You don’t know what you had until it’s gone and man does it ever resonate when it comes to sleep. For my husband, sleep has eluded him for some time, he’s the light weight. However, I have slept thru earthquakes, literally. In college, I had to have a special supersonic alarm clock that my roommates HATED to wake me up. Yet, I’ve been a newborn photographer for years now and I will tell you that when I had my 2 kiddos it was a whole different story. I learned many hard earned lessons about sleep patterns, bedtime routines, teaching your baby good sleep habits and a few sleep tricks that sometimes are baby specific. Which is why I want to help all the new moms, moms to be and even dads struggling at night to give them my newborn sleep secrets.
I put this list together back when my kids were little and having sleep issues. And I am finally sharing it for all the pregnant moms and newborn parents out there! Between my years of experience as a newborn photographer and raising two kids of my own, I have learned a lot of newborn sleep secrets. Getting your newborn baby to sleep is one the hardest things to do consistently but it really makes the world of difference for the whole family. I have six key newborn sleep secrets to share with you. I’ll outline them here but I’ve also included a downloadable guide with all the info, at the bottom of this post. Before I forget, I want to give a shout out to Baby Cannon who’s photos I’m using here. I did his newborn photos and his cake smash session and he is such a cutie!
6 Amazing Newborn Sleep Secrets – From a Newborn Photographer and Mom
First of all, scheduling is king! This is probably the most important step for a sleeping baby. When your little one was in the womb, their biological sleep pattern might have been more active at night and sleep during the day. A pregnant woman walking around is basically rocking that baby. Newborns generally do sleep most of the time, about 20 hours a day. As they get older though that number decreases.
Thankfully, babies are pretty amazing and they are able to learn a schedule and adapt to it, even from newborn age. If they go to bed at the same time every night, their bodies will learn that that time is time to sleep. Helping them learn the difference between naptime and bedtime is also important. I started making bedtime extra special by giving my boys a bottle, a warm bath (98 degrees) and applying lotion on them right before bed. Then they associate those special things with bedtime. Teach your baby the bedtime routine. It makes it easier for them to sleep through the night instead of treating it as another nap. I included a sample schedule to get you started in the downloadable guide.
My second tip is to give babies liquids when they are awake give solids before bed. When my kids were still under 4 months old and still on breastmilk or formula only, add a little oatmeal cereal (not rice) to give a little more to sit in their tummy. When your doctor gives you the okay to introduce solids, you can limit the liquids right before bed. I find that it keeps babies from waking up with a wet diaper in the middle of the night. When they wake up from their nap, let them have that milk or formula as much as they like. They will pee it out well before their next long nap.
Babies also need the right environment to sleep in. Although, I was always so jealous of babies who could sleep through anything! Lol! All babies are different though and some need more help than others. In my case, serious not a drop of light for my kids. We had to cover the windows with cardboard to keep all the light out. Next, I ran air conditioning in their rooms at night and during naps for temperature control, fighting SIDS and white noise. Last, instead of blankets, I did chenille or microfleece type baby sheets.
Top Newborn Photographer Sleeping Tip
My next newborn sleep tip is actually one they teach you in the hospital. It’s called the 5 S’s – sucking, swaddle, side, swaying, and shhhh. First, you give them a pacifier to suck on and calm them down. Then, you swaddle them and lay them on their side in your arms. Swaying or lightly bouncing the baby also helps calm them down and fall asleep. And lastly, saying ‘shhhh’ loudly in their ear as they fall asleep. You can actually buy a Baby Shusher to do this for you.
Tip #5 is actually a bit of cry it out. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but if you are reading this, you are the one that will have to do this. Grandmas and memaw’s won’t do it. Many partners (especially in my case daddys) can’t stand doing this. Think about it. If that baby is sleeping with you or you have that monitor on, you are at your baby’s side or at their beck and call in what, 10 seconds? You have to let them cry and settle themselves. That means if they just ate an hour ago, giving them a pacifier. Or if they peed a bit and want to be changed, put some diaper cream on them at bedtime and you will know they are ok in that wet diaper to wait for another hour.
My last tip is helpful for as your baby grows. My recommendations for all of the in-between, kid-specific things that may or may not work depending on your baby. Of course, these did actually help my 2 boys. Diaper extenders as well as A+D with zinc were lifesavers for my boys. In my opinion, swaddling is a common sleep tip but babies tend to break out of these at around 4 months. Zippys (they look like flying squirrel zipper suits) and sleep sacks are great for older babies because they keep babies contained and feeling safe while still letting them wiggle and move around.
Don’t forget that even after you teach your baby these newborn sleep secrets, your baby will change, regress and you will have to do a refresher course. Teething absolutely SUCKS, especially for my boys and they slept horribly while cutting new teeth. In addition, they might also regress because they are practicing rolling, crawling or climbing even in their sleep. Have you tried any of these newborn sleep secrets? What has worked best for you? what tips would you add to this list?
Haven’t had your baby yet? Take a look at our Hospital Checklist for baby coming in a few weeks!