Becoming a mom is nothing short of truly amazing. You now have this little miracle who relies on you for everything. Which can be extremely scary and EXHAUSTING. When I had my firstborn, I found myself questioning everything I was doing. Was this the right product? Why won’t he sleep in his bassinet? How much is he supposed to be eating and when? The list goes on and on.
Here are things I wish I knew before I became a mom…
1. Have a consistent daily routine that will help your baby know when it’s time to eat and when to sleep.
As a newborn, they need to learn when the wake times are and when it is time to sleep. They have been in total darkness for the last 9 months and now have to learn the difference between daytime and nighttime. By having a daily routine of feedings and sleep, this will help them become better sleepers as they grow. A baby 0-3 months will be feeding every 2-3 hours depending on their weight and sleep a total of 16-18 hours in a day. Their naps will be 30-90 minutes in length, and when they are awake during the day be sure to have the blinds open to allow the sunlight in, play with them, sing to them and soak up at those new baby cuddles.
2. Make the bedroom as dark as possible.
Darkness is the key to great sleep for anyone. When you turn off the lights, you shouldn’t be able to see your hand in front of your face. Make sure you don’t have anything that lights up in the room. I highly recommend purchasing some blackout shades, film, or even aluminum foil works wonders in blocking the light. Not only does this help your baby fall asleep more easily, but it also helps them adjust to knowing the difference from awake times and when to sleep.
3. Make sure the bedroom is nice and cool.
The ideal temperate for sleep is between 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows their body to drop its temperature and fall into a nice restorative sleep. Ensure that you have 100% cotton jammies, bedding, and a SIDS safe swaddle on them. Make sure to check the TOG rating chart on the company that makes the swaddle website with the temperature of your room to ensure it is going to keep the baby just warm enough without overheating. A little trick to check if your baby is cool enough, just run your hand under the back of the neck. It should be warm, not sweaty.
4. Turn your white noise machine ON during all sleep sessions.
You want to have a white noise machine about 5 feet from where the baby is sleeping. This will recreate what it sounded like in the womb for them in the last 9 months. This will soothe them and block out any background noise in the home during their sleep sessions. Also, it will become their cue that it is time to sleep in their bassinet when they hear that noise.
5. Having a consistent bedtime routine each and every night.
Establishing a solid bedtime routine from the minute you bring baby home is so important. This will quickly become part of your daily routine with your baby. You want to start with a nice warm bath, followed by applying lotion, putting their cotton jammies on, feeding them, turning on their sound machine, and finally, lights are turned off. Consistency is the key with babies, and keeping the order the same with every sleep session will help them adjust to their new daily routine.
5. How do I know when I should feed my baby?
When it comes to feeding, you don’t want to wait until your baby is super hungry as they may over-eat and spit up everything you just fed them. Keeping baby on a solid feeding schedule will help with knowing when to feed before they reach the point of showing signs of hunger. Babies who are 0-3 months will need to feed every 2-3 hours (8-12 times daily). These are the signs your baby is hungry:
- Licking lips
- Sticking tongue out
- Rooting (moving jaw and mouth or head in search of the breast)
- Putting his/her hand to mouth repeatedly
- Opening her mouth
- Sucking on everything around
6. Have a solid morning wakeup routine for the baby.
Setting a solid morning wakeup routine from day one with your baby is so important. I know how tempting it is to want to just let your baby sleep in some days, but if they are seeing a different morning start time every couple of days, this can impact their daytime sleep and what they distinguish as a nap vs. a continuation of nighttime sleep. Here is what a morning wakeup routine should look like: Wake up every morning at the same time (even on weekends), turn on the lights, draw the blinds, say an excited and happy good mooring to baby, feed, change the diaper, and get dressed for the day.
When you consistently show your baby a pattern of how and when they should eat and sleep, they are comforted by that routine and consistency. Babies and children, in general, THRIVE off consistency; when they know what is coming next and what to expect, it actually reduces stress. Becoming a new mom is stressful enough as your whole life has been turned upside down but, having a set plan for a daily routine will help you all adjust and have a well-rested, happy home.
Leah Nolan is a certified infant and toddler sleep consultant for The Sleepyhead Coach. She resides in Fairfield County, CT with her son and daughter (2.5 years and 9 months old). When she’s helping families with their sleep, she enjoys being out in nature with her kids, riding horses, and spending time with her family. Follow her at @thesleepyheadcoach_leah.