Wake your baby every three hours.
Wake, feed, sleep.
That’s it. That’s all you need, and you will be happier with a settled sleeping babe.
And while you can start this at any stage, it’s by far the easiest and most painless way for everyone if you start from birth. My two children that I didn’t wait a week or two to start I had such minimal sleep deprivation and basically no crying whatsoever that my whole newborn experience/fouth trimester was so blissful that if my body would allow it I’d definitely have 14 children.
So baby wakes for a feed at say, 7am.
Feed baby. In the early days this can take ages, I’ve had a baby who was a slow inefficient feeder take 30 mins a side for a feed and I’ve had a baby take 5 minutes a side.
With a newborn, your baby should be back in bed anywhere from 50 to 60 minutes after they woke. So depending on how long they take to feed they may not have much awake time. Newborn babies will try and be asleep the whole time but it’s your number one job to try and keep them awake for a good solid feed and then a bit after. This often is quite a task, sometimes you’ll need to strip baby off and do a nappy change to get them even remotely awake. I’ve heard of people brushing babies face with a cold flannel which I’m sure would do the trick but seems a bit heartless!
You’ll start to see sleep signs. They may look like a big yawn or yawns, frequent, jerky movements. What you don’t want to hear is crying – crying is a sign of overtired ness and you’ve probably missed babies sleep cues. As soon as you see the first sign of tiredness you can head for bed.
Placing baby in bed – All 5 of my babies have always slept on their tummies. The current school of safe sleeping advice says babies must be slept on their backs or sides, but I have never ever had any luck getting my babies to sleep on their backs, swaddled or not. Watch carefully that baby isn’t always looking in the same direction, babies will almost always favour having their heads in one direction but you should make sure to turn babies head to alternate sides each time (babies spend so much time sleeping you can easily give them a flat or wonky head always placing them on the same side).
If you’ve done it right baby should drift off to sleep with an absolute minimum of fuss. My third baby liked to have a big loud cry just for a minute or two before each sleep but then would sleep peaceful for a full nap.
You will learn babies sleep sign/s but there is a real art to getting them into bed in the right window, it’s well worth studying and understanding because they quickly associate bed with a good place to sleep.
Once baby is asleep remind yourself of when baby is due for the next feed. Exactly 3 hours from when baby first woke up. Of course, in the very early days, especially if breastfeeding is still being established you need to be flexible. If baby wakes early from a nap, feed and settle a hungry baby. But as feeding is established do your best to stretch feedings to a solid 3 hours apart, but don’t stress yourself out over it. A hungry upset baby is a baby that needs feeding and calming.
Evenings and afternoons. – these are almost a fussy time for brand new babies so you need to be more flexible, I always aim for 3 hourly feeds if possible but often a brand new baby will be slightly unsettled (and I’ve found the more children I’ve had the more unsettled the new baby is in the evening, probably as a result of less resting time and milk supply dwindling in the evening) in the evening and as such will have a bonus feed or feeds if they wake early or won’t settle easily for a nap. Before the final feed of the night, so say your 7pm feed I’ll often feed baby to sleep so they have an extra big feed before bed. So wake, feed, small awake time and when they start fussing for bed feed again.
If you follow the above, and it’s definitely easier to do if you are around home most of the time but is absolutely adaptable to being out and about, just not every day – you can expect baby to start sleeping more and more at night. Initially, the first few weeks baby will wake often, maybe 2 or 3 or even 4 hourly if you’re lucky. Eventually, often around 2 months baby will head towards just waking once or so regularly at night. And then, as baby gets bigger will start sleeping solid stretches of 10 to 12 hours at night. I’ve always found this to happen around 3 months, but with my fifth (current!) baby this happened on a semi regular basis just after 2 months. With my third baby who was out and about the most of all with lots of Playcentre naps and school drop offs it was nearer to five months.
Of course, this is just for newborns. As baby grows they need less sleep and naps and awake times change, and feeding settle into a four houly pattern but that’s a blog post yet to be written.