby from getting overtired, you do need baby to sleep! We’ve put together a list of tips that you can try if your newborn won’t sleep.
- Imitate the…