Newborn Sleep & What To Expect
If you are pregnant, you have probably already had someone give you unsolicited comments about how little sleep you are going to get, “so you better get it in now!” We know, bless their heart. They don’t know what they are doing is unwelcome and unoriginal.
But that doesn’t mean you don’t need information! Your baby is a remarkable human and is designed to survive. Their sleeping and eating needs are proof of that. We’d love to lift the veil on newborn sleep to help you have realistic expectations of what is normal and what is possible for you in early weeks with your newborn.
Your Baby’s Design
Your baby is designed to sleep differently than you. So differently, in fact, that when compared to your routine schedule, it makes adapting feel like torture. The difference comes because of different sleep cycles.
An adult sleep cycle lasts between 90-120 minutes, and when charted, it looks like a lazy “W” with one or two periods where a person may wake up. Adults also have four stages of sleep they travel through in this cycle, ranging from awareness of being drowse to full REM.
Your baby cycles through sleep much more frequently and in less time, on average, about every 50 minutes. And until about 4-months of age only have two stages of sleep. Take a look at this helpful chart created by The Nested Bean:
Your newborn’s needs are tied to their survival. They need to eat often, be changed and kept comfortable, and have tending that ensures their body temperature is in a safe range. With more frequent sleep cycles, your baby travels into “light sleep” or awareness more often, so any of the needs that are not met will trigger them to wake up and cry out for care. It is genius!
Often your newborn is relatively easy to put back to sleep once their needs are met because they only have those two stages of sleep. It feels painful and is difficult for you the adult, because we still have to work through ALL FOUR STAGES to get back to sleep ourselves, and by that time, your baby is close to being back in the light sleep stage of the sleep cycle again.
Things that can help keep your baby from waking if all their needs are met, for example, they are getting enough nutrition, are a safe temperature, and do not have a soiled diaper:
- Being swaddled or placing your hand on their chest can help soothe the feeling of separateness. Being alone is not a feeling that an awake baby finds reassuring.
- Using a white noise machine
- Having a fan to move air through the room
- Sleeping in the same room to have the comfort of closeness
Things that can help parents during this challenging time:
- Some two-parent households find taking care shifts to be helpful. For instance, wakeups from 8 pm to 1 am are handled by one parent, while the other sleeps in a separate space. And wakeups from 1 am to 6 am are the responsibility of the other parent. Feeding can happen still at the breast or with bottles, but diapers, burping, and soothing are exchanged.
- Some parents find that pacifiers are helpful comfort for babies who are recently fed, and need help drifting back to deep sleep. Sucking is a natural soothing activity that can happen at the breast but can also be done with this tool, for those open to their use.
- Some parents find that the “night” of sleep needs to be prolonged later in the day. Meaning, if a person gets typically 8 hours of sleep each night, the parent would stay in bed, going back to sleep until the combined bit of sleep eventually add up to their required 8 hours.
- And of course, some parents can have the overnight help of postpartum doulas to help everyone in the family get the rest and care they need, while also giving peace of mind.
Fundamental Infant Care, For Future Parents With No Experience
This post is for people who have little to no knowledge of babies and newborns, for the folks who are starting from “only seen those things in movies” point.
A newborn is a tricky combination of small and manageable, and explosively unpredictable. And that is stressful!
Let’s go through a few categories of newborn care, highlighting NEED TO KNOW bits of information as some starting points. Ready?
Do You Know How To Hold A Baby?
There are three main parts to focus on when holding a newborn: their head, neck, and trunk.
As long as those body parts are supported, you are doing well! You may not be ready or confident to present your child Simba-style right off the bat, but you don’t have to.
But babies can be held in many positions and with many parts of your body. There is no one way to do it correctly. A couple of rules that are good common sense for these first months: keep them close to your body, use both hands, and keep them warm.
Holding a newborn means paying attention to their head, which may bob and flop, their neck, which needs your support because of their (relatively)massive head, and their body, which can’t really move on its own.
Do You Know How To Change A Diaper?
Frequency: Newborns will work up to soiling diapers about 12+ every 24 hours. In the first days, their digestive system is getting used to function in a new way, so expect one diaper per day of life up until day 4-5. More is ok. Less is cause for closer attention to how much they are eating.
