Help, My Newborn Won't Sleep Through the Night!


Help, My Newborn Won't Sleep Through the Night!


You've brought your bundle of joy home from the hospital and you're just in love. He slept the first couple days, which was great...but now he doesn't know the difference between day and night! You've tried soothers, lotions, noise machines, and bottles, but your baby is still waking frequently, wanting to feed day and night. WHAT GIVES? You're desperate to know...WHEN will my baby sleep through the night? Here's what you need to know...


Newborn Sleep Cycles Are Not the Same As Ours!

We're used to going to bed at night, sleeping all night, and being awake and active all day. Or we try to, at least! As adults, our sleep cycles adjust to a natural circadian rhythm. Hormones like melatonin and cortisol, which control when we sleep and wake, are affected by light and dark. If we're healthy and following good sleep habits, we have longer sleep cycles.

Expecting newborns to have the same sleep cycles as us is a mistake! They're totally different when fresh out of the womb, and our best bet is to adjust our expectations and develop coping strategies while waiting for them to start developing natural circadian rhythm around 12 weeks of age – and five to six months before babies are developmentally capable of sleeping through the night.


How Newborns Sleep

If you're feeling like your baby is constantly waking up, well, you're probably not wrong. A newborn's sleep cycle is about 50 minutes long, and 20 minutes of that is probably going to be REM sleep. Unlike us, babies in REM sleep will often grunt, flail, and otherwise appear to be about to wake any second. This is a biological safety mechanism and much safer for a tiny baby than a deep, quiet sleep of an adult.

Babies can sleep anywhere from 30 minutes to four hours at a time before waking to feed. Cumulatively, they may sleep as much as 18 hours a day in their first few days! When they turn one month old, they may only sleep 9-10 hours.

Don't worry, we would never suggest that you just throw up your hands and suffer through the sleep deprivation. Your baby needs you to be alert and patient and okay. Here are our best tips for maximizing your baby's sleep:


Include your baby in your normal schedule.

Don't overthink it too much: when you get up in the morning, sing some happy wake up songs to your baby. Encourage them to be awake and talk to them and play with them. In the evening, use quiet voices, dimmed lights, and create good habits for your baby to start noticing. When waking to feed at night, avoid turning on all the lights and speaking or making a lot of noise.


Help develop your baby's circadian rhythm with light

Put your baby in the sunlight upon waking, and at other times during the day. At night, avoid artificial lighting as much as possible and let your baby sleep in a completely darkened room. Light and dark have major effects on the hormones which dictate sleeping and waking. Some studies have shown that babies whose parents observed these suggestions were able to develop a strong circadian rhythm.


Get help during the night.

This is our most powerful suggestion, because it allows both you and your baby to get your needs met at the same time. Having a trusted and loving person to take care of the changing, burping, and feeding (or bringing baby in for nursing) all throughout the night while your mind and body are restored by rest can truly make all the difference when it comes to a more peaceful - and less stressful - newborn waking phase.


Our postpartum doulas and newborn care specialists are here to ensure that your family gets off to an awesome start with professional overnight infant care. I'd like more info about overnight newborn care in Milwaukee.