Newborn Sleep: 0-2 Months
Congratulations on your new baby!
Yes, the newborn phase can be so challenging and so sweet at the same time. Thank goodness it’s also very temporary. It may feel like many things are happening all at once and emotions may be running high, and further heightened due to your own lack of sleep!
One thing that is important for parents to recognize is that the only real goal during this phase between 6-8 weeks or age is to bond with your baby, rest, and recover. There’s no other sleep goals beyond educating yourself on the basics of safe sleep guidelines!
The number one most important way you can practice safe sleep habits and reduce the risk for SIDs is to always place your baby down for sleep on their back on a bare flat surface, such as a bassinet, pack n play, or crib. Take a few minutes to visit www.AAP.org to learn more about safe sleep guidelines so you can make educated and safe decisions in your home.
While I do recommend practicing safe sleep habits per AAP guidelines from the very beginning, there’s nothing you can or should be doing to teach or work toward healthy sleep habits within the first 6-8 weeks of your baby’s life. This is based on your baby’s estimated due date, too, so if your baby was born early, then you have more time to spend in the newborn phase!
It’s not biologically possible to create good or bad sleep habits during the newborn phase, so there’s no sense in wasting any energy worrying about it. There is no spoiling your baby and there is no creating bad sleep associations. There is only getting to know your baby, resting, learning how you’re comfortable responding to their needs, and growing more and more confident in your new parenting role.
Some newborns will sleep often and easily without much effort on your part, and some will struggle a lot. Both are normal. When sleep does not come easily for your newborn, there are a few tools you can use.
1. Short wake windows:
Offer sleep after very short periods of your baby being awake, if they do not fall back into sleep on their own. Babies become overtired very quickly, and simply by being awake for too long. An overtired baby will actually have a much harder time leaning into sleep, so you can try offering sleep to your baby to help them sleep if they have been awake for too long. 45-60 minutes is about as long as a baby under 3 months should be awake before taking a nap of any length, and maximum wake windows are often only as long as about 90-120 minutes by 4 months.
2. Adjust the environment:
Try bringing them to a dark and quiet room if you are trying to offer sleep to a baby who is not falling asleep on their own. Turn off the TV or music to reduce excessive stimulation, and turn on either a white noise machine or fan to block ambient noises. Either allow another trusted caregiver to tap in, or make a conscious effort to bring your own energy levels down. Easier said than done!
3. Use a swaddle:
A swaddle is newborn soothing magic, and while nurses and newborn care specialists make it look easy, do not hold off on purchasing a pack of velcro swaddles if the old fashioned swaddling technique does not come easily to you. Don’t waste your time struggling just because it looks like you should be able to do it. Use that swaddle till your baby shows their first signs of rolling, then it’s time to transition to a sleep sack or wearable blanket.
4. Feed or offer a pacifier:
Sucking is a very natural soothing instinct for your baby, and remember there is no reason to avoid nursing to sleep as often as you and your baby would like during this phase.
During the first 6-8 weeks of a baby’s life, measured from their estimated due date, a baby will have no sense of day vs. night. They will feed and sleep around the clock and while it’s often a challenging couple of months, it’s also temporary and important to know that there is no creating “bad” sleep habits during this time.
Once your baby starts to smile socially in response to your loving face, that’s your first sign that it can officially be helpful to start setting up a healthy sleep foundation. Read more in my next blog post about what you can start to do as early as 6-8 weeks to set your baby up for sleep success as early as possible. But as always, it’s never too late to teach healthy sleep habits, so there’s no point in wasting any energy worrying about it until you’re ready.