Newborn sleep 101 + an expert answers your top questions

Above: Design Dua Bassinet, Swaddle blanket was a gift from our sweet friends, the Tiller family (Amber has the most beautiful design + decor Instagram account!), from this adorable Michigan boutique called Pink Lemonade! 

Happy Thursday! (I can’t believe it’s only Thursday. This week feels like it has lasted for a month. 😐) Today’s blog post couldn’t be more timely as we wait on LR to arrive any day now! Thus, probably why it feels like it’s lasted for a month. 😂

(Also, sorry this is a baby-heavy blog post week for those of you who are not the slightest bit interested in this kind of content! This isn’t the new normal, I promise–it’s just how timing worked out slash the phase of life that is consuming me at the present moment. However, I know there are a LOT of you who are in this phase with me, so this post is for you, and also anyone who might be looking for a great baby gift for you, too. 😉) 

If you’re like me, getting your baby to SLEEP is one of the biggest sources of stress when it comes to anticipation of baby’s arrival. I knew I wanted the help of a sleep expert to help teach us the skills we needed to know in order to set ourselves up for success as much as possible. 

I have been following Michele from Peaceful Littles (follow her Instagram here!) for a while, ever since Danielle raved about working with her on Kate’s napping struggles–I love following Michele! Her content is SO helpful–I probably have two dozen of her Instagram posts saved so I can refer back to them when LR gets here!

If you’re not already familiar with Michele, she is a certified sleep consultant (and mom of two!) who works with families with children from 0-6 years old to build healthy sleep foundations. 

I especially loved that Michele offered one-on-one consultations, because it seemed much more personal and more realistic than the two of us sitting down together to complete a “sleep course,” and I love that I can book another session with her anytime we might hit a little sleeping speed bump along the way. (Every baby is different and I love her customized approach!) I knew when the time came, that Michele was someone I wanted to work with! 

So, a couple weeks back, Neal and I booked her “prenatal and newborn” consultation package but weren’t sure what to expect! I went into our consult admittedly already knowing quite a bit from all my girlfriends with babies (and I plan to follow Moms on Call schedule/method, as that is what has worked really well for all of them). I was curious, how much more would I learn? Turns out–a lot! It was immensely helpful! What I love is that no matter the “philosophy” you want to follow, Michele’s tips align perfectly with that.

She also provided such a helpful, detailed “newborn sleep guide” that I joked to Janine that I should get laminated. (But honestly, I should. 😆) When we hung up with Michele, Neal and I looked at each other and said, “EVERY EXPECTING PARENT NEEDS THIS CONSULT!!” 

Neal described working with Michele as “before, I feel like we were prepping for a scary final exam and we had no idea if we’d fail or ace, and now I feel like we’re going into an open book, open note exam where we have all the likely answers in front of us, it’s just up to us to put the pieces together.” 

Overall, I know we have zero control over what kind of baby we’re going to get and how “good of a sleeper” she’s going to be, but we CAN control how prepared we are and arm ourselves with as much knowledge as possible to set her (and us) up for sleep success as much as we can–and I feel like we’re in a really good place now! 

So if you’re someone who is really overwhelmed with all the sleep resources out there and you just want someone to hold your hand and basically give you a customized handbook, Michele is going to be your girl

We were very adamant that the expecting and new mamas in this community NEEDED some Michele wisdom in their lives, so I was thrilled when I asked if she’d be willing to give us an overview of infant sleep and answer some of your top questions — and she said yes! 🙌

If you’re expecting soon, are curious about infant sleep for the future or already have a new baby, read on for streamlined newborn sleep 101.

I will say, this is really just a little taste of what you’ll receive in her consultation, so I’d highly recommend booking a one-on-one session with her. (The best $125 you’ll spend in preparation for baby) and it would also make a great thing to ask for as a shower gift! Not sure if it’ll be a fit for you? She also does free 15 minute introductory calls so you can get to know one another a little better first! 

Okay, I’ll pass it off to Michele now! 

Have you recently welcomed your little one or expecting their arrival soon? If so, congratulations! This is such a sweet and exciting time. Along with excitement, there are oftentimes so many questions regarding what is best for your precious newborn. The fourth trimester, or the 12 weeks after your baby is born, is a transitional period for your baby to adjust to the outside world. Here are my top tips for setting your newborn up for sleep success during the fourth trimester.

RECREATE THE WOMB

The first and most important tip I have to share with you about newborn sleep focuses on recreating the womb environment. The womb was a safe, cozy, but loud environment for your baby. By recreating this space, you will be giving them the comfort that they are used to. This will also allow for an easier transition into a more spacious world. The best way to recreate the womb space is through the use of soothing skills. The top soothing skills I recommend are: swaddling, sound, movement & sucking.

1. SWADDLING

This helps calm your fussy baby, mimic the cozy environment of the womb and muffle the startle reflex. Tip: If your baby is resisting the swaddle, it oftentimes means they are not being swaddled tight enough. I like velcro swaddles for this reason!

2. SOUND

Since your baby is coming from an environment where sound is amplified to about 90 decibels, shushing or white noise is comforting. I suggest static or classic white noise versus birds chirping or wave sounds and for the volume to be between 50-60 decibels.

3. MOVEMENT

Babies are used to constant movement throughout the day in their mother’s belly, so finding a motion that works for them is important. Movements I suggest are swaying, rocking or bouncing. It is important to give this movement about 5-10 minutes of trying before saying it is not working.

