After I delivered my firstborn, I received around-the-clock attention from doctors and nurses. But, when it was time to leave the hospital and go home, I remember asking my favorite nurse, "Will you come home with me?" and I truly meant it!
I had so many questions and I was overwhelmed by my lack on answers.
One of the most pressing questions with a new baby is how to handle sleep. Everyone has heard stories about how once you have a baby, you will never sleep again, among many other myths and wives' tales about infant sleep. As a child sleep consultant, and a mom who chose to prioritize sleep, I discovered that sleep is a learned skill.
Here are some facts about sleep that can help you navigate this new world:
Fact #1: Newborns should NOT be sleeping through the night.
A newborn's circadian rhythm* is not developed, nor are their stomachs large enough to go without eating for more than a few hours at a time. It is completely normal for your baby to have his days and nights confused and to sleep/wake in frequent but random patterns. To help them develop this rhythm, you can start to organize their sleep by keeping it light during the day and by maintaining normal household volume; while keeping it dark and minimizing activity during nightly feedings and diaper changes.
*Circadian rhythm: The physical, mental, and behavioral changes that roughly follow a 24-hour cycle, and respond mainly to light and darkness.
Fact #2: Newborns do NOT have the skills to self-soothe or cope. They must learn these skills from their parent(s) or guardian.
Newborn babies don't have many ways to communicate with us, so they typically cry when they need something or are unhappy. They also spent the last 38-40ish weeks being cuddled and rocked to sleep. Meeting your baby's needs by creating a routine that includes holding, comforting, feeding, and placing her on her back to sleep will make her feel secure and happy so she can continue to develop properly and will eventually learn healthy sleep habits on her own.
Fact #3: Newborns need A LOT of sleep.
New babies need 16-20 hours of sleep each day. This sleep starts off as approximately two-hour stretches followed by 30-60-minute periods of being awake. As baby grows and develops in the first six months of life, the frequency of waking and sleep will slow and baby will spend longer stretches during the day awake, and longer stretches at night asleep.
Eventually, baby will stay awake most of the day with a few naps in between and will stay mostly asleep throughout the night with a few short periods of being awake.
Fact #4: Babies show cues and meet sleep milestones that can help you establish routines.
Between the ages of 6-8 weeks, baby begins to show more signs of being aware of his surroundings, and has begun to learn facial expressions along with other social cues. Watching for these things can help you determine what your baby's needs are. Around this age is a good time to establish consistent routines surrounding bedtime such as putting baby to bed at the same time each night.
Fact #5: Every baby is different and we can help you navigate what works best for your family.
Despite the facts about sleep it is important to understand that every baby is different! Every baby reaches milestones at different times and every baby needs different things from their parent(s) or guardian. Our individualized sleep consulting services will instill confidence in you and help you to learn to read you baby's cues while also establishing some solid routines that work best for your baby, and your family.
***Stay tuned for an announcement about our NEW newborn sleep class that is scheduled launched early this summer!***
As a mom of four children, I too went through these struggles and found myself unsure and worried at times. With the right tools and support, I was able to find a solution that works best for our family, and I am confident you will too. If you find yourself needing some extra support, knowledge, and guidance, please don't hesitate to reach out as I would love to help.
Authored by: Audrey McCoy, Certified Child Sleep Consultant- SleepWell Baby
Edited by: Kaity Klotzbach
For more information about the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) safe sleep recommendations click HERE
To schedule a FREE 15-minute phone consult with Audrey McCoy, please contact her at