Newborns and Sleep – Ideas For Making Life Easier

Newborns and Sleep – Ideas For Making Life Easier

Baby-SleepingNew parents are often shocked that newborn babies initially sleep and feed around the clock. The average newborn will sleep 16 out of 24 hours but all babies are different and you may find your baby sleeps up to 19 hours a day or as little as eight.

You needn’t worry though about how many hours he or she sleeps—you have either a wakeful baby or a sleepy one.

“Catch Nanna Naps when- ever you can—fatigue is terrible thing. Lack of sleep can affect every aspect of your life. My number one tip for this post-birth period is to prioritise sleep any way you can.”

In those first few weeks, newborns will wake, feed and then fall asleep again, only to wake 2–3 hours later for another feed. As your baby grows he will want bigger feeds, become more active in between sleeps, and sleep for longer periods during the night. By six months, most babies will have developed a fairly regular pattern.

The key to establishing a good sleep routine for your baby is to help him to differentiate between night and day, and to teach him that the longest periods of sleep should be at night. Be aware that babies quickly learn to settle into the same routine every night.

Should co-sleeping interest you, Debra Jackson’s, “Three In A Bed” would be a wonderful resource. It is the author’s belief that children do not need to be left alone to learn independence. You may find that you change your baby’s sleeping environment as he grows, so trust your instincts.

Simon and I have found a “papoose” to be a very useful item. Basically a papoose has a hollow in the middle for your baby to lie in and a heavy, padded edge that prevents either parent rolling in towards the baby. We used this for the first few weeks with our newborns, allowing them time to familiarise themselves with their new environment and enabling them to hear our breathing throughout the night. We then moved them to a bassinette in our bedroom for the first few months, then to a cot in their own room with the papoose inside the cot, and finally just the cot itself.

Please catch ‘nanna naps’ whenever you can—
fatigue is terrible thing.

Lack of sleep can affect every aspect of your life. My number one tip for this post-birth period is to prioritise sleep any way you can.

When we are tired, our thoughts seem to spiral down. It is imperative that when fatigue hits we remind ourselves that our thoughts create our reality and, in turn, our reality creates our world. At these times we can also draw on our family and friends for support, and read good books to help inspire us.

The ability we have as human beings to be our very own alchemists and turn negative energies into awareness, honesty and courage never ceases to amaze me.

The following table may provide parents with a guide to sleeping patterns of newborns. Remember this is only a guide; all babies vary, and nine hours at night certainly does not infer “nine hours of solid sleep without waking during this time for a feed”.

How Much Sleep Does Your Baby Need Per Day? 1

Newborn 17 hrs 8 hrs 9 hrs
2 months 15-16 hrs 5-6 hrs 10hrs
4 months 15-16 hrs 4-5 hrs 11hrs
6-9 months 14-15 hrs 3-4 hrs 11hrs
12 months 13-14 hrs 2-3 hrs 11hrs
Up to 2 years 12-13 hrs 1-2 hrs 11hrs

Three Things To Consider:

If parents have concerns that their newborn is not sleeping enough, please consider the following:

1.) If the newborn is breastfed, are there items in the mother’s diet that could be stimulating (coffee, tea, chocolate) or aggravating (allergens, alcohol, fizzy drinks) the infant? Please refer toChapter 16.

2.) Seek advice on baby cues, and wrapping and swaddling newborns. The DVD “Happiest Baby on the Block” is a wonderful resource for new parents. Doulas and midwives are also incredibly adept at helping with these problems.

3.) Consider having your newborn assessed for nerve dysfunction associated with their birth. Please refer toChapter 11.


A 2008 study published in JCCP by Dr J Miller suggests that chiropractic care may have a place in caring for infants with sleeping difficulties.


In this study all parents who presented their infant for chiropractic care, regardless of their chief complaint, were asked to complete a questionnaire on their child’s sleeping behaviours on the 1st, 4th and 7th visits to the chiropractic office.

Of the 116 infants enrolled in the study, 10% had presented for dyssomnia or sleep dis- turbance while 75% had presented for excessive infant crying.


