Your beautiful newborn baby is here, you’re over the moon, but tired and exhausted and they just won’t sleep!
Everyone seems to know and accept that having a new baby equals sleepless nights. We are teased about our imminent future from the day we announce we are pregnant. But what we don’t realise is just how exhausting and never ending it can feel. And how we can often feel that we are failing as new parents when we can’t help our babies sleep.
Can A Newborn Baby Self Settle To Sleep?
As a newborn, your baby will most likely need your help to get to sleep. On occasions they will fall asleep on their own, but not often. They don’t yet have the skills or ability to self-settle and are too young to develop bad sleep habits.
Working as a newborn photographer with babies day in and day out over the last 10 years, I’ve settled thousands of babies. (You can see some examples here). Some babies settle much easier than others, but for the vast majority it takes some effort on our part to help them.
Hopefully the range of tips and techniques I’ve built and learnt will help you on your way. Not everything will work for every baby, and what works for your baby one day might not work the next. It’s a lot of trial and error, sticking with something when it works and mixing it up when it doesn’t.
How to help Your newborn baby sleep?
Here are the top tips to help your little one sleep. Often you may need to use a combination of several, they tend to work better together.
- Fed & Dry
Below is a practical way of implementing each one, working through them you might find something that just clicks for you and your baby. And remember at different times they may respond better to different things.
Fed & Dry
First things first, is your baby hungry? Ensuring your baby has a nice full tummy is the best basis to helping your baby settle and fall asleep. A fresh nappy can help too, and changing it before settling them down will help them stay down longer. There’s nothing worse that finally getting your baby to sleep and then needing to change them.
After feeding your baby, encourage them to bring up any wind. This goes for breastfed babies just as much as bottle fed, all babies can gulp down extra air when feeding. Burping your baby after a feed is much easier than calming a baby when wind has reached their stomach or intestines.
Newborn babies have immature circulatory systems which means they aren’t very good at regulating their own temperature. They can get too hot or too cold quite easily. It’s best to keep the room cooler and use light layers or an appropriate tog baby sleep grow (once they are old enough). And remember that your baby is likely to have cold hands and feet, so always check their chest/back for a better idea of their temperature.
If you plan on laying your baby in a Moses basket or cot, my top tip is to pre-warm it with a hot water bottle or a microwavable heat-pack. Place a hot water bottle down for a few minutes and then remove it just before you lay your baby down. Babies transition much easier going from a warm chest and arms to a warm basket or cot.
Secure – swaddle or cuddle
Using a tight swaddle for babies under 4 months is a great way to recreate the confined feeling of being in the womb. It helps them feel nice and secure, and prevents them from waking themselves up with their startle reflex. You can also cuddle your baby in a similar way, wrapping them in a blanket and holding them close to you so their arms and legs are nice and secure against their body.
Babies are used to lots of movement in the womb, and if you think about it, it’s quite big movements. Lots of swaying and bumping, and quite rhythmic when they were being walked around. That’s one reason why so many babies fall asleep in the car. Walking your baby around whether in your arms or in a pram can help, as can wearing a baby sling. Another option to try is to sit on a big gym ball or birthing ball and bounce on it whilst holding your baby. (It really helps with winding your baby too). If your baby is already lying a Moses basket for example, you can rock the basket gentle to create movement. You can also try patting them gently but firmly on their bottom or back to recreate a movement effect too.
Shushing your baby helps to mimic the whoosing noises they will have heard in the womb. Try and make the noise rhythmically and loudly. You can also get white noise machines that often have a rushing option. White noise can also help to tune out any background noises that might otherwise startle or intrigue your baby. (I use a great device called a baby shusher which you can find here.)
The desire to suckle is built into babies as a survival mechanism. It helps to keep them calm and comforted. With the more orthodontic and developed dummy’s available now, there is lots of evidence to show that babies can successfully breastfeed and still use a dummy. Not everyone chooses to give their babies a dummy/soother, but it’s worth considering to help meet the sucking instinct they have. You have to do what feels right for you.
Most of the time, babies will settle well being cuddled to sleep, but sometimes they are just over tired and over stimulated. Giving your baby space and letting them unwind can work wonders. Remove most of the stimuli around, keep the room quiet and dark, maybe use some gentle white nose or shushing. Then lay them down and let them calm down, they are similar to us in many ways. If our brain is racing and they are lots of distractions around us, it’s much harder to switch off and sleep. A quiet space and some time to relax and process calms our minds and makes sleep so much easier.
Useful links to HElp for BAby sleep:
If you’d like further help on managing your families sleep, take a look at Lincolnshire based sleep charity https://thesleepcharity.org.uk
If you feel you would like more postnatal support, you can have a chat with a local doula. If you are in Lincolnshire, I can recommend Kimberley at https://www.kimberleyboyd.co.uk
There are lots of different white noise machines out there, but my favourite at the studio is the Baby Shusher which is sold in my online stores too. https://babyshusher.com