5 Important Things New Moms Should Know About Baby's Sleep
Subscribe Search

5 Important Things New Moms Should Know About Baby’s Sleep

A baby's sleep is more important than most new moms realize. From a mother of four, here are a few things that make a big difference.

Published September 19, 2018 Opinion

by Quinn Kelly

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

If you are a new mom, you probably know babies can be notoriously bad sleepers. All of my boys have had different baby sleep issues. As a baby, my first son was the lightest sleeper in the world who hated naps. My second son slept well as a baby but sleepwalks now. My third son still hasn’t recovered his normal sleeping patterns since transitioning to a toddler bed almost ONE YEAR AGO. With my fourth son, I focus more on developing healthy sleep habits early.

5 Important Things Every New Mom Should Know About a Baby's Sleep

Along the way, I’ve learned some things that make a big difference that I was unaware of when I first became a mother. While I cannot say they would have changed entirely my experiences, I think they could have made a big difference. This is why I want to share them with you today. And especially if you are starting on the journey of sleep or sleeplessness with your first.

5 Important Things About Baby’s Sleep

1. Sleep Habits are Important.

This sounds strange and obvious, but I never knew my first child’s sleep habits were anything to focus on. Instead, I focused on loving my son and wasn’t thinking about much else. While I feel that it’s (the most) necessary for a mom to bond with her baby after birth and get feeding established (I cannot highlight that enough) — I would say that establishing a healthy sleep routine should come next, especially if you plan to have more than one child.

Baby sleep, Motherhood, No sleep

2. Breastfeeding to Sleep Does Not Help You Long-Term.

I am a huge proponent of breastfeeding. It would be a lie to say I’m anything else. I added up all the months I breastfed until now with my fourth son, and it’s a total of 70 months! I LOVE it. However, when I first became a mom, I looked at the breast as an end-all, be-all tool for everything related to baby. And it is. However, if the breast is always used to put a baby to sleep, I have found that most babies won’t naturally outgrow that pattern, which I initially assumed. If anything, it encourages a night-waking habit where a baby wakes up and wants to breastfeed to go back to sleep.

For my first son, this didn’t bother me. But with my second son, I realized consolidated sleep for myself and my baby was needed to sustain enough energy to make it through the busy days of motherhood. And it seemed they began waking more as they got older instead of less. This led me to put them in bed with me. While I love co-sleeping, the more children I’ve had, the more I see why this pattern is sometimes unrealistic. There is a great benefit to teaching them to fall asleep on their own. While I am NOT a proponent of obsessing over scheduling a baby, BabyWise by Dr. Gary Izzo and Dr. Robert Bucknam focuses on helping parents develop a schedule that stops eating to sleep patterns from forming if you want to learn more.

3. A Sleep Object is Beneficial.

Introducing a pacifier, stuffed animal, and/or blankie from the start can help you. My kids have never been drawn to an object, but I noticed children with a sleeping object could be signaled for sleep in various settings. As mentioned earlier, it also helps break the association between eating to sleep. We have always struggled to put our kids to sleep in an environment that isn’t their bed, but having some kind of object can help. (Sleep tip: If you travel often, occasionally have your child nap in their pack-n-play at home so that when you travel, the pack-n-play isn’t a foreign setting to them. Read more travel baby sleep tips.)

Baby sleep, Motherhood, No sleep, Lovey, Sleep object

4. An Overly Cranky Baby Resists Naps.

Before having my first son, I assumed you knew a baby was tired when they started acting cranky. And that once you notice they seem tired, you lay them down. But I’ve learned that when a baby is cranky, it is infinitely harder to lay them down than if you catch them in their window of drowsiness (not crankiness). And when you wait for cranky, you either have to find an elaborate routine to get them to fall asleep or listen to a lot of crying. And neither is fun. So, learning more about a baby’s natural sleep patterns is helpful!

Did you know the average baby gets drowsy after one hour to one hour and a half of wakefulness? But many parents do not know this. They keep them in a stimulating environment for too long, which gets them overtired.

5. The Earlier the Bedtime, the Better the Sleep.

An early bedtime may seem counterintuitive, but is it ever true. Essentially, the more rested a baby is, the less they resist sleep and will sleep better. I initially thought that if a baby is kept up until 10 p.m., they will sleep through the night better. I started reading about sleep and discovered a common theme amongst varying approaches to sleep: the earlier a baby is laid down, the better they tend to sleep at night. I first learned about this in Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth, and I have found it true. For more details, check out his book.

5 Important Things Every New Mom Should Know About a Baby's Sleep

All Babies are Different

Now, to not set you up for feeling bad, I think knowing that no two babies are alike is also essential. No matter how much of an expert you are in sleep, every baby has its own personality and likes. Some babies naturally love sleep and do not fight it. One parent could have great habits and still have a baby that resists sleep. Another could never do one thing to help promote good sleep and have a rockstar sleeper. It’s not always fair! My first son would wake up from sleep with the creak of a floor. But my fourth son sleeps better when he is surrounded by noise. My two-year-old has always slept better with someone beside him, and our family friend’s daughter can only sleep in a quiet room alone.

All this to say, every baby is different no matter what you do. And if your baby doesn’t sleep as well as your friend’s baby, you are not a failure. They are different. And give yourself some grace. I hope some of these tips are helpful to you. Cheers to good sleep!

Was this article helpful?
  • Author
Quinn Kelly headshot
Quinn Kelly Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
  • Website
  • Social
  • Social

Quinn is a mother of four, licensed marriage and family therapist, host of the “Renew You” Podcast, and author of “Raising Boys: A Christian Parenting Book.” Throughout the last decade,… Read more

Subscribe to our newsletter