You can lay the foundation for healthy sleep from the start! By implementing these sleep shaping techniques your newborn will be on his or her way to taking restful naps and having blissful nights.

Danielle Daly is a certified pediatric sleep consultant residing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with her husband and son. A lover of family, food, fun and of course a great night of sleep! Her gentle approach to sleep has helped over 200 families around the world regain their sleep. To learn more or book a free 15-minute sleep evaluation, visit www.bedtimeblissconsulting.com

Understanding newborn sleep can be quite complex. Throw in a tired mom and dad, and you can easily find yourself in survival mode. Don’t get me wrong, even with a great sleeper you will still be in survival mode from time to time. However, understanding a few key components about newborn sleep can help you be ahead of the game and know what to expect.

You can lay the foundation for healthy sleep from the start! By implementing these sleep shaping techniques your newborn will be on his or her way to taking restful naps and having blissful nights.

1. Avoid overtiredness
Newborns need a lot of sleep! You might be surprised to learn that a newborn baby sleeps an average 16-18 hours in a 24-hour cycle. With that being divided between nighttime and daytime. Your baby will be able to handle 45-60 minutes of wake time before needing a nap. By offering your newborn a nap at these intervals you will be able to avoid overtiredness and have better day and night sleep.

2. Lay down for naps (& night)
Newborns can sleep pretty much anywhere and one of the cuddliest places is certainly in your arms. Newborn cuddles are not only the best but it’s also an important bonding time for you and your child. There is no doubt there will be lots of snuggling and cuddles however you may feel like your baby will only sleep being held and that you are wondering how to create better sleep habits for your little one (so you can do things like- wash your hair, use the bathroom, drink your coffee, etc). Start by trying for at least one or two of the naps to take place in the crib or bassinet. The easiest naps to start with will be that first morning nap, so begin there and slowly build to other naps. By doing this you are offering your baby a consistent and safe space to learn to drift off to sleep in her crib and become familiar and comfortable with her surroundings. When laying your baby down remember to use a crib or bassinet free from blankets or stuffed animals. Using a baby monitor like the Angelcare one will help you have the extra peace of mind to keep your eyes and ears on your baby while sleeping peacefully.

3. The right environment
Our babies aren't born knowing what time of day it is. This can cause them to have a slight day and night confusion. To gently help your newborn set their circadian rhythm (which takes 6-8 weeks to develop), take stroller walks during the day or place your baby near a window with plenty of sunlight while he or she is awake. This doesn’t mean that baby has to sleep in a bright room! For nap time and nighttime, the optimal sleep environment is a dark, cool room (68-72 degrees), and a white noise machine. The white noise mimics the womb and is a soothing environment for a newborn or infant. When your baby wakes in the night for a feeding, turn on a dim light so you can see enough to feed your baby, but try to avoid stimulating lights such as a tv or phone. You can also use a small night light with red or yellow bulb. These small environmental changes are important for good sleep hygiene and help prepare your baby’s body for sleep.

4. Establish a predictable routine
A routine is something you can begin the day you come home from the hospital. Although it may take some time to get in the groove there are small steps you can take to create a consistent routine that will help your baby learn what’s coming next and prepare them for sleep. Both a bedtime and naptime routine are essential for your newborn to wind down and prepare their body and brain for sleep. Nap time routines are easy and quick, lasting about 5-10 minutes before laying in the crib (diaper change, swaddle, cuddles). Bedtime routines however will be slightly longer, lasting around 30-40 minutes and will include a feed (bath, feed, swaddle, cuddles). The more consistent you can be with a routine, the better your baby will understand when it is time for sleep and be ready to drift off to sleep. During the day, a routine is also important, however routines with a newborn will be a little more flexible as their nap length will certainly vary (20-120min). By following the popular Eat, Play, Sleep routine you can ensure your newborn is getting full feeds upon waking, some stimulating activity, and then offering a nap. However, don’t stress if you struggle to keep your baby awake for every feed! Newborns are very sleepy. Your newborn will have short naps which may interrupt his or her intended “schedule”. To help you can track your baby’s day by jotting down their feeding and sleep times to help you notice their natural patterns.

5. Give yourself a break
Being a new parent is one of the greatest joys there is. It’s also an exhausting one at times. While you work really hard to offer your newborn the best , it’s important to note that some days will be rough and others will go smoothly. And that’s ok! Newborn sleep takes time to see improvement but implementing these steps will go a long way in laying the foundation for healthy sleep for years to come. Taking care of yourself, is an important step in taking care of your loved ones. Try to make some time for self-care when your baby is sleeping or you have help from a family member or friend. Those first few weeks can be quite a whirlwind so be sure you’re taking good care of yourself too.