Ok, though I definitely say that these days or weeks are survival mode and I felt like I was just doing anything I could to make it through the day and night alive and also keep my baby alive, I also just felt so lost and anxious when it came to anything related to my baby’s sleep and schedule.
I was hearing the words “wake window” and “eat play sleep” for the first time ever and felt like a complete mom failure because I knew nothing. If this sounds familiar and you’re in this stage, then take a big breath and give yourself a pat on the back for everything you’ve done so far.
I want to help calm some of that anxiety by giving you a rough 0-4 week schedule. Take this “schedule” with a grain of salt as it is still very much a “do what you gotta do” phase of parenthood (isn’t all parenthood like this?)
Total Average Sleep
Total sleep for babies this age is 16-18 hours with half of these hours happening during the night and the other half spread out over 4-5 daytime naps. By the end of the first month, babies sleep closer to an average of 15.5 - 17 hours total. The goal is to have about 8.5-10 hours at night and 6-7 hours during the day spread over 3-4 naps. They will likely wake up 2-3 times a night for feedings and may need some help getting back to sleep quickly.
Please note that these numbers are definitely ideal for this stage and, if your situation is like mine was, your baby is waking up every 1.5-2 hours in the night and needing a lot of assistance to get back to sleep. Oh, and they are also sleeping only 20-30 minutes at a time during the day.
If this is happening to you, I can’t stress enough that your baby cannot, I repeat, cannot develop “bad habits” at this age, so if you need to rock, bounce, nurse, sing, give a pacifier, drive around in the car, walk in the stroller, etc., your baby to sleep, then you do it!
The Big Task for New Parents
The biggest task that you have as a parent of a brand new fresh baby is to help them differentiate daytime from nighttime. When babies enter the world, their days and nights are backward, and it is our job to help them adjust.
Some ways to help your babies figure this out are to:
- Try not to let your baby get overstimulated during the nighttime (bright lights and loud noises). Try and keep the room dark with low voices if needed during the nighttime feeds and diaper changes.
- Try not to let your baby get too overtired (they should only be awake for 1 to 2 hours max at a time during the day and this includes the feed and diaper change). I know this is a big time gap, but you will get to know your baby and their wake window needs.
- Expose your baby to natural light (get outside!) and turn on the lights during the day. For the first few weeks, try to have your baby nap in natural light or a slightly dimmed room.
- Wake your baby after 3 hours of daytime sleep to feed them (you want to save those long stretches of slumber for nighttime).
Having a newborn baby is magical, exciting, stressful, and, well, exhausting. Again, mom, dad, caregiver, and parent, you have got this! It’s ok to admit it’s a difficult time, but I promise it gets better.