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Sleep and Newborn Babies - How to Help Your Baby to a Better Sleep Pattern.

Updated on August 2, 2016

Newborns don’t have many needs beyond being clean and dry, warm, fed, cuddled and able to sleep. And as the joy of your newborn mixes with the fatigue that follows her birth, you need your sleep too. So how can you make this happen?

Your bundle of joy will sleep for about 18 hours in every 24 and will wake for feeding, cuddling and changing quite frequently in that time. Her stomach is small so she will need to be fed every 4 hours and that’s the main thing that will wake her. However she doesn’t really appreciate the difference between night and daytime and needs to learn this from you. In other words, now is the time to teach her about a daytime routine and night time sleeping because that way you will get some rest too.

For more on getting better sleep - as an adult or a little one - look at

Helping (you and) your baby to better sleep.

  • · Encourage night time sleep by having a day time routine and an evening routine before she goes into her cradle/bassinette and the lights are turned down. In the day you play, have the lights up, activity etc and in the evening she has a bath, a change of sleep suit, music etc.
  • · Decide where baby should sleepat night – there’s more about this topic in the babies and sleep section at
  • · Anxiety around your role as a new parent, or even as an experienced parent with a ‘difficult’ baby, is hard to deal with, especially as she will pick up on this. Talking to other parents about their experiences may help you to become more confident.
  • · Hold her securely (but not too tightly) and talk to her gently and confidently; watch other parents and talk to your midwife or paediatric nurse about how to handle her. Stay calm, tell yourself that every parent has to start somewhere and that you and your baby need to get to know each other.
  • · Enjoy your time with your baby. It’s hard when you’re tired and anxious but treat it as get-to-know-you time and have fun playing and watching her. Smile, even if you don’t feel like it and remember that it will get easier.
  • · As you get to know each other, learn the signs that indicate she’s tired. The National Sleep Foundation recommend putting her to bed when she’s tired, rather than when she’s asleep. This way she learns to settle herself to sleep and becomes what experts call a ‘self soother’ and doesn’t need you to be present in order to feel confident about falling asleep.
  • · Watch her as she sleeps and you’ll see that she will probably cry, grizzle, fuss and twitch a lot when she’s unconscious. This means that if you hear her making these noises you don’t have to rush in to pick her up – she’s already asleep!
  • · As the months pass you’ll get to know what different cries mean. If you pick her up every time she cries she may become a ‘signaller’, which means that she can’t settle without you and knows how to get your attention. Knowing how to get your attention is a good thing but not if she calls for you all the time but doesn’t actually need you. The slow but gentle road to building her confidence and helping her understand that she’s safe on her own begins by waiting for a few moments if she cries as she may settle by herself.
  • · If you’re worried about her health, talk to your paediatrician. A parent’s anxiety can make a baby anxious and he may suggest this but don’t be upset or feel blamed – your doctor wants to help.
  • · When you see your paediatrician it may help to have a note of how long and how often your baby feeds, cries and sleeps if sleep is a problem. How many daytime naps does your baby have? When she cries, what is she doing with the rest of her body – are her legs held into her chest, does she appear angry etc? Keep a balance and don’t let note taking become an obsession though.
  • · Could baby massage or baby yoga help?
  • · Helping your baby learn a good sleep routine now will mean better sleep for her and all the family for the rest of her baby- and childhood.
  • · Taking time with and advice from other parents is really important. No one has all the answers and we’re not born knowing how to be parents.


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