With a baby on the way, or perhaps just arrived, you should be expecting some sleepless nights in your near future. Every parent knows that sleep-deprivation is just part of the package – but don’t worry, the priceless, magical moments you spend with your baby in their first few weeks make it all worth it. But still, you’re going to want to prepare yourself as best you can – so when it comes to your baby’s sleep, here’s what you can expect in the first six weeks.
Newborn babies sleep anywhere from 15 to 18 hours every single day – so you might be wondering why new moms are always so exhausted. But in the first few weeks after birth, baby sleep will vary drastically from baby to baby. Some babies might sleep 2 hours at a time, others might not sleep for more than a half hour straight without waking up.
Babies will hardly be awake during the first couple weeks, they only spend somewhere between 45 minutes to a couple hours (tops) awake between naps. Babies at this age need to be fed frequently to ensure proper development. While some babies might wake up every 3 or 4 hours on the dot, others might sleep longer or shorter periods of time. In the very early days, some babies eat every two hours or less! In either case, a safe bet is to schedule feeding times every 2 to 3 hours, or ask your pediatrician.
More importantly, have your baby weighed frequently by their pediatrician to ensure they’re gaining enough weight and getting enough food and consult your baby’s doctor with any sleeping or eating concerns.
ZEN TIP: If your baby becomes overtired (meaning they’ve been awake too long between naps) they will become fussy, and harder to settle for sleep. To avoid this, try to notice the first signs of drowsiness, and immediately start soothing baby back to sleep. And of course, use a Zen Swaddle as part of their bed time routine. With consistent use at the first sign of sleepiness, the Zen Swaddle will become their cue that it’s time to get snoozing!
Since newborns nap so frequently, a fixed bed time doesn’t really happen. Additionally, babies don’t know the difference between day time and night time during the first six weeks. They will be waking up round-the-clock to be fed, so the days of getting a good 8-hour night’s sleep are over for you – for a while anyway! Somewhere around six weeks, your baby will (fingers crossed!) start sleeping for longer stretches at night – that’s the time you can start shifting to a more fixed bedtime. This chart from The Baby Sleep Site is a helpful tool to gauge when a bedtime starts to take form.
ZEN TIP: Even though your baby might not have a fixed bedtime, it’s helpful to start using a bedtime routine anyways. This can also help clear up the day/night confusion because the routine will signal that it’s bedtime not naptime. Keep the days light and upbeat – even when going down for a nap- and the nights dark and limit activity to a minimum. Maybe start with a nice bath, an infant massage, the Zen Swaddle, and a feeding right before putting baby down for bed. And even though you wish bedtime was at 7 p.m., the bedtime routine should take place later at night – anytime between 8 and 11 p.m. This time can vary night-to-night, but keep the routine the same!
Ever heard of Moro Reflex? It’s more common nickname is Startle Reflex, and it’s an infantile reflex that virtually all babies are born with. You know that feeling you get, when you’re falling asleep in your desk chair, or halfway asleep in bed when suddenly, you feel like you’re free falling off a cliff and your body jolts awake. Yeah, that happens to babies too, but unfortunately for you, it tends to happen a lot during nap and bed time, causing babies to flail their arms and legs and startle awake.
Moro reflex is present to protect your newborn in the early stages of development. It’s almost like an alarm that is triggered by any sudden changes in sensual stimulation (think: a loud noise, a sudden touch, or any event the puts the baby off balance – even being placed in a crib). The absence of Moro Reflex can actually indicate a problem in your baby’s nervous system. But don’t worry, we summed up everything you need to know about Moro Reflex here.
ZEN TIP: Swaddling has been proven to significantly help calm babies when experiencing Moro Reflex. Swaddling keeps their arms and legs tucked close to their bodies, so they stay in place until the baby has calmed down. Not only does the Zen Swaddle keep your babies arms snug, it also provides the comforting pressure and security of a parent’s loving touch with the gently weighted pads on the chest and sides. Another bonus? Your baby will look like an adorable little burrito.
Help can come in many forms. Perhaps it’s your partner taking some night shifts, a family member or friend coming over during the day so you can get some long hours of uninterrupted sleep, or it could be using a sleep aid- like a white noise machine, swing, pacifier, etc. Moms might be wary to try any of these with fears of developing sleep associations or becoming dependent upon those aids. But let’s get real: sleep (for you and your newborn!) is a priority. If you can avoid using a sleep aid with your baby, that’s great! But these products exist for a reason, so don’t beat yourself up for using them.
Even lead sleep coach and President of The Baby Sleep Site, Nicole Johnson, says in the first six to eight weeks, you do what you have to do: “In an ideal world, we wouldn’t use ‘sleep crutches’ but every stage a baby goes through a parent needs to use different tools from their toolbox, whether it’s a swaddle, white noise machine, swing (approved for safe sleep), a pacifier, etc. That doesn’t mean your baby will need these aids forever or that you won’t need to transition away from them later, but in the newborn days sanity is the priority and the most important thing you do with your newborn is bond and part of that is making sure their basic needs are met.”
ZEN TIP: The Zen Swaddle has been known to be a huge helper for parents with little ones that won’t sleep unless they’re being held or touched. So when the pacifier, the swing, or the white noise machine just isn’t doing the trick for your little one – we’ve got you covered because we aren’t just your average swaddle. Because of its gently weighted parts, babies can actually self-soothe. So when you find yourself in need of a “sleep crutch”, feel free to lean on us! Learn more about how our Zen Swaddle works here.
These first six weeks of your baby’s life will be full of memories and moments you will cherish for the rest of your life – it almost makes up for the sleep-depravity that’s bound to come. But there’s a few things we know for sure: 1. the sleepless nights won’t last forever and 2. The Zen Swaddle can make your life, and sleep, much easier.
If you’re in need of some more Zen Tips to help get your baby to bed, check out these 7 Highly Effective Sleep Tips for Your Baby.