Overall, improved sleep habits were seen in the infants. Improvement in consecutive hours of sleep, quality of sleep and time taken to settle before sleep all showed statistically significant improvement.
Parents reported that their infants settled more quickly and easily, and fewer had difficulty settling to sleep. Parents reported improvement of their child’s problem after an average of 1.1 adjustments. 2
This study highlights the need for further studies into sleep disturbance.

What About Routine?

Some women take great pride in telling other mothers that they’ve gotten their child to sleep through the night or that their child only feeds when it is the ‘right’ time. Contrary to popular belief, parenting is not a competition. Some mothers feel like failures if their child wakes through the night or still demands feeds at six, twelve or 24 months. There is no right or wrong. What is important is choosing your own style of parenting and knowing that you are nurturing your child in a manner that supports your beliefs and core values.

Some parents do train their child to ‘sleep through’ from a very early age, but if it is indeed ‘training’, then what is the cost? Does this traineeship cause your baby unnecessary emotional stress? Be sure that you are not trying to discipline your baby merely to impress others with your parental capabilities. If order and routine are essential for you to maintain peace in your life, then it is important that you honour your needs; however, if they are not essential, then just be yourself. Relax and follow your heart and let patterns unfold.

Tips As Your Baby Grows

If you baby cries at night, feed him if necessary, check his nappy, and check he is not too hot or too cold. Soothe him with your words. Do this quickly; don’t stop to play or cuddle, as he will learn that waking at night can mean fun.

Discourage your baby from falling asleep on the breast or bottle. Otherwise he will always expect a feed in order to sleep.

Leave a night-light on in the room if you or your baby are anxious.

Personally, I am very fond of quality sleep; that is, the far, distant memory I have of quality sleep. As our small children grow, I trust that this simple pleasure will re-enter our lives. For now, we try to create a balance between teaching our children about the importance of sleep and also being available to calm and soothe.

The time you have with your baby during their first twelve months is so precious, and you would do well to try not to make it too regimented or ordinary. There are many resources available for parents that discuss wonderful sleep-promoting techniques. Pinky McKay’s books “Parenting By Heart” and “100 Ways to Calm the Crying” offer a beautiful guide to gentle nurturing with confidence.

Some authors suggest cutting out night feeds
when your baby is six months old.

On a personal note, it took Simon and I four babies to find an approach to quality sleep and feeding that felt gentle and easy!

With our older three boys we fumbled our way through their first twelve months with little sleep, not wanting to extend their four-hour feeding routine too soon. Around twelve months we would start gentle ‘control crying’ methods, moving in and out of their room, soothing them every five minutes. Often we would talk to them from a distance;

“Mummy’s here darling, it’s time for sleep now.”

With Arlo we found that we naturally progressed to stopping his night feeds at around seven months of age. By taking this approach and extending his sleep routine earlier, I believe the transition for Arlo seemed easier. Simon would go in to Arlo if he woke, re-wrap him and kiss him tenderly as he whispered, “Sleep time now.” To our amazement, within a week he dropped his night feed and was sleeping for 6- 7 hours.

Some parents may laugh and suggest that is what all babies can do. My heart tells me however that “all” babies are different. Even to this day Arlo adores sleep, he’d sleep until 8am every morning if his brothers would let him! I believe it is important to follow a rhythm and pattern that feels right for you and your baby.

babyIf you feel like your’e exhausted and your current techniques aren’t working  then I suggest you continue to try various sleep techniques until you find one that resonates well with your family

If you have resisted ‘control crying’ (a specific sleep-promotion technique that encourages parents to let their infant cry and self –soothe for short periods of time, rather than rocking their baby to sleep) and yet the lack of quality sleep is starting to test your relationship as a couple, then as a last resort, control crying may have benefit. If you feel more subtle techniques have not been effective, go slowly with control crying and talk your baby through this process. Be patient and tender in your approach but be consistent.

For further information please see Well Adjusted Babies 2nd Edition.

. . . . .
dr-jenniferYours in health…

Jennifer Barham-Floreani
Bach. Chiropractic, Bach. App Clinical Science
Registered internationally, no longer practicing as a chiropractor in Australia.





1 & 2
Miller J DC. Klemsdal M. Can Chiropractic Care Improve Infants’ Sleep? JCCP. 2008;9(1).


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