GETTING YOUR NEWBORN OFF TO A GREAT START
As a postpartum doula and sleep trainer, I understand the importance of getting off to a great start with your newborn. Setting realistic expectations for you and your newborn is critical. If you know what to expect from your newborn, you can have confidence as a parent. The most important thing to remember is to relax and enjoy. I know that is easy for me to say as everything is probably so new for you. There have been a lot of huge changes. But just take a breath and enjoy.
It is so true that you can’t spoil a newborn. Your primary goal during this time is to nurture, cuddle, love, and meet their basic needs. Your newborn’s basic needs are to eat and sleep. That’s about it! Yep, it’s that simple. Many times, parents try to overcomplicate and overthink things but I’m here to reassure you that you don’t have to.
You can expect your newborn to eat every 2-3 hours for the first few months. If you are a nursing mama, this will feel like you are nursing all the time. Nursing can be a beautiful time as well as a challenging time for you and your baby. After all, this is a new skill that you both are learning. I always encourage moms to get breastfeeding support should they need it. There is no shame in getting help. Reaching out to a professional (lactation consultant) can help fix a problem that you might be struggling with or even help you get started breastfeeding successfully!
If you are bottle feeding, your baby will typically be able to eat every 2.5-3 hours. Since they have tiny tummies, they will only be able to take in a small amount. During the first few weeks, they will be eating around 1.5-3 ounces at each feeding.
Since babies typically decrease in weight after birth, eating every 2-3 hours around the clock is essential. You should continue to wake them to eat every 3 hours until their weight increases and their pediatrician gives you the ok to let them sleep longer.
During the day, I still encourage parents of a newborn to continue to feed their babies every 3 hours to ensure that they are getting sufficient calories during the day. If you are letting your baby sleep past 3 hours or don’t feed them every 3 hours, they will need to make up for the lack of calories in the middle of the night.
You can expect your newborn to sleep a total of 14-17 hours in a 24-hour period. That is a lot of sleep. They need it! They are growing and changing every day. Naps can be very sporadic ranging anywhere from 20 minutes to 4 hours. The main thing as stated before is to wake them up after 3 hours to eat.
Their awake window as a newborn can be as short as 45 minutes! You might be thinking, “well that’s not a whole lot of time!” You are correct. In fact, many times, that 45 minutes of awake time is usually spent eating, especially if they are nursing!
THE IDEAL SLEEP ENVIRONMENT
For a newborn, there is no ideal sleep environment. Their sleep environment is next to you or another caregiver. At this stage, I always encourage parents to do a lot of contact naps and baby-wearing. They want to be close to you. Newborns sleep better next to you. You cannot spoil a newborn. Isn’t that so reassuring? That being said, your baby should never sleep in the bed with you. This is not recommended by the AAP. They need their own sleeping space and it can even be right beside your bed.
So what do you do if your baby is crying and you are unable to soothe them? Maybe they have had all their needs met and have a full tummy and they have just woken up? An easy technique to remember is THE 5 S’s.
THE 5 S’S
When you need to calm a fussing or crying baby the technique I teach new parents is the 5 S’s: swaddle, side/stomach, shush, swing, and suck. Dr. Harvey Karp, a pediatrician, pioneered the 5 S’s as an easy way to remember and soothe your baby.
This right here is my #1 go-to for pretty much anything calming or sleep-related with a newborn. Because newborns have that startle reflex, swaddling your baby will help with this. Although most babies do not like the process of being wrapped, once they are, it can have a very calming effect. So don’t give up on it. Keep trying. If you aren’t proficient at swaddling, using an actual swaddle blanket is best. My favorites are the Miracle Blanket, Happiest Baby Sleepea 5- Second Baby Swaddle, or the Anna & Eve Baby Swaddle Strap. The Swaddle Strap can be used with any swaddle. It captures their arms so that they can’t get them out.
After you swaddle your baby, you will want to hold them on their side or on their stomach. Having your baby in a supine position activates a calming sensation. You can also lay them across your forearm (supporting their head of course), or lay them over your shoulder.
The shushing sound is what your baby hears in utero. They hear a variety of things: pumping of your blood circulation, the sounds of your own breathing, the rumble of your digestive system, and outside noises. They are used to these sounds and they react almost instantaneously when they hear them. Start by matching the volume of their crying with shushing and then get quieter as they calm down.
Movement is another way to calm a baby. Just like they are used to hearing sounds in utero, they are used to your constant movements and they love it! It is soothing to them. When you are swinging and swaying them, always support the baby’s head as you sway back and forth. Keep your movements small and gentle.
Sucking is one of the reflexes that a baby is born with. It is known that babies are often calmed by sucking. Once breastfeeding has been established, introducing your baby to a pacifier can be beneficial. Babies enjoy sucking without needing to feed. This is called non-nutritive sucking.
These 5 S’s can be a huge help if all of their needs have been met and they are still fussy. Sometimes, if you implement all of these together, you could easily have a sleeping baby on hand. If that’s the case, feel free to continue holding your baby or put them down in a safe sleeping space.
THE RIGHT TOOLS
As is the case in any job, it is vital to have the right tools in your toolbox. At this stage, your toolbox remains very small as your newborn needs very little besides food, sleep, and a clean diaper. However, it is essential to start using certain tools to promote good sleep hygiene.
DARK ROOM: BLACKOUT BLINDS OR CURTAINS
I encourage parents to have their baby sleep in a very dark room. Black-out curtains are preferred. Any sliver of light can wake them up (especially the older they get). There is no need for a nightlight at this age.
Having a sound machine is something that I almost insist on when it comes to sleep shaping. The sound machine is important for a few reasons. The first reason is that your newborn is accustomed to sounds in utero. They crave noise. White noise is the preferable sound because it is constant.
Another reason for using a sound machine is to drown out the everyday noises in the home. So much activity happens in a household throughout the day and having a sound machine can help. I like to introduce it early on, especially when you place your baby down for a nap or bedtime.
There are many sound machines on the market. My favorite is the Hatch Sound Machine. This product you can use right when your baby is born through preschool age. I love this sound machine because as your baby grows, you can use the color system to help with sleep. (More about that in another blog.)
I know this sounds like a silly and insignificant suggestion, but having the right pajamas during sleep is vital. At night, I always encourage caregivers to use the Magnetic Me pajamas or the kind where the zipper starts at the bottom. This makes for easy changes in the middle of the night should you need to change your baby.
The swaddle is my final recommended tool to help your baby sleep. As discussed above, you will want to use the swaddle whenever you put your baby down to sleep or to calm him down. The swaddle can often aid in helping your little one get solid sleep.
A LOT OF GRACE
If you get nothing else out of this blog, remember to give yourself grace. Having a newborn brings so much change to your life. New emotions, a new body, new relationships, and lack of sleep can have a huge effect on the household. Do not do this alone. Rely on others. Seek out help if you need it.
HOW CAN I HELP?
If you have tried these things above and need some extra guidance, I’m here for you.If you are discouraged and need someone to talk to about this new stage of your life, let’s set up a time to chat to see how I can help. Maybe you need to adjust something. Maybe you just need reassurance that what you are doing and what your newborn is doing is normal. I’ve helped many families during this time and I can help you too. My goal is to encourage you, coach you through every situation that might come up, and cheer you on along the way. I don’t judge any situation because I have been there.