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Newborn Sleep and The 4th Trimester

Updated: May 15

The 4th Trimester is a wonderful stage for both parents and babies as everyone adapts. Babies are adapting to the ways of the world, and parents adapting to life with an infant. This isn't to say that it isn't completely overwhelming, and it can take time to adjust.


In the very beginning, the first few weeks, you just need to focus on recovering and bonding with your new baby, learning to feed and enjoying this precious time - this can be easier said than done but focus on rest for you both,

Don't worry about any kind of schedule in the early weeks, or starting any bad habits while you both adjust to your new way of life. Newborn babies do tend to sleep a lot but it is a light slumber rather than a deep sleep. Nevertheless, use this time to get as much rest as you can. Enjoy the beautiful newborn cuddles and learning all there is about your babies!


At this age, babies are mostly only capable of being awake between 45 minutes to an hour. And often it can feel like it is a cycle of feeding and then sleeping! This gap will widen in time, and practicing that feed upon awakening is great here as sometimes it can take most of that wake window to make sure they have a great feed before needing sleep again. Make sure they have a clean nappy, and get them comfortable for another sleep. This may be on you, or in a bassinette/pram - however it is that day. Don't worry much about the "where" in these early weeks, you'll get loads of cuddle naps and some practices in other sleep spaces to to give yourself some free reign where you can.



baby sleeping in basket
Sleeping Baby


Sleep length and nap times will vary in the newborn months. Once they near 3-4 months you may start to see a pattern emerge. All babies are also very different, some need more sleep than others. More is key at this age to avoid overtiredness and upset. Here is a helpful guide to see their ideal wake windows.


What is a Wake Window? This is the ideal length of time a baby should be awake before they hit overtired.



Chart of Sleep Needs from Birth to 3 months
Table of Newborn Sleep

These Awake Times I created above are a MAXIMUM! You'll find that wake windows will be shorter in the morning, and a little longer from that last nap to bedtime as they restore their sleep in the day and can go a little longer.


An example day for a 12 week old baby may look like this...


Wake - 7am

(Wake window of 1hr 15 minutes)

Nap 1 - 8.15am-9am (Wake window of 1hr 15)

Nap 2 - 10.15am - 11.15am

(Wake window of 1.5hrs)

Nap 3 - 12.45pm-2pm

(Wake window of 1.5hrs)

Nap 4 - 4pm -5pm

(Wake window of 2 hours max)

Bedtime - 7pm



Now, these are just a guide! And things will vary in the world of sleep for tiny ones. The key in all of this, is to avoid overtiredness. Overtiredness causes more night awakenings, early rises and sleep fights as they get beyond the 4 month mark. So understanding their rhythms and sleep habits will help with this. Good Day Sleep = Good Night Sleep!!


As for bedtimes - these will generally be later in the first few months as we establish longer stretches and their circadian rhythms (meaning that's when they begin their hours of "night-time sleep," as opposed to daytime naps). As we work on these longer stretches later in the evening, this allows some more time for you to sleep.

As they grow, their bedtime should begin to include a routine and shift earlier. As with everything we discuss here, consistency is key. Keeping "bedtime" and routines consistent each night. If bedtime routine takes around 30-40 minutes - work this into your wake window so not to bring in overtiredness!


0-8 Weeks - 8-10pm

8-15 Weeks - 8-9pm

4 Months and over - 7-8 PM


As they start to form a routine, a sleep diary is always helpful as it lets you see their ideal wake timings, settle times and night habits.

And what helps them to sleep?

The 5 S's - the wonderful techniques that can help instantly comfort your newborn baby! (Dr Harvey Kemp)


Swaddling

This is the most normal feeling to them after being in the womb! That being said, not all babies like this at first. But they will love the closeness and feeling of security with some consistency. It also brings a sense of calm to them. It is advised to stop swaddling in a sleep swaddle nearer the 3 month mark, especially if showing signs of rolling as they could get stuck in position. To wean the swaddle, consider moving to a lighter/loose swaddle cloth before transitioning to a sleeping bag where their arms are more free.


Side/Stomach Position

Cuddles/Calming contact while in a side position/or on tummies (for contact only! Never for independent sleep.) This position helps calm and soothe, chest on chest or close side cuddles help to calm unsettled babies. But for sleep, back is the safest!


Shushing

The "shush" sound - is a sound of serenity! Some babies may only need quiet shushes, other babies or when more unsettled may need louder shushes. Sounds are key, and as said White Noise can also become a rhythmic soothing option.


Swinging

Swinging/motion movement is what are babies know from the womb, which is why is soothes them so well. They don't yet understand static spaces!

This can be helpful in soothing little ones, and easily weaned. Again, some babies need just a gentle swing to help soothe, others a more of a rocking sensation.


Tip - this is a great weaning technique to get your little one used to new sleep environments. Your baby have come from a space where the movement always rocked them to sleep - and they don't understand that need to sleep in static spaces that don't yet move so are adjusting to life without being rocked in the womb!

After the first few weeks, use slower, less frequent movements to slowly allow them to adjust to a more static position for sleep.


Sucking

Whether it be from feeding, bottles, dummy or your finger - this is a soothing technique for many babies until around 6 months.

Notes for suckling beyond 6 months - There is strong evidence to suggest dummies help to reduce the risk of SIDS. Dummies can also be hugely comforting for babies with Reflux. After 6 months, that sucking motion is developmentally needed anymore, but often becomes habit beyond this stage! And by then the risk of SIDS is also significantly reduced.

This is definitely a recommended technique for soothing, but if you find it is becoming more habitual nearer 6m, and a sleep association that is no longer working, it may be time to change things, even slightly. This can be done gently by removing the feed/dummy/finger when very drowsy, when they are just about to fall asleep.


The 5 S's are wonderful techniques to help reduce your little ones discomfort and unsettled times, even out with sleep. Practice and find what techniques work best to help comfort your baby, and build on these into a soothing, consistent rhythm for them going forward. Don't worry about "associations" in the first few weeks, work on the best ways to comfort your baby and find their best soothing techniques. From here that's when you think about moving from these new born cues, and moving away gently from sleep associations that may carry on past the first trimester without some practice in reducing these.


Now, once they reach between 13-15 weeks their learning to sleep changes and these associations become stronger, and more dependant on. This is where we may start seeing longer term sleep challenges occur. So my biggest piece of advice is Sleep Shaping! This is not sleep training, but little things you can practice with your little one to help promote the environments and habits you want to embed and gently encourage some contented independence when sleeping.

This is something I call "Fading Out", and a much slower pace when it comes to Sleep Shaping. The trick here, is to take what sleep association is very much present for your little once, and gently encourage new rhythms.

If you're beyond the first 2 months mark, and there are some associations you can tell are more comfort than sleep related, or hindering sleep progress, or you just want to be able to create the best rhythms and habits from the start - then I highly recommend the Tiny Baby Sleep Course here where we chat all there is on sleep shaping and optimising newborn sleep.


I hope you have found this helpful, and I'm here for any questions at all for you and your little one.

Jade Sleep Nanny


If you're finding it hard to navigate changes in your child's sleep, I'd recommend my support membership system

 here to fully bring consistently great sleep.


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