“Is it normal that I am feeling exhausted with a newborn?”, asks every parent, ever. Short answer: yes. Long answer: Yes. The first few months with a new baby at home are truly unique…and exhausting! No matter how many people warn you about getting sleep before the baby is born, it is impossible to actually “stock up” on it. Between lack of sleep, changes in your lifestyle and the unique needs of newborns it’s impossible for parents to feel 100% confident in how they are raising their newest little one. One of the biggest challenges? Safe sleep practices for your baby.
Safety and sleep for your little one is critical because unsafe practices can be correlated to an increased risk of SIDS. SIDS, which stands for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, is the leading cause of death among babies between 1 month and 1 year of age in the U.S. SIDS is a sudden and silent medical disorder that can happen to an infant who seems healthy. We are here to provide you with up-to-date newborn sleep advice so that you are able to get the rest and peace of mind you deserve.
Before we head to the sleep tips, let’s dive into SIDS facts.
How common is SIDS?
Thanks to research and awareness, the number of SIDS deaths have decreased dramatically since 1994. Recent statistics show that in 2020, about 1,389 babies died due to SIDS, and around 905 died due to accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed.
SIDS risk factors by month
While SIDS can happen in the first 12 months of life, babies 1- 4 months of age are at a higher SIDS risk, and the majority of deaths occur before 6 months of age (90%).
But what exactly causes SIDS, can I prevent it?
Unfortunately, there is not one known cause of SIDS, but researchers and medical professionals believe that SIDS deaths are associated with problems related to: low oxygen levels, baby’s ability to arouse from sleep, and a buildup of carbon dioxide in baby’s blood. Unfortunately, SIDS is not preventable, but there are safety practices that can drastically reduce the risk of SIDS.
Here is what you can do to provide a safe sleep environment and reduce the risk of SIDS:
- Offer an independent sleep space (such as a crib, pack n play or bassinet), and make sure it provides a flat and firm surface.
- Always place the baby to sleep on their backs, for naps and nights.
- Avoid soft bedding and items in the baby’s sleep area such as blankets and stuffed animals, and make sure the crib sheet is tight and fitted!
The above recommendations are focused on a baby’s sleep area. For more recommendations to reduce the risk of SIDS, please check out the American Academy of Pediatrics official statement.
So, what should a parent do if their newborn is refusing to sleep in their crib, wants to be held for every nap and night, and wakes up every 45 minutes?
Below are my top newborn tips that you can apply from day one, to help your little one get used to their sleep space and progressively sleep better as they grow.
Babies love to feel snuggled and contained. There are different types of swaddles on the market, try them to find the perfect one for your baby. Avoid introducing a swaddle when they are crying and overtired, always practice when your baby is still calm and content. Swaddling is completely safe, but remember to place your baby on their backs for sleep.
2. Aim for full feeds.
It is completely natural and expected for a newborn to fall asleep while nursing or taking a bottle. As they grow and become more alert, try keeping your baby up during feeds so that they can naturally start stretching their periods of sleep at night.
3. Watch for sleepy cues.
It is normal for newborns to tolerate anywhere from 45-90 minutes of wake time before getting overtired. During the first weeks of life, learn to identify your baby’s sleep cues (they can be similar to hunger cues!) so that you can make sure to offer sleep when needed.
4. Help extend those naps.
Short naps are developmentally appropriate for newborns. If your baby’s naps are consistently short (30- 40 minutes), help them back to sleep so that they can get the rest they need – we want to avoid them being overtired at bedtime! This can lead to more tears at bedtime, resistance to sleep and more night wakings.
5. Offer a nap a day in the desired sleep space.
Even if it’s just for a short period of time, put your baby to sleep in their crib/bassinet for a nap during the day. This will help them get used to sleeping in a flat position, with no movement, which will be helpful for nights!
6. Make a pause.
Newborns are loud sleepers, they also make funny movements and faces while they rest. If you hear your baby stir, fuss, or even cry, make a pause before tending to them! This pause will help you assess if your baby is truly awake or if they are actually just moving a bit while they sleep (no need to wake the baby unnecessarily!).
7. Consistent wake up time.
The first couple of months, your newborn’s sleep can feel very unpredictable, but as they grow, you will slowly start to notice patterns. By month 3, aim to wake your baby up for the day at a consistent morning time. Research shows that a consistent wake up time helps consolidate night sleep. This can also help you keep naps and feeds on a more predictable schedule.