Sleep & your newborn

by | Jun 5, 2020

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A newborn baby can be a rather daunting prospect. Sleep expert Nicci Proome is on hand to give you all the advice you need.

How much sleep should my newborn be getting?
On average, a newborn should be sleeping around four to seven hours during the day, broken into three to five naps, depending on baby’s weight and calorie requirements. Typically newborns aren’t awake for more than an hour between naps at first: this includes, wake up, feed, nappy change, quick cuddle and then back to sleep all within a 60-minute window.

Night sleep for a newborn should comprise around eight to 12 hours, broken by night feeds. For the first four to six weeks, very little day-night pattern will show.

What is the best way to get my baby to sleep?
Start by swaddling your newborn using a breathable cotton or muslin receiving blanket. Wrap them snugly with arms down, keeping the blanket away from their mouth to prevent unnecessary rooting and lastly, keep the end of the blanket securely tucked in to prevent the swaddle from loosening or popping open.
Hold baby on their side across your forearm. This constricts your newborn’s movements, which in turn removes their moro reflex (the startle reflex).
Now that baby is physically secure you can add some soothing auditory stimulation such ‘shush-shush-shush’ sounds or playing white noise. Rhythmically rock your newborn at the same time, as this mimics the jiggling your baby felt inside the womb.

Finally, remember that while in the womb, baby spent a considerable amount of time sucking on their hands for both emotional and sensorial stimulation. Once out of the womb, baby lacks the strength and co-ordination to have a firm grip of hand in mouth therefore assistance may be required via either a pacifier or nipple to help soothe and calm a fussy baby.

Should I wake a newborn baby from sleep to feed her?
If your newborn is on the larger side then she will naturally sleep for longer periods as she has the reserves to do so. A larger newborn will also have the capacity to take in more milk during feeds, therefore remaining fuller for longer. A smaller newborn, especially prems, would need to eat more often, therefore waking sooner would be necessary, as their reserves would dip sooner. A newborn, whether large or small, typically never sleeps longer than three hours at a time.

It is very important to log how long your newborn has been sleeping for. If a newborn sleeps beyond the three or four-hour mark without feeding, their blood sugar can drop too low and this can become a problem.

Should my baby sleep in a cot or in the bed?
The safest place for your baby to sleep is swaddled in a breathable receiving blanket on their back in a ventilated Moses basket or cot in their parents’ room. A cot works just as well, but they can be a bit bulky for the room.

Why do I need to swaddle my newborn?
Babies instinctively crave the sense of touch, specifically deep pressure touch, which imitates the deep pressure they felt in the womb. Not only does swaddling help to prevent your baby’s escalating wobble, and restrain violently thrashing arms, it also assists in diverting their attention to what you are attempting to do to help them, rather than going into ‘fright flight’.

How do I swaddle my child correctly?
Wrap baby tightly, and keep their arms down, and against their sides. Never swaddle the blanket in such a way that the edges flap at their neck, as it tickles and will most certainly aggravate them. Swaddle from the upper shoulder and not from the base of their head – a newborn’s neck should be completely exposed after swaddling. Use a big enough blanket – anything under 115cm square is going to be too small to swaddle accurately. Finally, use only breathable fabrics to swaddle: 100% cotton is perfect. Fleece is never a good idea as baby will overheat for sure. In summer, swaddle straight over a bare body: no clothes are needed other than their nappy. If you are worried, check their ears and neck temperature.