Understanding Sleep & Surviving the First Few Months With Your Sweet Newborn
You won’t get a lot of sleep with a newborn. (There, I said it. Better to set realistic expectations so you’re prepared!) It might surprise you that in my new book, The Sleep Lady’s Gentle Guide to Newborn Sleep, we focus on feeding your new baby first. That’s a fast way to start getting better sleep because newborns wake up frequently to eat.
Those frequent wakings definitely impact your sleep schedule too. I know you’re way more focused on your baby than yourself. I’m here to remind you that your overall health and sleep quality greatly impact your baby’s life.
Plus, with all the other sleep advice out there, I want you to know you have options for how to create a newborn sleep schedule that works for your family. You don’t have to wait till your baby’s 6 months or do the cry-it-out method — if you don’t want to. You can try Baby-Led Sleep shaping and Coaching as a gentle alternative.
Let’s talk about how long newborns typically sleep, what sleep shaping and coaching mean, taking care of yourself, and using my new book for practical sleep support! The first few months with your newborn don’t have to be exhausting with small changes, so let’s dive in.
How Long Newborns Usually Sleep & 2 Newborn Sleep Tips
One of the most common questions I get from parents like you: “How long do newborns sleep?” While they sleep a grand total of 14-17 hours, it can vary up to 8-9 within 24. This may shock you because they sleep in very short spurts, typically 2-3 hours max. It’s precisely these small increments that make the first few months the hardest to get sleep as a parent.
Your baby’s tiny belly means frequent feedings. That’s the most important thing you should focus on right now. Keeping your baby fed should be a top priority in the first few months. They need all that nutrition to grow happy and healthy, so remember you’re an incredible parent every time you meet this need.
Tip 1: Focus on making sure your newborn eats often — especially during the day — to support their new sleep schedule.
It also helps to understand that newborns don’t have an internal clock like adults do. You know when it’s morning and night — your baby doesn’t. You can start small habits in these first few months to support your baby as they grow developmentally. (Read more on day/night confusion here.)
Tip 2: Help your newborn understand the difference by creating an environment specific to day and evening.
Use bright lights during the day, and get outside if you can. After 3 pm, make small changes to keep things calm. (Learn more about my 3 pm rule here).
What Do Baby-Led Sleep Shaping & Sleep Coaching Mean?
When you’re looking for sleep solutions, you’ll get lots of advice. From cry it out (CIO) to the Ferber method, it can feel hard to know what you should do. While these approaches may work for some families, hearing your baby wail… hurts. In my expert opinion, there’s a better way.
Baby-Led Sleep Shaping is my term for gently supporting your child’s sleep habits based on their development and readiness, especially in the first few months.
You can’t spoil a newborn, believe me. Answer your baby’s cries because they’re looking to you for comfort. Sadly, some parents believe they can create bad habits so early on because society and even grandparents present this as truth.
Baby-Led Sleep Shaping focuses on getting to know your baby’s specific temperament — which has a lot to do with their ability to self-soothe. (My new book covers this all in detail.)
Other important factors in the first few months include creating a calming sleep environment, feedings, your baby’s unique development, attachment, and soothing techniques. All these variables help shape your baby’s sleep. Maybe you find a bath routine at night improves your baby’s ability to fall asleep or that white noise is a must.
Baby-Led Sleep Coaching involves using techniques that soothed your baby the first few months to continue to promote your baby to sleep independently, when developmentally ready (4-5 months).
While coaching guides toward independent sleep, I don’t recommend you force it. My evidence-based approach doesn’t involve letting your child cry inconsolably or waiting until they’re exactly 4 months of age to start sleep training.
Every baby has unique needs to be able to fall asleep peacefully. My new book teaches you how to approach every month and what to look out for as your baby develops. You’ll learn to spot your newborn’s signs of readiness to sleep independently. You got this!
Don’t Forget About Your Sleep Needs As a Sleep-Deprived Parent
As we hit home understanding the first few months of sleep for your baby, we can’t forget about the impact this massive life change has on YOUR sleep schedule. You have a circadian rhythm (or internal clock) — unlike your newborn. So those 2 and 4 am wake-ups significantly impact your quality of sleep.
It’s really hard to prioritize yourself with a newborn. It truly almost feels selfish. I understand this feeling too. And, from experience, making sure you’re (somewhat) rested benefits your baby as much as it does you. Sleep deprivation negatively affects your mood, cognitive function, health, and overall life satisfaction.
While it’s expected to get less sleep with a newborn and you won’t have a set schedule the first few months, try to care for yourself too. Give yourself permission to ask for help from your spouse, partner, friends, and family.
In my new book, I have an entire section on self-care for you. It’s always been important to me that parents don’t get lost in the newborn phase. It’s a transition for everyone in the family and a happy, rested parent makes having a newborn so much more joyful. It’s possible!
The Sleep Lady’s Gentle Newborn Sleep Guide Gives You All The Resources You Need
Understand exactly what to expect and how to thrive with your newborn sleep schedule. Okay, maybe “thrive” pushes it a bit but the point is getting out of survival mode and into something happier and healthier. Understand how to help your baby build their internal clock and create the best sleeping environment for success.
Get your questions answered about sleep regression (hello 4 months) and so much more. The Sleep Lady’s Gentle Guide on Newborn Sleep is packed with love, experience, and gentle solutions to help your newborn develop a sustainable sleep schedule.
Thousands of families have slept better using my gentle sleep approach and I’m excited to specifically help parents with newborns!