Sleeping and Routines

Your new-born baby may sleep quite a lot in the early days, this can change later!! Sleeping , how much and when, can be a cause for concern for some new parents. 

What is a normal sleep pattern for a new born baby?
  • In the first few weeks of life babies can sleep an average of 16- 18 hours per day. Newborns usually sleep 2-4 hours at a time, wake up for a feed and a little attention and go back to sleep again.
  • Background noise generally would not wake a new born baby so you don’t have to be silent, but a sudden loud noise might startle them.
  • All babies are different and it will take time for baby and parents to get into a routine.
  • In the early stages it is best not to allow your baby sleep through his/her feeds as it is important that baby stays well hydrated. If this sleepiness persists it would be wise to ask your GP or Public health nurse for advice as baby might be unwell.
  • As babies get older they generally tend to spend more time awake between feeds.   
  • New baby’s feed through the day and night!! Expect your baby to wake at least once or twice during the night for a feed.          
Sleeping and Routines

Where should my baby sleep?

It is advisable to have your baby sleep in your room until they are about 6 months old. You will hear them more easily if they need comfort or attention.

Sleeping in a cot.                    

You might like to use a Moses basket, which is a light small carry cot, in the first few months. These can be moved easily if you need it. A larger solid cot can also be used straight away, or later after your baby moves from the Moses basket. When the baby sleeps in a cot it gives you a chance to get some sleep. Putting your baby to sleep in his/her cot rather than letting them fall asleep in your arms at bedtime, will get them used to going to sleep on their own.

Always put the baby on his back facing upwards.

Place your baby’s feet to the foot of the cot. This is to prevent him from sliding under the blankets.

The blankets should not come up over your baby’s shoulders, they can be tucked under his/her armpits.

The cot should be placed away from draughts.

If using a Moses basket, it should be placed on a solid surface or on a proper stand. Be careful not to place it in a position where you could trip over it or knock it  in the dark.

Do not hang toys or other items from the cot and always remove bibs before sleep-time. If the baby uses a dummy/soother do not tie this to their clothing with strings or ribbons

Sleeping with you

Some parents like to have their baby in the bed with them (this is called co-sleeping). If you are breastfeeding it can make it easier as you do not have to get out of bed to feed. On the other hand the baby may want to comfort feed more often as he/she can smell mother’s milk all the time!

Co sleeping has its risks. If you or your partner are heavy sleepers, on medication that makes you extra sleepy, are a smoker or if you have taken drugs or alcohol, it is better to put the baby in a cot. It is important that pillows and duvets are kept away from where the baby is placed in the bed. Use baby blankets instead to cover the baby. It is recommended that baby’s under the age of 16 weeks do not sleep in the bed with you. Sleeping with you can seem to be a comfort to your baby, however it can be difficult to get your baby to sleep in a cot later on.

Tips to help baby sleep at night.

Feed your baby after a bath or after you change him/her into sleeping clothes.

Avoid over stimulation before bed-time. Keep things calm if possible. Avoid talking loudly or playing with the baby when you are trying to settle them for the night.

Use dim lighting at the last feed.

If the baby wakes for a feed in the night do not change their nappy unless they are very wet or dirty. Otherwise they might think it is time to get up!

It is best to keep baby’s sleep ritual the same as it makes baby feel more secure as things are predictable.  

Bottles and sleeping      

Never give a small baby a bottle in the cot or leave him/her with a bottle propped up. Young babies should always be fed in your arms.

As the baby gets older, sucking from a bottle in his/her cot just for comfort is not good for baby’s teeth, as pools of milk might stay in the mouth for long periods causing tooth decay.

For older babies who can hold a bottle, this should be given before the baby goes to bed rather than to take to bed with him/her. Otherwise the baby will associate the bottle with sleep and may not be able to sleep in the long run without it. 

What about Dummies?

This is a choice you make depending on your baby. Dummies can be ok if they are used correctly. Some baby’s find it difficult to settle and find the sucking of a dummy comforting. There is a danger however that a dummy might be over used and the baby becomes quite dependant on it. Limit dummy use to when you want to settle baby to sleep or if he is very upset. Over use can affect tooth formation and speech development.

Never dip the dummy in anything such as honey, this can damage baby’s teeth even before they come through.

Make sure to sterilise dummies and keep a clean spare one in your baby bag.

Dummies should not replace attention and cuddles with your baby.

Do not tie the babies dummy to his/her clothing or cot/buggy as it could cause choking.

Check dummies often and replace them if they show any signs of damage or wear and tear

What is cot death?

Cot death is a sudden unexplained death of a baby for no apparent reason. 

There are some important guidelines you can follow to help reduce the risk of cot death.

Always put baby to sleep on his/her back with his/her feet near the bottom of the cot.

Do not use duvets for babies under one years of age. Use light blankets, folded or layered and only to the level of the shoulders.

Do not use a pillow in the cot.     

Ideal temperature for the room is 16-20 degrees Celsius. A room thermometer might be handy if you are not sure.

To check how warm your baby is, feel his tummy which should feel warm not hot. Baby should not be sweating.

Do not over-wrap baby or over dress baby for sleep.  Dress your baby for bed in a baby-gro, nappy and vest. In hot weather he/she may need fewer clothes or blankets.

Never have the baby in the bed with you if you or your partner have been drinking, or using drugs or prescribed medicines which could make you sleep more deeply.

Do not smoke around your baby or allow anyone else to do so.

Help, I need more sleep?

Sleep might never have been a big deal for you before because if you were tired you went to bed early or had a lie in the next day. Being a parent suddenly changes the way you live. Sleep or lack of it can start to creep into every conversation, as interrupted sleep catches up with you. The continuous lack of sleep can also affect your mood and energy levels.

In the early days it is advisable to grab a nap when the baby is sleeping. It is amazing what even 20 minutes can do.

Your social life may be on hold for a while until you get your energy back and the baby gets into some kind of sleep routine. Late nights at a club or friend’s place may mean you are exhausted the next day.

Say yes if someone offers to cover for you for a while during the day, especially immediately after the birth. You can then rest knowing that your baby is being cared for. If you are breastfeeding your baby can be brought to you when he/she wakes up.

You might be tempted to do house-work or other jobs straight away after the birth. Take it easy save your energy and pass work on to someone else who is willing to help. You need to recover from the whole birth experience.

If you are going to school or college, don’t rush back unless you really have to, you do need time to get yourself back to normal.

Visitors love to see the new mum and baby straight away so  you might find a constant stream of people in your house. Try to keep visitors to certain times of the day only as there is a danger of you over doing it in the early stages.

Try to eat well to maintain your energy levels. Keep well hydrated, especially if you are breast feeding.

If your iron levels were low in pregnancy, you might ask your doctor or public health nurse whether you should start taking iron supplements again after the birth.

If the tiredness is making you feel like you cannot cope, ask someone close to you for help or inform your doctor.