Ask any new parent how they are, and expect to hear about how tired they are, or how little sleep they have had since their newborn came home.
Newborns, as wonderful and beautiful as they are, are notoriously bad sleepers. Typically newborns wake up every 2-3 hours through the night and you can’t really blame them, they are biologically programmed to do this.
However, there are some tips and tricks that can make the first few weeks with a newborn more manageable and even help them sleep longer through the night.
In this article, we will explore why young babies wake up so often and what you can do to help them get as much sleep as possible. From creating the ideal sleeping environment to understanding a young baby’s needs, if you are a new parent looking to improve your sleep, read on.
Newborn Sleep Tips: Why Do Babies Wake Up During the Night?
Newborn babies will wake up throughout the night, for various different reasons and it is good to know that it is perfectly normal and should be expected.
Newborn babies are very sensitive to the world around them. They are developing at a fast rate and learning everything from the beginning from how to move their body, how to feed, and even how to poop.
They instinctively want to be close to their parents to feel secure. Therefore getting them to sleep in their own separate cot can be tricky.
In order to understand why babies wake up so often it can be helpful to know how their brain is developing and what you can expect at each stage. There are many resources available that explain how a baby is developing and what you should expect from their behaviour and advice on how to meet their needs. The Wonder Weeks is an excellent tool for understanding the developmental leaps a baby experiences.
Sleeping Tips for a Newborn
All newborns are going to wake up during the night however there are some things you can do to help limit this occurrence.
- Create a calm sleeping environment. Newborn babies are sensitive to light and sound and temperature, so make sure the space they sleep in has been optimised to aid their sleep.
- Black-out blinds will block out unwanted outside like street lights or the late evening sun and help you control how much light is in your baby’s room.
As newborn babies are unable to differentiate the difference between day and night it is helpful to make sure that their room is light during the day and dark at night. Creating a dark sleeping environment will also help them to regulate their own body clock and will start to understand that nighttime means it is time to sleep.
- It is recommended that you sleep in the same room as your baby until they are around 4-6 months of age.
This makes it easier for you to attend to them during the night, especially if you are breastfeeding, and will also make your baby feel secure.
As you are sharing a room with your baby, invest in some soft night lights that are easy to turn on. A soft night light will prevent your baby from being disturbed by bright overhead lights and will be helpful when you are doing a nighttime feed or nappy change.
- White noise machines can help soothe babies and create a secure feeling environment. They are also perfect for drowning out other household noises, such as the washing machine, TV, or the sounds of other family members, and any outside noises from your neighbourhood.
- A sleepsuit or safe swaddle blanket can prevent babies from getting cold during the night and a room thermometer will help you keep an optimum temperature.
- Play with your baby during the day.
Of course, small babies should only be awake for short periods of time and often this time is filled with nappy changes, feeds, and lots of cuddles.
However, by playing with your baby in a gentle way while they are awake you will be helping to develop the bond between you and them. Playing can also help develop their brain and offer stimulation that will help them to sleep for longer.
Newborn Sleep tips: Ways to keep your newborn baby awake during the day
- Reading a book to them and showing them the pictures is a great way to bond with them and will help to develop their language skills.
- Singing softly while dressing them will be interesting and fun for both you and your baby.
- Show them objects with contrasting colours. A new baby’s eyesight is limited for the first few weeks and they can only see a short distance. However, they can see black and white more clearly than other colours and this will be very engaging for them.
- Let them explore you. Letting your baby get to know you simply by lying down close to their face is very interesting for a young baby and it will help create a great bond.
Show your baby natural daylight
As mentioned earlier, young babies struggle to recognize the difference between day and night, and exposing them to daylight can help develop their circadian rhythms, which in turn will help them sleep better at night.
Babies also struggle to produce the sleep hormone melatonin, which is produced by the pineal gland and is what makes a person feel sleepy when it gets dark. Typically babies don’t fully produce this hormone until they are around 9-12 weeks, although breastfed babies will receive it via their mothers’ milk.
Exposing a baby to daylight can help them to regulate their sleep cycles.
Introduce daylight to your baby on an outside walk or if the weather is cold and miserable, expose them to daylight by a window for a spot of light bathing.
Newborn Sleep Tips: Final thoughts
Although it can be very tiring caring for your newborn baby and coping with lack of sleep, know that this is just a short phase in their lives. As the months pass they will get better at sleeping and will be able to sleep for longer periods of time.
It is important however during the newborn phase that you also prioritise your own needs and make sure to get as much rest as possible. If possible, tag team with your partner to take daytime naps and fuel up on healthy nutritious foods to maintain as much energy as possible. Most importantly enjoy the newborn phase as much as possible because it slips by very quickly.