Let's Talk About Sleep, Ba-by!
It never fails. Shortly after bringing your baby home, and usually after the toughest night of sleep(lessness), someone will ask, "So, is she sleeping through the night?" Then they'll go on to share a story of how all of their babies emerged from the womb performing perfect 12-hour stretches every single night until they went to college.
By now, you're probably aware of just how interested people are in infant sleep. Heck, maybe you're obsessed with it, too! I mean, it makes sense seeing as you now have a newborn dictating when and how much sleep you get—often on an erratic and nonsensical schedule they clearly made up themselves, without any adult guidance.
But when people suggest that infants should be sleeping through the night, or equate good sleep with being a "good baby," they really do a disservice to new parents—and reveal how little they actually know about typical infant sleep.
So we're here to set the record straight—and offer some tips to get you through.
First, to ease your mind: it is normal for babies to wake often.
In fact, it's believed that frequent waking is actually protective against SIDS. In the beginning, waking to feed every 2-3 hours during the day (and every 3-4 hours at night) is pretty average! Variations of this "schedule"? Also normal. Newborns are still figuring out this whole "daylight means be awake" and "darkness means go to bed" thing. They're also learning how to eat, along with all of the other seemingly simple but very new-to-them things they are expected to do outside of the womb.
So, if your infant is not sleeping through the night, just know they're being a good baby. Or, at the very least, an average baby.
Second, to give you hope: this won't last forever.
Someday, maybe even sooner than you expect, your baby will know how to sleep. Sleep is developmental, and as they develop so will their ability to sleep through the night!
And you will get more sleep, too.
Third, to get you through: there are things you can do!
Whether you're working on a schedule or allowing your baby to set the schedule themselves, there are things you can do to encourage and shape your infant's sleep—to help teach them to sleep better, and for longer stretches.
1. Make sure baby is eating enough during the day. Nutritive feeds are key, and a baby who isn't eating enough during the day will wake overnight to meet its caloric needs.
2. Create an appropriate sleep space. The room should be dark. Lights (and especially the blue light from phones/tablets/televisions) can really interfere with the brain's ability to switch into rest mode for the night, making it harder to both fall asleep and stay asleep.
3. Try white noise. White noise resembles the way things sounded when baby was in the womb, making it a comforting sound to newborns! And it's also good at canceling out other sounds that may be happening throughout the rest of the house or outside baby's window (Learn more about our favorite white noise app here).
P.S. Turn it up! While you don't want it to be dangerously loud, you do want it to do its job. Remember, things were quite noisy inside the womb!
4. Watch for baby's sleepy cues. Putting baby down when they are still awake but calm and ready to sleep will help them learn to put themselves to sleep. An overtired baby = a restless baby.
This is also important for learning to "sleep through the night," which doesn't necessarily mean sleeping undisturbed, but instead being able to fall back to sleep on their own. Again, sleep is developmental, and this is a skill we can support as it develops.
5. Ask. For. Help. The reality is that sometimes, sleep may be few and far between. Again, this is normal—for babies. But that doesn't mean it isn't hard. We can help! In addition to normal daily postpartum support, we also offer overnight care, where we can further help with sleep-shaping and also give you peace of mind that your baby will be cared for while you get some much needed rest.
Sleep is often a sore spot for new parents. But it doesn't have to be. Instead of offering tales of babies who were born sleep-prodigies or shaming parents for just trying to survive, we're here to offer usable tools, evidence-based advice, and continuous support.
And on that note, goodnight! Sleep tight. We'll keep the watch 'til morning.