How to get my baby to sleep?

By Lauren Brenton from @onemamamidwife

Image of baby asleep on a playmat

Newborns sleep on and off during the day and night. They sleep for 14-17 hours every 24 hours.

They have two different kinds of sleep - active sleep and quiet sleep.

  • In active sleep, your baby moves around. You might see jerking, twitching or sucking. 
  • In quiet sleep your baby is still and breathing evenly.

Newborns move through active and quiet sleep in cycles that last about 50-60 minutes. They might wake up after a sleep cycle and need help getting back to sleep. 

So, what do I do if my baby is unsettled and won't sleep? 

If you notice that your baby is unsettled or tired make sure they have been fed well and have a dry nappy. Then try:

  • Skin to skin cuddles
  • Wrapping the baby in a light wrap to help feel warm and secure
  • Hold your baby in your arms using a gentle 'shhhh' sound, rhythmic patting, rocking, stroking, talking or softly singing 
  • Try to put your baby down in the cot drowsy but awake. This will help them associate sleep with the cot
  • Avoid picking up your baby as soon as they grizzle. It's normal for babies to grizzle when you first put them into the cot.
  • If your baby appears distressed, pick your baby back up

If your baby is still unsettled after trying all of the above techniques you can try:

  • A warm calming bath
  • Walking baby in a sling or pram
  • A top up breastfeed
  • Try and avoid any light or noise that may be overstimulating the baby

If you are worried that your baby is unsettled because they are hungry it is important that you see a lactation consultant or medical professional to observe a feed and check babies weight. 

Image of womens cuddling her baby

Sleep routines

When it feels right for your baby and you, it can help to start doing things in a similar order each day - for example, feed, play, sleep. A baby sleep routine like this will help your baby settle into a regular sleep pattern. 

So when your baby wakes during the day, a routine might be to:

  • Offer baby a feed
  • Change baby's nappy
  • Take time for talk and play
  • Put baby back down for sleep when baby shows tired signs

At night, you might choose not to play and instead focus on settling your baby straight back to sleep. With a newborn, it's a good to be flexible about feeding and sleep times and be guided by your baby's signs.

Image of baby sleep in bassinet

But my baby will only sleep on me? 

For the first 6 weeks of life it is normal for babies to only want to sleep physically close to their parents. They also may need help re-settling if woken back up. Comforting with cuddles is the best way to setting your baby when they are crying. After you have settled your baby back to sleep, wait until they are in a deep sleep (usually about 20 minutes after falling asleep) before placing them back down in the cot.

YOU WILL NOT SPOIL YOUR BABY. Developmentally newborn babies are not capable to learn routines at this time. Hands on support is necessary at this age for attachment and bonding, especially if baby is distressed. 

Image of pregnant lady in water


Want to hear more from Lauren? Go check her out on instagram over at @onemamamidwife

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