Yawn! Taking care of a newborn is exhausting work!
All they do is sleep and eat, leaving you to scramble to find the right times to enjoy the same luxuries. After being in the womb for so long, they don’t know the difference between night and day, but you do!
As soon as you leave the hospital, it’s time to get you, your baby, and your support team on a sleep schedule. Newborns need up to 17 hours of sleep a day. That can be broken up by about 8 hours of sleep during the day and 8 hours of sleep at night. It must be lovely!
Still, newborns are unable to stay asleep longer than two hours at a time because they either get hungry or their reflexes (or refluxes) wake them up. As they progress through the newborn phase, their sleep cycles change.
That’s why we’re here to help! We’ll take you through your newborn’s sleeping routines to give you the ultimate newborn sleep schedule.
The Basic Routine
The first week of life for a newborn requires lots of feeding and lots of sleeping. This will require hourly attention to their naps and feeds.
First things first, encourage your baby to eat as much as they can handle. This means keeping them awake during their eating times by gently playing with their feet or caressing their cheeks.
When they first wake up after sunrise, feed and change them, and spend some time bonding. They should fall back asleep within an hour. Make a habit of scheduling a "wind down" period so that everyone becomes accustomed to the sensation of being on the verge of falling asleep.
You can expect your baby to wake up every 1 to 2 hours after this. Each time they wake up, you can feed them, play with them, change them, and then quiet them down for another nap.
As your baby goes from week to week of life, they will be able to stay asleep just a little while longer. This allows you to have more time for yourself during that downtime.
Going to Sleep Alone
It’s okay to hold your baby as they nap occasionally, especially during the daytime, and only if you’re not drowsy. However, as much as you may not want to, your baby needs to get into the habit of going to sleep on their own in their crib or bassinet.
It can be very difficult to do, but sleeping with you can be dangerous, especially in the newborn stage. There are a few tricks to getting your newborn to fall asleep on their own.
First, make sure they are ultimately comfortable. Get them in their softest pajamas, and make sure they’re nice and warm. Warmth is ideal for newborns because they’re so used to being surrounded by warm amniotic fluid. This is the same reason swaddling helps them sleep on their own as well.
After they’re snug and cozy, lay them down while they’re awake. This gets them used to the feeling of falling asleep without any help. They don’t need to be exhausted to do this, so don’t try to keep them up any longer than they want to unless they are feeding.
Day and Night
Getting your baby to understand the difference between day and night will help them develop sleep cycles that work best with yours. You can start practicing as soon as you leave the hospital!
During the nighttime hours, keep your area dim or dark and as quiet as possible, save for white noise. Save your cuddles and warm hugs for the evening, and don't do anything too stimulating, like play, during the day.
Encourage your baby to take a bath every other night because it makes them feel clean and warm. Nighttime should also be when your baby is encouraged the most to sleep on their own.
Contrarily, daytime hours should be filled with more light, sound, and stimulation. After about 6 weeks, your baby will become more accustomed to the day and night routines. You might notice that their longer naps happen at night!
Getting Accustomed to a Routine
The biggest takeaway here is the word “routine.” Newborns don’t know or care what a schedule looks like, but they can begin to get used to a routine. A routine keeps everyone on the same page as to what comes next during the sleep and wake cycles.
Making sure your baby is thoroughly fed will keep them fuller just a tiny bit longer and keep them from waking up so abruptly and so often. This may not be evident with a baby that is cluster-feeding, however.
When your baby sleeps, it would be nice to get in some hours of sleep for yourself. Maintain a support system to handle your newborn's sleep schedule on occasion so that you can get as much sleep as possible!
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