Newborn sleep: some basics

Newborns spend most of their time asleep. They’re programmed to sleep in short bursts of about 2-3 hours between feeds, night and day.

Your baby will need your attention during the night for feeding and settling for up to the first six months. Some babies keep waking even after this.

Newborn sleep routines can be as varied as they are for babies and parents. The approach you take will depend on the choices you make about things like where your baby sleeps – for example, in her own bed or in a side-car crib next to your bed.

Some parents opt for little or no routine at all, and are comfortable with following their baby’s lead. Others find that a very simple, flexible routine seems to help their baby, and helps them to feel more in control.

This isn’t the time for rigid plans. You might find your baby won’t fit into even the best-laid plans anyway! In the first few months of your baby’s life, it’s best to go slowly – get to know each other, and work out what’s best for baby and for you.

Feed, play and sleep: a simple newborn sleep routine

With a newborn, it helps to be flexible about when your baby sleeps and feeds. But many infant health experts believe that, when it feels right for you, it can also help to begin doing things in a similar order each day – feed, play, sleep.

When your baby wakes up, you could try this:

  • Offer a feed.
  • Change your baby’s nappy.
  • Take time for talk and play.
  • Put your baby back down for sleep.

At night, you might choose not to play and instead focus on settling your baby straight back to sleep.

For young babies, playtime might just be a quiet cuddle or some time stretching out and kicking on a blanket. You might find about 10-20 minutes of play is enough. Some newborn babies get tired after being awake for about 1-1½ hours. Some newborns are happy to play for longer than this.

You can watch your baby’s tired signs and body language to see when it’s time to stop.

The key is to follow your baby’s lead about when to feed, play and sleep, but to start doing these things in a similar order through the day.

Daytime sleep for newborns

Keeping your baby awake all day won’t help your baby sleep better at night. Daytime sleep is important too. But it’s best not to let your baby sleep longer than four hours in one stretch during the day. After that, babies need to feed.

Feeding and sleep for newborns

Generally, newborns need to be fed every 2-4 hours. Your baby will sleep better after a good feed.

Settling and newborns

Newborns need your help when they’re unsettled. If they’ve been fed in the last two hours, cuddling and comfort are in order. You could also try topping up your baby with a feed to help send your baby to sleep.

Wrapping your newborn in lightweight cotton or muslin can help with settling. Wrapping can reduce crying and waking because it helps keep babies stable on their backs and stops their arms flapping.

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