Wondering what the first 6 weeks of your baby’s life should look like? With so much going on during this time, it can feel very overwhelming! Here are my top priorities to help lay a solid foundation for sleep while your baby is young. Keep reading to learn how to get a newborn on a sleep schedule!
Frequent exposure to natural light and darkness.
Make sure to expose your newborn to natural light during the day and darkness at night. This will help prevent day and night confusion. Getting outside (if the weather permits) is extremely helpful for establishing circadian rhythms and helps mom’s mental health as well! Sunlight increases our dopamine and serotonin which contributes to our overall feeling of wellness and positivity. Light and darkness tells our brains when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up, so use this to your advantage in those early days.
Establish nursing or bottle feeding.
Make sure to schedule an in-home visit with a lactation consultant within the first few days of birth. This will go a long way to get feeding off to a good start. The first week is the most important in establishing a healthy milk supply. Make sure baby’s latch is good, and the mouth structure is optimal; this will help baby to efficiently pull milk from the breast, which will go a long way in keeping stress to a minimum and helping mom to feel confident in feeding her baby. Remember to always try and get in a full feed, as this will help optimize sleep and weight gain. And yes, this means you will have to work hard at keeping baby awake during their feeding.
Feed your baby at least every 3 hours.
Don’t let your baby go longer than 3 hours between daytime feeds. Yes! This means you need to wake your baby to feed. I know this can feel hard when baby is sleeping so peacefully. Remember, if your newborn doesn’t get in enough calories during the day, they will wake for those missed calories at night. Waking your baby at regular intervals during the day also helps to prevent day and night confusion.
Newborn wake windows are notoriously inconsistent! Rule of thumb is to not keep baby awake for more than 1 hour max. This includes baby’s feeding time. This will create overtiredness, fussiness, and a newborn that is now wide awake and can’t go to sleep or stay asleep no matter how hard you try!
Incorporate skin-to-skin contact.
Lots of skin-to-skin contact with your little one supports their health AND your mental health. Keeping your baby close has been shown to increase all of the neurochemicals that promote bonding. It helps you to get to know your baby quicker and makes for a mama that has less anxiety and feelings of apprehension overall. That’s a win-win!
Practice swaddling your baby.
Swaddling makes your baby feel safe and secure outside of your arms and helps to prevent the Moro reflex (a normal reflex for an infant). This will allow you to put your baby down, so you can shower, eat, and rest as needed. This also allows your baby to get used to feeling safe and secure laying in their crib or bassinet, and this eventually helps with independent sleep down the road.
Start your baby’s day around the same time each day.
Shoot for no more than a 1-hour variance from day-to-day. As your baby approaches 6 to 8 weeks, you’ll be aiming for a wake-up time with no more than a 15 to 20-minute variance each morning. This helps tremendously to establish a daily routine for your baby, where each day begins to look the same. Starting the day at the same time is an easy thing that you can do to begin to promote a strong rhythmic pattern to your baby’s day.
Help your baby sleep in a variety of ways and places.
Introducing your baby to a variety of ways of sleeping will ideally help them to be more flexible and adaptive with how and where they sleep as they get older. Babies learn by repetition; in the first month, they are already learning what feels normal to them. If you can expose them to a variety of ways of going to sleep, they will ideally not get too attached to just one thing. While some babies are more sensitive to this than others, it is always a good idea to do your best to practice swaddling your baby and laying them down to sleep. We want this to feel as normal to your baby as it does to be rocked or held to sleep.
Practice at least 1 to 2 crib/bassinet naps per day.
This is where your baby is being laid down awake but relaxed. Morning is usually the easiest time for this, as sleep pressure is higher. Baby tends to be more calm and less fussy than in the late afternoon or evening hours. Practicing crib/bassinet naps goes a long way in helping baby to learn to be an independent sleeper early on.
Working on these top priorities will pay off in sleep dividends as your baby gets older! Right around 8 to 10 weeks, you should begin to see all your hard work start to pay off. The first 8 weeks things can feel really hard (especially if this is your first baby!) and you can feel like all your hard work isn’t really getting you anywhere. Never fear! These good habits that you are establishing are taking root even though it takes some time for you to begin to see the fruit from your labor. And remember, these positive habits will continue to take root as your baby gets older!