4. SUCKING

Sucking is a natural instinct and provides comfort to your baby even outside of feeding needs. It is important to remember that pacifiers are not forever, but instead can be a helpful tool.

Stack these soothing skills: 

It’s easy to want to try ALL of these soothing techniques at once when your baby starts crying, right? However, I suggest “stacking” them–which means, try them one at a time, starting with the swaddle, and if that doesn’t work, continue moving down the list, in the order listed above. If it does, you can stop there! When stacking, work towards a goal of getting your baby to a very relaxed state before lying them in their sleep space at least once a day for naps and for night sleep.

A newborn’s naps do not need to happen in the same spot every day. If your baby prefers napping on you in a wrap, that is absolutely ok! Aim for one nap per day their sleep space, and then focus on their sleep space for night sleep. 

Answers To Your Top Questions:

Q: What can you do in the early weeks to set yourself up for success/good sleep habits later on? 

In addition to the soothing techniques I mentioned above, it’s important to set realistic expectations! Sleep in the early newborn months is oftentimes disorganized and unpredictable. Think of the fourth trimester as a time for learning and practicing. By setting realistic expectations you will take the pressure off of yourself and your baby to have perfect sleep every single day. Give yourself grace- even if you aren’t a first-time parent, as every baby is different. It can take a few weeks to find your groove. Focusing your efforts on a healthy connection and building a secure bond during the newborn months will translate into confidence. Babies are capable of much more than we give them credit for.

In order for them to thrive, we must provide them with the necessary tools to align with their individual needs! Which leads us into the next few questions…

Q: How early should you try to implement a routine/schedule?

Around 3-4 weeks old is a great time to also start adding in a simple bedtime routine to signal to your baby that it is nighttime. Babies are natural pattern seekers and they are able to learn routines very quickly. A bedtime routine for a newborn could include a warm bath, lotion/massage, a full feeding, swaddling, and songs/shushing while you sway. The goal with the routine would be to work towards putting your baby down before they are fully asleep.

Q: What’s a common misconception about newborn sleep?

If you keep your baby up longer, they will sleep better, right? Although you would think this is the case, it will actually become increasingly difficult to get them to sleep the longer they are awake as they become overtired and overstimulated! Newborns sleep a lot, 14-18 hours in a 24-hour period!

By being mindful of how long your baby is awake, you will have an easier time getting them to sleep. For the first 4 weeks, your newborn is only able to stay awake for 45-60 minutes at a time. Between 4-8 weeks, the average wake time expands to be between 45-75 minutes and to 60-90 mins between 8-12 weeks.

Q: How should I ensure I’m setting baby up for a safe sleep environment?

As a sleep consultant, it is not only my duty but a privilege to educate parents on safe sleep. The most important way to reduce the risk of SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome, is by practicing safe sleep. Safe sleep includes your newborn sleeping alone, on a flat surface such as a bassinet or a crib. Avoid soft objects or loose bedding. This includes bumpers and positioners. Positioners can increase the risk for suffocation since babies can scoot and place their faces against them. A fan is also helpful in reducing the risk of SIDS. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends room-sharing, not bed-sharing, for the first 6 months of life as sleeping in the same room with parents has been shown to lower the risk of SIDS. If you have other specific sleep safety questions please consult your pediatrician! 

Q: How do I help my baby sleep for longer stretches at night?  

This is one of the most common questions I receive regarding newborn sleep and I always tell families to focus on feedings. By achieving full feedings during the day, you are more likely to get longer stretches of sleep in the evening. With that being said, some days your baby might want to cluster feed, or have frequent small feedings, and that is ok as well. When deciding whether or not to wake your newborn for feedings, please consult your baby’s pediatrician to discuss specific feeding needs.

Q: Can you elaborate on the importance of teaching newborns the difference between day and night for sleep?

Babies are born without a circadian rhythm or a natural internal process that regulates their sleep-wake cycle. Because of this, you might experience day/night confusion with your baby. Thankfully, there are techniques you can use to help your little recognize the difference between the hours of the day!

The first and most important element is natural light. Expose your newborn to the sun first thing in the morning by standing in front of an open window. Secondly, during the night hours, since you’re awake so much of the night with your newborn, it would make sense you’d have all the lights on, right? But instead, you’ll want to keep the lights dim or low, with little to no outside stimulation, to encourage that nighttime sleep environment during those first few weeks. Instead of turning on a brighter lamp or overhead light in the middle of the night, I suggest using a soft red light for night feedings/diaper changes, as it does not disrupt melatonin.

Q: What are your thoughts on the Snoo!? 

(This was SUCH a popular question! SO many of you wondering about the Snoo!) 

I am not opposed to the Snoo! In fact, I used it with my second baby and had a wonderful experience. It is a great bassinet choice that mimics aspects of the womb environment. The sound, motion, and swaddle are all appropriate ways to soothe a newborn baby.

With that being said, I do not think it is a magic device. It will not work for all babies and I would still expect your newborn to wake in the night for feedings/diaper change. Just like the transition from a standard bassinet to a crib, I would expect it to take a few nights for your baby to adjust. If you are planning to use the Snoo, I suggest implementing wean mode for 1-2 weeks at 4 months old instead of 6, as the transition to the crib will be easier at that age.

I hope this was helpful for the soon-to-be and new mamas out there! Huge thank you to Michele for all of her incredible advice! Check out the packages she offers to produce a customized sleep plan for your little one and follow her on IG for more tips!