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Sleep Advice for New Parents

Guest Post Written By: Sarah, Founder of Healthy Milestones Sleep Consulting

What is sleep shaping?

No matter what advice you come across, it's important to remember that you can't really "train" a brand-new baby to sleep like older children. Instead, think of it as "helping your baby get into good sleep habits" right from the beginning. In this post you’ll learn why newborns do what they do and tips to start laying that strong sleep foundation!

Day/Night Confusion and Newborn Sleep Cycles

Day/night confusion is a very normal part of "newbornhood." This happens when babies will have their longer sleeps during the day and have their longer awake time at night. It is helpful to remember that while babies were in their mother’s womb, they lived in total darkness and were not exposed to any light. It is thought that the movement they experienced through the day while in the womb rocked baby to sleep. They likely were more active at night time when mom was asleep and still. This theory, along with the fact that newborns do not have an established circadian rhythm, can explain why newborns get their days and nights mixed up. Newborns also really only need to eat and sleep and therefore do not have a big drive to get into a schedule or routine.

Newborns initially have only two stages of sleep: active sleep (REM) and quiet sleep. (NREM). Newborns spend about half the time in each stage of sleep.

Active sleep (REM):This is the stage of sleep newborns enter when they fall asleep. Newborns enter a deep sleep quickly. This is why newborns can fall asleep in any noisy environment. It is hard to wake them when they are in deep sleep. During active sleep, babies' eyes will move around underneath their eyelids. It's normal for newborns to wiggle around, breathe irregularly, twitch, jerk, make sounds, and even smile while in this stage of sleep.

Quiet sleep (NREM):

Babies do not enter NREM upon falling asleep until about 3 months of age (when they start to produce melatonin and cortisol). During quiet sleep, baby will not move as much or make noises like they can during active sleep. When babies are about 1 month old, they start to have lighter and deeper sleep stages during quiet sleep. Around 6 months of age, babies will transition to the five stage sleep cycle.


Getting Baby on Track

If your baby does experience day/night confusion, please know that it can be resolved. Newborns will eventually “outgrow” this but there are things we can do to get the process going a little faster.

Daytime tips:

·       Get your baby exposed to sunlight/daylight by going outside (play or walk)

·       If unable to go outside due to weather, make sure that all of your curtains/blinds are open during the time baby is awake

·       When your baby is awake, try to make that time interactive and engaging. Talk to your baby, introduce tummy time, etc.

·       Try to keep your daytime life as normal as possible. You don’t have to be quiet during the day. Keep TV at a normal volume, talk on the phone, vacuum, let the dog bark, let siblings play, etc.

·       Our goal is to try to stretch out the time baby is awake during the daytime within reason for a newborn. Newborns are usually awake for about 30 to 90 minutes (typically 30-60 minutes). Try not to push your newborn to stay awake for more than 90 minutes at a time.

·       Try to stretch each wakeful period rather than just stretching one waking period for the entire day.

·       Don’t let baby nap for more than 2 hours at a time.

·       I’d rather you let baby go to sleep when they are ready, even if that is a shorter wake window, than let them sleep more than 2 hours.

Nighttime tips:

·       It’s never too early to start a bedtime routine!

·       Go ahead and create a consistent routine. Your baby will not pick up on the routine this early, but eventually they will start to understand the cues that it is time to prepare for sleep.

·       To create a good routine, you will want to do the same activities- in the same order -around the same time every night. Same, same, same. This does not have to be a lengthy, complicated plan. This is a newborn, after all!

·       I do want you to think about activities that are more calming and soothing and incorporate those into your routine.

·       While during the day, I want you to be really animated and engaging, nighttime interactions should not be as exciting. Focus on being calm and kind of boring!

·       Example routine: turn down the lights, change diaper, get baby into pajamas, sing or read to baby, swaddle, then put baby on their back in the crib.

Sleep Environment

Safety is the MOST important part of a child’s sleep environment. For all things safety, click here. Maintaining a room temperature within the range of 68-72 degrees is recommended. Using blackout shades to keep the room dark is helpful, and incorporating white noise can effectively recreate the sounds experienced inside the womb, benefiting both parents and their baby.


Thanks so much to Sarah Shepherd for sharing so much information with us--I hope that all my sweet newborn families might get a little bit of information that will help them through this new phase of life! --hugs, Trent

Written By Sarah, Founder of Healthy Milestones Sleep Consulting

Follow on Instagram @healthymilestonessleep



Behind the Lens

I'm Trent! I'm passionate about Jesus, my husband, photography, America, Diet Coke, Tory Burch flats, and all things pink & navy. 

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