Tools: A clean diaper, wipes, and if you want to use preventative care, some diaper cream or petroleum jelly to keep future poops from getting stuck to their sensitive bottoms.
Step 1 – get the tools ready
Step 2 – access the dirty diaper by taking off outside clothes
Step 3- Open the clean diaper and place it under your baby’s bottom, outside the dirty diaper
Step 4- open the dirty diaper, and fold the front down, containing any mess inside the diaper
Step 5 – wiped your baby’s body with baby wipes
Step 6- Remove wipes and dirty diaper and set to side out of kicking range of your baby
Step 7- apply the cream to the skin, and wipe excess cream from your finger on the clean diaper
Step 8 – place in front of the diaper in front of your baby, open side tabs, and bring to the belly button to close.
Step 9- replace close
Step 10- ensure baby is in a safe place and wash your hands
Feeding: Do you have a plan?
Have you considered how you will feed your baby? Breastfeeding, exclusive pumping, bottle feeding and breastfeeding, formula?
Some things to know about bottles:
If at any point you are planning to use a bottle – or the occasional bottle given by a partner or caregiver, in early weeks, or months from now – babies who breastfeed need to be taught how to eat from a bottle. Consider introducing a bottle between 6-10 weeks of age, so your baby can learn how to transfer milk. Because it’s different than eating at the breast! It is helpful to know about Paced Bottle Feeding, which helps breastfed babies and helps prevent them from developing a preference for bottles over the breast.
Consider making contact with a lactation consultant or IBCLC for help with latch, transfer, or supply issues.
The main point to know with feeding is you your baby will need to eat often! Every 1.5-3 hours at first, and then in longer stretches as they get older. Depending on your baby’s age and weighting the first months, they will need to consume between 1-4 ounces each feeding.
The essential knowledge for infant sleep is they do a lot of it but in fits and spurts. Your infant will need to sleep between 14-18 hours a day! You should have a dedicated sleep space for your infant that has a flat bottom and not toys or blankets. For more essential information on safe sleep, consult the safe sleep guidelines .
How often should you bathe your baby?
There are a lot of opinions about how often you should bathe your baby. The short answer is when they are dirty. Newborns do not get dirty in the same way adults do. For the first few weeks to a month, it is recommended to give your child sponge baths using warm water and very little of the mildest soap.
The “dirt” your child will need help removing is milk and spit up residue from eating, and the dirt and oils that adults leave on them from holding and caring for them. Babies do not sweat, and their skin is still acclimating to life out of the womb for quite some time.
Does your baby enjoy the water?
Do they find it peaceful or relaxing?
Do they get stressed out and scared?
That can play into your choice of how often you bathe your child. Some families choose to make bath time a part of a regular nighttime routine BECAUSE it is such a helpful tool.
It’s 100% up to you.
Resist using baby lotion after baths until your child is closer to 6 months of age. Your baby’s skin is extremely sensitive, and typically diaper cream is the only over the counter emollient that is recommended for infant use.
People Are Choosing Postpartum Doulas
Suburban Chicago families are finding out they need help to make it through the first weeks of parenting on their own.
And when you’re in it, the confounding part is that the “hard” is so elusive. It keeps moving. It shifts to just around the corner.
Is it caring for your baby? (The diapers, the clothing changes, learning to swaddle, sleep, hold, comfort, and feeding? )
Is it taking care of yourself? (Closing your womb, your tender undercarriage, leaking, learning about all the new parts of yourself that have arrived with this child? )
Is it all the relationships that make your life possible? (Is it connecting with doctors, family, your partner, work, and future caregivers?)
It’s all of it.
It’s a juggling act where the part that needs your attention is always the next thing falling down from above.
It’s a moving target of where to look and what to do – life with a new baby – is why people are looking to postpartum doulas to help. When you have postpartum support from Holistic Family Doulas, three things come with your doula: time, hands, and focus.
Have the time to do what you want: snuggle your baby, or tackle the project you’ve been itching to work on. Have an extra set of hands to use as your own. And regain the luxury to focus on one thing at a time without worry. Having a postpartum doula being in your home is all these things, and an overall calm expert to go over all the big and small details. And babies come with a lot of details.
