Parents of newborns, I have good news and not-so-good news. First, the bad news: your newborn’s sleep has a pretty good chance of being all over the place for a while. Now, the good news: there’s nothing you can do about it! Believe it or not, this sleep predicament actually makes some parents feel better — it takes the pressure off. Parents tend to feel their babies’ sleep patterns or resistance to sleep is a direct reflection of their parenting styles or their children’s personalities. That’s why so many parents tell little white lies about what sleep really looks like in their own home.
I’m here to tell you the truth: it’s normal for your newborn to not have a sleep schedule. This is because your baby isn’t born with a circadian rhythm. Simply put, your baby does not possess the ability to sleep in deep, consolidated states nor does he or she have the ability to time or schedule sleep. Your little one cannot tell difference between night and day. It makes complete sense that sleep is disorganized and newborns are easily woken.
For these reasons and more, we never (ever) want to attempt any sort of formal sleep training with a baby less than four months of age. It is simply not safe and can result in:
- Failure to thrive.
- Poor weight gain.
- Negatively impacting breastfeeding and mother’s milk supply.
- Impairing the important bonding process and foundation of trust between mother and newborn.
- Increasing risk for SIDS.
What can you do to help your newborn improve sleep skills and wellness?
- Practice safe swaddling.
- Do not overheat your baby! Your little one is better able to regulate his or her body temperature, sleep better and safer in cooler temperatures.
- Get your baby up when the sun is rising and put your newborn to sleep in darkened environments. This helps foster developing circadian rhythm.
- Recognize true sleep cues. Don’t confuse them with overtired cues.
- When your newborn is between 12 and 16 weeks, remain present in the room, and gently soothe with minimal touch or voice during the time it takes for sleep to onset. Do not leave a newborn that is zero to four months of age to cry alone, but also be mindful to not provide too much active interruption or stimulation. This allows for a balanced, safe practice of healthy sleep onset skills for your baby. It prepares your newborn for healthy sleep habits as he or she gets ready to enter the second stage of infancy when sleep cycles and circadian rhythms become more mature and adult-like in nature.
- Use a proper sound conditioner. The purpose is to condition stimulating sounds coming from outside nursery door or window. White noise should be placed at least 200 cm or 5.5 feet away from your baby’s ears. It should not contain the following: ocean waves, heartbeat sounds, lullaby music or other rhythms, beats and pulses that are notable and stimulate the brain. These sounds can arouse your baby to wake in lighter states of sleep. True, safe, healthy white noise should be ambient. We call this “pink noise” in sleep science.
- Always place your baby to sleep on his or her back.
- No positioners, toys or loose blankets in the crib.
If your baby is healthy and has reached the optimal age, follow Jenni June’s P.E.R.F.E.C.T. Sleep Training Bedtime Routine.
Safe sleeping tips for your newborn baby.
Written by Jenni June Certified Child and Family Sleep Consultant, CLC and Mom of four amazing young adults!