A baby not sleeping in the first year is normal
Nobody is completely ready for this, but let’s help prepare for your baby not sleeping the first year. Your body stops sleeping well in the third trimester, however, you’re still sleeping more than you can expect in the first 6 months. The first year can be challenging for new parents, especially if a mom is breastfeeding. It is demanding and tiring. But, I am going to attempt to prepare you for the worst and hope for the best like a baby sleeping for 8 hours at 6 months. No promises here! Let’s go straight into the truth about babies sleep habits.
every baby sleeps differently
Even if you feed your baby, diaper and sleep train your baby the same as someone else’s baby, it might go differently for you. That is because every baby is unique and has their own circadian needs. So, eliminate the idea that you have control over this mama. It is okay if your baby sleeps or doesn’t sleep, as long as you are fulfilling their needs (food, safety, diapering, shelter, and love).
Don’t blame yourself if your baby doesn’t sleep well. There is almost no rhyme or reason to why they might wake up more often or not. Some babies sleep through the night at 3 months and some babies never sleep through the night the first year. This study explains how rare it is for a baby to actually sleep through the night the first year (less than half of the babies)!¹ It’s probably best to prepare for your baby not sleeping the first year.
Also, know that it is normal and healthy for a baby to wake up frequently (4 or more times) during the night to feed, especially if breastfeeding because their bodies and brains are growing quickly. They need a constant source of nourishment because breastmilk is quickly processed in their little bodies. Frequent breastfeeding reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).²
Go easy on yourself the first year
Especially in the first 3 months, set low expectations for yourself. In my online pregnancy course, I go over in detail what to expect your baby to do for the first week. I review breastfeeding schedule and their diapering schedule. This can help you prepare realistically. Your baby might be on a good rhythm one night and then she might not be the next night. Try to say yes less and protect your personal time to recoup and recover more. This is easier said if you are not expected to return to work! Pamper yourself as much as you pamper your baby. You will need the support of your partner, friends, and family to get through the challenging first year. This means:
- Ask for help from your friends and family.
- Use your instant pot or crockpot as your main cooking tool.
- It’s okay to not respond to every text, congrats, email, and letter.
- It’s okay to not go to every party or plan a big trip this year.
- Go to sleep immediately after the baby falls asleep, no matter what time it is at night. Put late-night downtime on hold a while. This might be the only 2-3 solid hours you can get!
start a nightly routine
For both you and your baby, a nightly routine can be sleep-inducing and prepare your little one for what’s to come. Routines tend to look like this: a nightly bath, followed by baby lotion and bum cream with a fresh diaper and pajamas on, place them into a sleep sack, then turn on the lavender diffuser, turn on the white noise sound machine, and one last breastfeed or bottle before bed. Having a consistent routine may lead to a consistent sleep pattern. My friend Bek Arascunaga has said that her son, Hugo (see picture to the left) will fall asleep the minute the white noise machine turns on! Just like the Pavlov’s dogs!
Share your room for the first 6 months
Studies show this may reduce SIDS risk, as well as, be more convenient for new moms.² Sharing the bedroom helps you learn your babies feeding cues and it reduces the impact on your own sleep. The less you have to move around, be awake, turn on lights the better to reduce the risk of disturbing your return to sleep after soothing your baby. One positive is that if your baby is not sleeping, they are lowering their own risk of SIDS.
keep the bedroom cool
If your baby is not sleeping well, it could be because they are too warm and sweating. It is very important to not layer blankets or pillows in the crib. Very minimal body coverage is key. “Cool” depends on your comfort level, but a cooler bedroom tends to reduce SIDS and lead to longer sleep patterns.² Try it for a few nights while making sure that your baby has adequate warm layers (a sleep sack) on.
wear soft clothes and sleep bras
If you’re going to be waking up frequently at night, you might as well be in comfortable and versatile clothes. Let’s be honest, you might not step out of these clothes for a few days! A soft bra like this one tends to have very high reviews and makes it very easy to breastfeed late at night with. Kindred Bravely also has some great nursing-friendly pajamas too.
Track your baby’s sleep patterns if you want
Use this free app: Sprout. It’s totally not necessary to track your baby’s sleep patterns, but it might give you peace of mind about how much sleep they are actually getting. It is known that less sleep during the day for a baby, does not equate to more sleep at night. In fact, it can result in a more cranky and unhappy baby. So tracking the amount of sleep they are in fact getting during the day and making sure they are getting enough throughout a 24 hour time span (14-17 hours).³
Lastly, check out youtube
This woman has a lot of sleep hacks and tips to help you and your baby sleep through the night. She is pleasant to listen to (especially if you are sleep-deprived) and very informative. Plus, YouTube is free! I especially found her videos on when to expect your baby to go through sleep regressions to be informative.
This is not intended to be personal medical advice, but instead, general education. Please contact your medical provider for all of your medical care.
¹Pennestri, M., Laganière, C., Bouvette-Turcot, A., Pokhvisneva, I., Steiner, M., Meaney, M. J., . . . Mavan Research Team. (2018, December 01). Uninterrupted Infant Sleep, Development, and Maternal Mood. Retrieved from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/142/6/e20174330
²Reduce the Risk of SIDS & Suffocation. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/Preventing-SIDS.aspx
³Reduce the Risk of SIDS & Suffocation. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/Preventing-SIDS.aspx