If you are thinking of using a postpartum doula, here are a few things to consider when planning for care:
- What feels most overwhelming about being home with your baby?
- What would your ideal day look like?
- What is the most important part of your recovery?
- Would you prefer to have help at day, or night, or a mix of both?
It could be for one visit to help you get organized, or it could be a regular part of your week. How would you like a postpartum doula to help your family?
Savor, Honor, and Enjoy Your Pregnancy
1. The bubbles of first feelings
2. Your baby’s heartbeat
3. Journaling your experience
4. Legacy, Journey, and Community
How do you breastfeed?
How much and how often do you breastfeed?
How long do I feed my baby at each feeding?
How often should I switch sides when breastfeeding?
How often should I burp my baby?
How do I know my baby has eaten enough?
If you have more questions that aren’t addressed here, we are lucky to have a local resource that is thorough and moderated by respected lactation professionals called BreastfeedChicago.org. For lists of lactation professionals in your area, several troubleshooting resources, or a community of support, consider putting it on your favorites tab.
Reiki For Postpartum Healing
Postpartum healing and recovery are one of the great myths of childbirth. With expectations of bouncing back, or of 40 days of rest and solitude, most people fall short of either ideal extreme. The spectrum of healing is vast, and there are too few stories of how those in the majority are managing their care after birth. We hope to share how on Reiki may be a recovery aid for those people who are in the majority, looking for options on how to cope with life after birth.
Postpartum recovery is usually referring to the period in the first weeks and months after a person has a baby.
Past clients have found Reiki helpful for:
- Clearing fear-based energy (yours or others)
- Clearing the mind and improving focus
- Connecting with baby
- Emotional stress
- Fear releasing
- Improving blood pressure
- Increasing energy
- Releasing birth trauma
- Relieving aches and pain from tension
Reiki For Pregnancy
Here are a few ways Reiki may be beneficial for you during your pregnancy:
- Strengthen the bond between you and your child.
- Reduce stress and anxiety, and increase feelings of calm.
- Unlock fears or blocked chakras
- Reduce feelings of fatigue and nausea.
- Help with insomnia
- Body aches
Self Love This Valentine’s Day
Self Love this Valentine’s Day
While many people are thinking about passion with Valentine’s day arriving soon, perhaps a little compassion will be extended as well. And not generally speaking – but love and compassion for working towards a healthier you.
Looking inward and having a vulnerable personal conversation about what you want, what you need, and how you wish to walk through the world is a gutsy gift to yourself this Valentine’s day. The questions get asked over and over, and how often do we stop and find a real answer to, “What do you want?”
What do you want to give in relationships?
How do you want to be treated?
What impact will you have?
However, before all of that. Before looking outward, the brave first step is to love your whole self and practice radical acceptance. All of your parts – those you are proud of and those you hide because of embarrassment or shame – all of those parts together make up the body, mind, and spirit of the unique you: a person who is deserving of the best and is capable of individual thoughts and feelings and change.
Connecting with ourselves is more than self care practices like an herbal bath or a pedicure (which are important too!). It’s taking an in-depth look into what helps us feel whole, and the things we each need to belong genuinely. For many, there is a need to heal wounds that get inflicted as we assimilate into a culture or society.
Take time for yourself to explore what needs attention. One way to do this is to tune into Stephi Wagner as she describes the “mother wound” and helps people understand that there is an innate need for healing. More so, that we are all born into a pattern of being a person who is ready to re-connect, but that our parents, and ourselves as parents, are often not supported socially enough to then give to our babies and children.
- Feeling like we are “not enough”
- Feeling like we are “too much”
- Being tone policed by others for our authentic feelings
- Feeling shame about our authentic feelings
- Struggling to make and maintain boundaries
- Shame storms: “I AM a bad mistake” (shame) rather than “I made a bad mistake” (guilt)
- Feeling responsible for other people’s feelings
- Accepting poor treatment from other people
- Self-sabotaging by backing away on the brink of a success
- Attenuation: trying to stay small in body, mind, impact,
Do you have any thoughts you would like to share about your healing journey? Please post below and join us on our Facebook Page.