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If you’re a new mom who’s feeling overwhelmed with all of the needs of your little one, one of the best things you can do is help them to build a healthy foundation for sleep. Sleep impacts how we handle all of the other aspects of our life, and the same goes for your baby.

Here are the top 5 most important things you can do to ensure your newborn is set up to have great sleep habits that will follow them through the rest of their life.

  1. Newborn Sleep Needs – According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, newborns should sleep approximately 16-18 hours in a 24 hour period. At around 3-4 months of age, that number reduces to 12-16 hours, and that will last through the rest of their first year of life. This is important because an overtired baby will have difficulties with things like feeding, going down for sleep, and staying peacefully asleep.

 2. Awake Windows – A newborn up until about 3 months can only stay awake for 45-60 minutes in between sleep! That short time frame has to fit in feedings, so make sure you are paying attention to it. Staying awake too long will also lead to being overtired, so being mindful of awake windows is a skill to carry as a parent through the next several years as well. At 3 months you can make the awake window 90 minutes, at 4 months you can make it 2 hours, at 5 months it can stretch to 2-2 and a half hours, and at 6 months it should be about 2 and a half to 3 hours. Once you get up to a year it can be as long as 4-5 hours.

3. How They Sleep – For the first 6- 8 weeks of life, there are only two stages of sleep: REM and non-REM sleep, each taking up 50% of their sleep. Around 3 or 4 months they will start to develop more cycles in their sleep, which commonly leads to a sleep regression. If their sleep is inconsistent around these ages, its totally normal. Your baby is developing cognitively and they are learning how to sleep among many other things, so have some grace both with them and with yourself.

4. Intake Management – Your little one will be eating the same amount for the entire first year of life, which is 24 – 32oz. If they’re getting that amount or a good portion of it during the day, they’ll be able to sleep more overnight and won’t need to wake up for a feeding. If you’re nursing, however, you don’t necessarily know how much intake they’re getting. You can set up a weighted transfer with your pediatrician. They will weigh the baby before and after a feeding to see how much they are getting.

5. Set Expectations – The first year of life is crazy! You might think you have their sleep all figured out and then BOOM – sleep regression. Set realistic expectations of yourself and your baby. So much is happening in their little minds as they grow. They won’t follow a consistent routine because they just aren’t able to yet. The awake windows are more important here than the specific timing of when the nap is. If baby wakes up 15 minutes earlier one morning, they should still only stay awake for the recommended awake window. Remember, there will be setbacks, and that’s totally OK! You and your baby will figure it all out.

It’s a lot – but don’t worry, download my Free Newborn eBook and get started with a plan.

If you haven’t already, feel free to join my Slumber Made Simple Facebook Group, which is a collection of parents who share their struggles with sleep and get support from each other and from myself. I also host live Q&A’s and trainings, so it’s a great place to get some extra tips on sleep.

Courtney Zentz is an Award-Winning Author, Baby Sleep Expert and Founder of Tiny Transitions. Her background as a Pediatric Sleep Specialist, Lactation Counselor, Postpartum Doula and Sleep Coach to her team of Sleep Consultants around the world provides parents with a solution to their sleep struggles, that is backed by science and balanced with your love and support. 

The mission of Tiny Transitions is to teach healthy sleep hygiene and parenting education to parents and their babies, toddlers and young adults who struggle to sleep through private sleep consultations or their more intensive 12-month program, Making Over Motherhood.

Named by Tuck as a Top 200 Sleep Professional in the United States, Courtney is a 4x “Best of Philadelphia” Sleep Consultant. She writes & contributes to Fatherly, Yahoo, Thrive Global, Medium, Nectar, Romper, Parentology, The Sleep Sense Show, and Bustle among others in the field of Pediatric Sleep. Courtney hosts The Kids Sleep Show podcast, and is a frequent guest with companies like Slumber Pod® and The Magic Sleep Suit® Company. Courtney resides just outside Philadelphia, with her husband Adam and two children, Max and Sovella. She has always felt passionate about making sleep & healthy living a priority in her family’s life and Tiny Transitions would welcome working with you. Setup a Free Preliminary Sleep Evaluation with Courtney or a member of her Slumber Squad®