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Parent’s guide to night wakings: When your newborn won't sleep

The first few weeks home with a newborn baby are both exciting and exhausting. From finally getting to meet your little one after waiting for so long, to learning what to do when your newborn won't sleep.

Think of Nested Bean as your home base for everything related to baby sleep. Our blog holds so many helpful tips from experts that can make life with a newborn easier.

In this guide, we want to set you and your newborn up for success by establishing realistic expectations and providing real-life, actionable solutions that you can try tonight. 

Keeping calm

Before you can help your newborn fall asleep we need to get you to a calm state. Being a new parent can be overwhelming and exhausting. When you’re stressed out you’re going to have a hard time helping your baby relax.

Breathe

The 4-7-8 breathing technique by Dr. Andrew Weil is a wonderful way to release tension. Here’s what I want you to do. Find a comfortable place to sit with your back straight. Inhale deeply through your nose for four counts, hold your breath for seven counts and then exhale through pursed lips with your tongue against the back of your top teeth for a count of 8. Your breath will make an audible whooshing sound around your tongue.

Parenting mantra

Your little one can not verbalize it yet but they are so grateful for the love you are pouring into them every day. Hearing encouraging words can be the light to carry you through an especially tiresome night. 

Screenshot this on your phone. Print it out and post it near the rocking chair or changing table. Repeat slowly and steadily, concentrating on its sound as fully as you can.

 

 

Mantras to practice

 

 

Share these parenting mantras with a friend, family member and yourself whenever you need extra encouragement for an especially tiresome night.

Adjust expectations

Let go of unrealistic expectations for yourself and your baby. It is ok to sleep while your partner gets the other children ready for school. It is ok to sleep in the middle of the day, yes even when the laundry is piling up. It is ok for the Uber Eats driver to know your order by heart.

It is ok. 

And, it will be ok. You will not be sleep deprived forever. So for now, rest while your baby is resting. Contrary to popular belief the socks won't really wander off on their own. 

Why newborns won’t sleep

baby having trouble sleeping

Let’s keep talking about expectations. Truth is there are a lot of reasons newborns won't sleep. Even though we desperately wish that they would. And a lot of these reasons are completely normal, even to be expected.

Newborns are adjusting to a whole new world. New sounds, new people or pets, new smells. Circadian rhythms. Moro reflexes. Nursing. Digesting. There's a lot for these little wiggle worms to figure out.

And, we know this. But it's hard to keep in mind when well-meaning people keep asking if your baby is sleeping through the night yet. 

So, real talk. How much should newborns sleep? 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) during the first six weeks, newborns will sleep 15-18 hours per day on average.

Note this does not mean newborns are sleeping for 15 hours at night. Because newborn tummies are so tiny, they are likely to wake and be ready to eat every 3 hours around the clock.

Normal Newborn-Sleep Patterns

Here's the good news, by the age of 6 months your baby will most likely fall into a regular sleeping pattern and sleep soundly for 9 - 12 hours at nighttime. It's like a light switch turns off.

Help to put a newborn to sleep

mom soothing baby

Newborns are not going to fall asleep at the same time every night. At this stage they don’t have much of a routine or sleep schedule. 

From 0 - 6 weeks the focus is on getting them the care, love and sleep they need. Here are five helpful tips to put a newborn to sleep:

Swaddle

You can help your baby transition from womb to world with a secure swaddle like Nested Bean’s Zen Neo. 

It is an easy wrap and zip swaddle that can be used during the newborn stage to prevent startles. It is specifically designed to mimic the security and warmth of the womb. The Zen Neo helps newborns transition to the outside world with comfort and ease.

Prepared environment

The best newborn sleep environment is dark and warm without any disruptions. So, turn down the lights because even the light from a nightlight may trigger your newborn's delicate circadian rhythm.

Try keeping the room temperature between 68 and 72 degrees. If your baby is too warm it may cause restlessness. If they are too cold they tend to wake up even more tired and fussy than when you started.

And, while we are used to sleeping in silence, newborns enjoy consistent sounds for sleeping well. White noise machines mimic the sound of the womb and can help newborns sleep better.

Feet first

Once baby is fed, changed, swaddled and the environment is prepared for sleep it is time to place them in their crib.

You've likely never really thought of it before but there's a specific technique to placing a baby in a crib without startling them.

It's called feet first.

Here's why - newborns are born with Moro reflex, which means that when newborns feel like they are falling or start to fall asleep they will jolt awake because of this built-in startle reflex. Explains why newborns sleep so well in their parent's arms!

So, you do not want to place them in their crib head first. Start with those dangly newborn legs and shift the weight towards her back. Feet, bottom, head. This will help prevent your baby from waking up because it feels like they’re falling.

Sing nursery songs

After your baby is successfully placed on their back in the crib, keep your hand on their chest for a moment to ease the pressure change. Softly begin speaking or singing a nursery song. And remove your hand.

Newborns are comforted by the familiar sounds of their parents' voices. Telling them a story or singing songs can help lull your baby to sleep.

A few of my favorites are: "You are My Sunshine," "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," and “Baby Mine.” The trick is to keep the song simple and to sing in a steady even tone. 

Infant massage

While singing try a very simple bedtime infant massage to help your baby release tension. Gently trace each part of their face. Across the eyebrows, down the bridge of their nose, across their cheeks and around their jaw. 

Along with having several emotional health benefits, baby massages have been scientifically proven to soothe and help babies sleep. Your touch can release the “feel-good” hormones, dopamine and oxytocin, in your little one. 

This sensation and the benefits of touch are an essential element to the design of our gently weighted Zensack. Safely weighted pads to mimic your touch during sleep so babies can continue to experience the soothing feelings a massage provides even when they sleep.


Hang in there

The newborn days are a completely wild and amazing adventure of getting to know this little angel who has completely swept you off your feet. Your life is upside down and backwards. There’s no real routine right now. 

Be patient, be consistent and be encouraged. You will not always be sleep deprived. Your baby will be ready to start learning a bedtime routine around the 6-week mark. For now, rest assured there will come a point where everything makes sense again. 

When newborn won’t sleep: Key takeaways

  • Keep calm. Know you won’t be sleep deprived forever. 
  • Newborns don’t have much of a sleep schedule.
  • Newborns sleep 15 - 18 hours in catnaps over a whole day.
  • Use a weighted swaddle for longer sleep in 1 - 3 nights.
  • Newborns need dark, warm rooms. Free of distraction.
  • Feet, bottom, head to lay a baby in a crib.
  • Newborns are soothed by your voice: sing nursery songs or tell stories.
  • Infant massage is proven to help babies sleep.

Paige Harvey

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