Newborn sleep guide: Everything you need to know about sleep in the first year

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The S word is perhaps the most discussed topic for any new parent, especially in their baby’s first year — from how much you did (or didn’t get!), how many times your baby woke overnight (seriously, why do they sleep all day then party all night 🥳) to how many naps your little one should be having. 

Mastering the elusive world of newborn sleep can be intense, to say the least, especially if you’re sleep-deprived yourself (someone pass us the coffee, stat ☕). You’re learning on the job and it can feel like you’re taking a crash course on a whole new topic you know nothing about. Most parents have a neverending list of questions — how long should I let my newborn sleep? How long is a newborn sleep cycle? How can I get my newborn to sleep longer at night? 

So to help bleary-eyed new parents, we’ve teamed up with Euky Bear to dive deep into everything you need to know about your baby’s sleep needs in their first year of life — from why sleep is so important, understanding their sleep needs, and how sleep evolves as your baby grows, and of course to expert tips and tricks for helping your little one get a good night’s rest. 

Age-appropriate awake windows

The first thing you need to know about baby sleep is their awake time windows. 

Awake windows are the length of time your little one is awake between their naps. Understanding this ‘window of time’ based on their age is one of the key factors in settling them for sleep. 

Putting down an under-tired or overtired baby makes settling so much harder. New parents are often unaware of how frequently these windows change in those early weeks and months, but knowing this can be a game changer.

For a full breakdown of age-appropriate awake time windows, head here. 

What’s a good sleeping schedule for a newborn?

Kiindred’s resident sleep guru and Mothercraft Nurse Chris Minogue, who has over 35 years of experience helping families get a good night’s sleep, recommends letting your baby sleep for as long as they need in those early weeks as a long sleep will give them the energy they need for a successful feed. 

“In those early weeks, those first 2–3 weeks, the baby will sleep anywhere and everywhere. They must get a decent sleep as it gives them the energy to be able to feed well. So once they’ve had a feed, wrap and cuddle them, and allow them to go to sleep,” Chris explains.

“Once you get to around three weeks, you’ll notice the baby’s more alert. They move into a feed, alert, and then sleep cycle. At this point, we need to wrap them, cuddle them calmly, and quietly put them down in their bed,” she adds. 

“Now’s the time to dim the environment. By making a quieter environment you’ll notice that your baby will sleep well because of this. With patience, you’ll notice as the baby matures, the sleep will lengthen at night. Just give this time and you’ll be amazed at what they do.”

Setting up solid foundations 

Establishing a nighttime routine with your baby will, sooner or later, set you up for sleep success. Beginning a nighttime routine at around 6 pm can help your baby wind down for bedtime by around 7 pm. For example, a bath followed by a gentle massage on the changing table or getting them dressed in their pyjamas and then reading a bedtime story can help establish sleep associations for your baby. 

The same principle applies to daytime naps; while the routine before a daytime nap will be shorter than your nighttime routine, the repetition of these rituals establishes predictability for your baby. If they are older than 7 months, a favourite soft toy or comforter can also signal sleep time. 

Euky Bear’s Sweet Dreams Sleep Aid is a genius way to help soothe your little one to sleep. Combining the benefits of sound, light, and aromatherapy, this all-in-one sleep aid helps babies drift off to sleep more easily and settle through the night. Red light sleep therapy supports the functioning of the body’s natural circadian rhythm, or sleep cycle, which assists babies to fall asleep. It comes complete with pink noise, soothing sounds such as a heartbeat sound, waterfall, and specially composed lullabies. There are also eight rotating colours (white, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and pink).

The aromatherapy humidifier gently releases ultra-fine mist into the air making the Euky Bear Sweet Dream sleep aid the ultimate tool for getting precious zeds and is suitable to be introduced from those early newborn days (aromatherapy suitable from 3+ months).

Safe sleep practices  

“When it comes to sleeping and your newborn, one of the most important things you can do is make sure that the area they are sleeping in is safe. Red Nose has the ultimate guide when it comes to sleep safety for babies,” CPR Kids founder and paediatric nurse Sarah Hunstead tells us. 

“Some of their tips include making sure that the cot is current to Australian standards, ensuring that the mattress in the cot is firm, clean, and fits perfectly around the edges, and making sure that there are no gaps,” Sarah notes. 

“And importantly, think about where you’re positioning the cot in the room. Make sure that there aren’t any blind or curtain cords or any electrical cords that may actually pose a strangulation risk to your baby.”

A safe sleeping environment, according to Red Nose Australia, means that “all potential dangers have been removed and the baby is sleeping in a safe place. The ideal place for a baby to sleep is in a safe cot, on a safe mattress, with safe bedding, in a safe sleeping place, both night and day.” 

There are some important things to practice to ensure a safe sleep environment: 

  • Baby should be put down to sleep on their back, with feet close to the bottom end of the cot or bassinet
  • Head and face should remain uncovered
  • Baby should be in a smoke-free environment before and after birth
  • A safe bassinet and cot are vital (they must meet Australian Standard AS2172 which will be present on labelling)
  • No soft or bulky bedding such as pillows, bumpers, blankets, and toys
  • If you are wrapping baby, ensure that you are always doing so safely
  • Breastfeed baby
  • A safe bassinet in the parents’ room is recommended for the first 6–12 months
  • Never leave your baby sleeping unsupervised in a pram, stroller, or bouncinette
  • It is also recommended that cots and bassinets are purchased as new for use and not secondhand

Sleep training

The gift of a good night’s sleep is something the whole family can benefit from. And while sleep training is not for everyone, many parents swear by it. Indeed all babies have different needs and may respond differently to sleep training methods, so it’s all about finding what works best for you and your child. But it’s important to note that sleep training does not mean letting your baby ‘cry it out’.

The first step to sleep training is getting a strong feeding and sleeping routine in place, following age-appropriate awake time windows, learning to read your baby’s cues, and finding a sleep training method that works best for you. Teaching your baby to self-settle is the most common approach. 

As Mothercraft Nurse Chris Minogue explains, “This is where you allow your baby to cry for a few minutes before going in to give comfort by ‘patting and shushing’ or rocking them gently where you find them in their cot. Once they are calm, you leave the room for another short period.”

“Once they start crying again, repeat the above steps so that they have a chance to resettle on their own, whilst always going in to reassure them again until they fall back asleep. It will take a few days of being consistent for you to see any results, but over time, your little one will develop the ability to self-settle.”

And if you’re feeling guilty for letting your bub cry, Chris says don’t beat yourself up about it. “You don’t need to feel like a neglectful parent if your little one cries for a few moments at a time. Babies do cry — that’s the way that they communicate! By using the above technique, you will always be there to go back in after a few minutes and to reassure them until they have developed the ability to do so on their own,” Chris reassures parents. 

There’s no need to rush into sleep training a newborn, with the ideal age around the four to the six-month mark. At this age, babies will be old enough to be taught how to self-settle. 

Newborn not sleeping?

Sometimes the reason your little one is fighting naps (or suddenly taking shorter ones) is that their sleep needs are changing. This is often a cause for stress in parents — just when you thought you had it down, the rug is pulled from beneath you! But there’s a good chance your baby is ready to drop a nap. Observe their daily rhythm and decide if it’s time to transition.

Teething, being too hot or cold and illness can also wreak havoc on their sleep. Hang in there! 

This is a paid partnership between Kiindred x Euky Bear

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