Newborn Sleep Tips

My top tips for newborn sleep

“Don’t babies sleep for 18 hours a day? I’ll be fine.” Yes, that was my actual thought when I was pregnant with my first child, and yes, it didn’t take long for me to realize how ridiculous that idea was. Even newborns who really love to sleep need to wake to eat every few hours throughout the night, and I was not one of those lucky ones with a baby who slept easily on their own. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years that can help everyone get the sleep they need when there’s a baby in the house.

  1. Be mindful of the environment. One of the hardest things about baby sleep is the lack of control. There is no magic button we can push to make our children sleep when or how we want them to. The best we can do with infants is to get out of the way of their natural sleep by minimizing the factors that might make them more wakeful. Babies are born without a natural circadian rhythm and alternate sleeping and waking around the clock. Exposing them to light and natural activity during the day and maintaining a dark and quiet space during the night can help babies slowly begin to adapt. Tools like room white noise machines and room-darkening curtains with red light as needed for visibility can help create that soothing nighttime environment. You can also use the natural light of the sun by opening the curtains in the morning, for example, or taking your baby for a walk at dusk.
  2. Prioritize your own rest. This is easier said than done, I know. By the time my third and final baby came around, I had learned that resting is hard work, but more than worth it. My mantra then was “Don’t do today what can be put off until tomorrow.” I knew that eventually we would get caught up on the laundry and everything else, but that was going to be so much easier to do down the road if I wasn’t completely exhausted. Sacrificing your rest for something else may seem like the default position, but it is not insignificant. Trying to keep up with everything else while your baby sleeps is unsustainable. Rest and sleep are a foundational part of your health, and without your health you will not be able to do the other things you want to do. Make a plan with your partner that allows both of you to get the rest and sleep you need. Ask family and friends to watch the baby so that you can take a nap. If you can afford to hire a doula or babysitter do it, even if it means adjusting your budget elsewhere. Wherever you can put a little more time or money towards getting more sleep, it will be well spent.
  3. Question your stories. Anxiety tends to be high when it comes to new parents and sleep. It’s natural for babies to crave the security and closeness of sleeping on another person. It’s normal for newborns to nurse frequently throughout the night. If you have concerns, reach out to your pediatrician or another professional, but also know that just because your baby doesn’t act just like your sister’s baby doesn’t necessarily mean that something is wrong. Babies are individuals with their own unique personalities, needs, and norms. If you find something that meets both your baby’s and your own needs, it doesn’t matter that it doesn’t match someone else’s philosophy. It can also be helpful to know that if your anxiety is making it difficult for you to rest or sleep even when you have the opportunity, a mental health practitioner can help with that. You are not a bad parent if you ask someone else to watch your child, if you eat takeout off of paper plates, or if you feel overwhelmed by the demands of parenthood. You are a human being who is worthy of love and care. Lack of sleep makes everything harder, but you will get through this.

Not sure where to start getting your sleep needs met? Send me an email at and I’d be happy to offer some suggestions for you situation.

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