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I know sleep is a MAJOR topic for all parents, but especially parents with newborns. With your first baby you hear all about how newborns don’t sleep, but it’s worth noting that you can begin to develop good sleep habit from the start. I team up with a local certified sleep coach, Kasey Gregory at Discover and Dream, to bring you a Q&A to address some of the most important sleep topics when it comes to newborns and young infants.

Q: Is it possible to set babies up for good sleep habits from birth?

Kasey: “Absolutely! I started right from the beginning with my second son with shaping healthy sleep habits, gave him love, attention, snuggles, and kisses throughout the day to bond with him and always went by his lead.  When you work on independent sleep from the very beginning iit usually means that sleep training is not necessary or at least not any major sleep training down the road. Just remember that once your baby has been accustomed to one way of falling asleep, it becomes more challenging to undo it.”

Q: Are wake times truly important?

Kasey: “Wake times are a very important part of improving your child’s sleep.  Wake time length is the amount of time your child can stay awake before needing to sleep again. If your child is up for too long, he or she may fight sleep. The same goes if your child is not awake for long enough. Inappropriate awake periods also contribute to poor naps and night wakings. Getting the timing “just right” is crucial as it can greatly improve overall sleep. With newborn sleep, nailing those wake windows will help you be successful.  Babies are so sensitive to overtiredness in the early months that trying to put a baby down awake and overtired is extremely difficult.  Keep those awake times short. Newborns need a lot of sleep and they need to sleep often. On average, 0-1 month use 30-45 minutes, 1-2 months use 45-60 minutes, then 2-3 months use 60-80 minutes.”

Q: What are sleep cues parents should be on the lookout for?

Kasey: “For babies 12 weeks and younger try and be very observant of sleepy cues because an overtired newborn can have so much trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. You may notice red eyebrows, turns head, blank stare and that means they are getting sleepy. If you put your baby down now sleep will likely come easier and they will stay asleep longer. If they start to yawn, rub eyes, become fussy then they need a nap now as you are getting close to missing their sleep window. Your baby might fuss a bit longer before falling asleep and may wake up prematurely into the nap. If they start to arch their back, demonstrate hysterical crying, make fists then they are overtired. If you put your baby down now it’s possible that they may refuse nap altogether or protest a lot before falling asleep. After 3-4 months you can balance sleepy cues with the time on the clock with wake windows.”

Q: What’s all the fuss about swaddling? 

Kasey: “Swaddling can also help your baby sleep better and for longer periods of time.  It will also help soothe a fussy baby. Babies have a strong startle reflex, so the swaddle keeps their arms and legs from failing.  My favorite swaddle is the love to dream swaddle up as it allows your baby to sleep in a more natural position with arms up (This is one of the swaddles listed on Play Learn Thrive’s simplified newborn checklist!)

Q: Talk to us about sleep associations.

Kasey: “A sleep association is something that occurs at or near sleep times. So another tip to shape healthy habits early on is to separate food from sleep and encourage full feeds. Some of these associations are positive and others can negatively impact sleep.  Once your baby starts to have longer periods of wakefulness, it’s a good idea to feed them at the beginning of their awake time, followed by changing, play, and then down for a nap.”

Q: How can you start to form a sleeping schedule for your baby?

Kasey: “Waking baby every 3 hours during the day will help make sure your baby doesn’t sleep through feeds in those early weeks.  If you let your baby sleep longer than that, they will start to try and make up for the missing intake at nighttime. As the weeks go by, you may have to experiment with capping single naps closer to 2-2.5 hours.  By 6 weeks I was capping my sons nap at the 2 hour mark as that helped him get long stretches at night.”

Q: Why is my baby sleeping all day, and ready to party all night?

Kasey: “Most newborns are born with day/night confusion as they sleep a lot during the day, then are up for long periods at night. In the beginning you will need to switch an infant’s internal clock or circadian rhythm.     Here are a few tips to help reverse day/night confusion.

  1. During the day, keep the lights on, talk at a normal tone, keep the blinds open, nap your baby in the light, and go on with daily activities without trying to tip-toe around your baby.
  2. At night you will do the opposite. Keep your voices down, dim the lights, turn off electronics, start setting a calm and quiet environment, and a small bedtime routine to help you baby recognize that sleep is coming.

Keep in mind that setting your newborns internal clock can take up to 8 weeks to resolve.  Once day/night confusion is resolved you should nap your baby in the dark to ensure good-quality sleep.”

Q: Any last pieces of advice?

Kasey: “I would try and implement routines from the very beginning, such as a morning routine, nap routine, and bedtime routine.  This helps to set your baby up and to understand what is coming next. Once a baby begins to understand consistent routines, they feel more relaxed moving through their day.”

You can follow Kasey and Discover and Dream on Instagram–@discoveranddream