Healthy Sleep Practices for Your 0-12 Week Old
Updated: May 1
When working with a client and discussing the particulars of their overnight support, some are very clear on what they want, but most don’t know what a night nurse actually does. I always get the question what is typical? What is the average the length of time I am with a family, the hours I work for them, the days of the week?, Once we’ve settled on a schedule there is always question regarding sleep training.
Many ask because it is so often talked about with newborns (you’ll never sleep again, good luck with sleep deprivation yada yada yada…) I will explain to families that sleep training is not something that we really do until the baby is four months old. If you have knowledgeable, experienced overnight help you’ll get excellent advice and a plan that will start good healthy sleep practices. I offer a eating, sleeping, activity schedule during the day so we are set up to have a good night. Sleep training isn’t necessary if you do the right things from day or night one.
I often say, sleep training is really just undoing bad habits. New parents enter into their new role with the best intentions. Things they swore they would never do they become guilty of. Rocking them to sleep, feeding them to sleep and putting them in their bed to nap among other things are practices that deter any work that has been done to instill good habits. Parents will do just about anything to get their baby to sleep.
Then a baby gets comfortable and used to these new practices and then will only sleep if those new comfy cozy conditions are met.
So, from the very start, this is what I advise anyone with a newborn to do day one. Listen to the pediatrician. They need to come first. Too many opinions will make all new parents heads spin. When the baby comes home from the hospital they immediately go to the pediatrician. The Dr. will tell them; Baby needs to eat every three hours around the clock and to come back to check on the babys weight gain to be sure it’s going in the right direction. Up. At that second visit when the baby is gaining, the doctor will advise families to continue the two to three-hour feeding schedule during the day and to let the baby sleep as long as they want at night. (Some might give you parameters to not let them go more than four or five hours, but that will be determined from each pediatricians practice.)
As I say to families all the time “parents control the day, the baby controls the night. It’s our job to “teach” the baby to sleep well and on what the goal should be overnight.
When the baby wakes try to give them a pacifier, pat their tummy to see if they are really ready to wake up. If that doesn’t work then the baby is hungry. Pick them up, change their diaper, feed them, burp them, hold them up for a few minutes, swaddle them back up and put them back down. As baby gets older you may not even change their diaper or unwrap their swaddle when feeding them. (It’s important to do so in the very first few weeks because they will just fall asleep and the feed will not be very efficient.) It’s a dark room, there’s a noise machine, there’s not a lot of talking, no television, no radio, no stimulation it’s all business. The baby goes right back down to sleep. Encouraging sleep is what is important. As baby gets older we will stretch them with a pacifier, shusher and a tightening of the swaddle. But never pick up a baby in the night unless you are going to feed them. I once heard of an overnight Baby nurse telling the parents it’s better to hold the baby for up to three hours, then to feed him so he can get used to understanding that they don’t need to eat at night.
That is an insane piece of advice! If that baby wakes up then that baby is hungry if trying for five minutes doesn’t work to get them back to sleep. Holding them for three hours sleeping in your arms is not something most parents want to so that is not a practice that should ever be followed. I have had babies sleep from 7 PM to 5 AM as early as eight weeks but I have been with a baby 4 1/2 months old and they’re still waking up once in the night. Every baby is different and they are only a baby for a little while. You'll get there it just may take a minute.