How to Set Your Baby up for Good Sleep

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

So many preparations go into getting your home, body, and brain ready for a new baby. But once your baby is here, nothing can prepare you for his or her unique sleep patterns...or for the effects of long-term sleep disruption and deprivation. Subsisting on broken sleep during a baby’s first months is like a rite of passage for every postpartum mom!

Our resident sleep educator, Ann Marie Harriger, gave us some general advice on common questions related to infant sleep. For a deeper dive into this topic, join her Intro to Newborn Sleep webinar on November 30th.

How long should I expect my newborn to sleep during the day and night?

Within a baby’s first month, total sleep should be roughly 16-18 hours: half of that at night, and half during the day over four naps. For the first few weeks, newborns often have their days and nights confused, spending more time awake at night and asleep during the day.

By the end of the first month, total sleep will be 15.5-17 hours: 8.5-10 at night, and 6-7 hours during the day spread over three or four naps. Expect an average of two or three feedings per night because a newborn’s tummy is so tiny. These are just general guidelines, and your baby might wake up to eat much more frequently.

Where should I put my newborn baby to sleep at night?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies room-share with their parents for the first six months of life. Your baby should be placed on a firm surface, not the same surface as where the parents are sleeping.

With that said, some babies are very loud sleepers. I, myself, could not sleep next to my children beyond about six weeks. They made a lot of loud noises while sleeping which would keep me up at night. If you are comfortable with your little one sleeping in a different room with the use of a monitor, that is totally fine. It is all about following your instinct and doing what feels right for your family.

Where should my newborn take naps?

Naps can be so challenging for newborns, even harder than nighttime sleep. The main focus of newborn naps shouldn’t be so much on location, but simply that your little one gets them in. If your baby is happy sleeping in his or her crib for naps, then go for it. It is great for your little one to get into the habit of sleeping in a designated sleep place consistently.

If a crib or bassinet is not happening, don’t worry! Pop your baby in a stroller or in the carrier because naps-on-the-go for newborns are A-OK. And if naps are not working in any of the previously mentioned places then go ahead and hold your baby. The priority should be that the nap is happening, not where the nap is happening.

When should I try to establish a bedtime routine for my baby?

You can start establishing a bedtime routine right from the beginning. Babies like to know what is coming next and thrive on routine. Following the same bedtime routine can signal to your little one that sleep is coming.

Although your baby can’t talk yet, receptive language is constantly developing. Use cues to let him or her know what is coming. Some examples of cues include:

  • Verbal cue: singing the same song or using the same phrase before placing your baby down for sleep

  • Visual cue: turning the lights off and closing blinds before bedtime

What does a successful bedtime routine look like?

Bedtime routines vary from family to family. Some like to rock, sing, or bounce. The most important part of a successful bedtime routine is making sure your baby is placed down before he or she falls asleep.

The more little ones are given the opportunity to fall asleep independently, the more likely they are to start using that skill. This is not going to work every time, and that is OK. Remember to try it a few times every day, always making the ideal habit the first attempt.