A few weeks ago, I attended a speaker session for mamas-to-be that focused on infant sleep and safety for newborns.  Janeen Hayward of NYC & Chicago-based parenting resource Swellbeing was the speaker, and she offered many insights on an issue that I think terrifies most new moms, and basically helped answer the question: WILL I EVER SLEEP AGAIN?

The answer: yes. And your baby can too.

Here’s the important stuff to know: 

  • SIDS risk is greatest between 8-16 weeks, during winter months
  • A firm mattress (preferably organic), air circulation, swaddle, pacifiers and sleep sacks will all reduce the risk of SIDS
  • No bumpers, blankets or toys in the crib!
  • The American Pediatric Association recommends sharing a room (not a bed) with your baby until 6 months
Optimal sleeping situations for infants:
  • Babies should always sleep on their back until they can roll over on their own, usually 3-4 months
  • The temperature in the room should be between 68-72 degrees. Watch for sweating or flushed cheeks to determine if baby is too warm
  • Swaddle your baby until 3-4 months. A swaddle will make the baby feel secure and remind him of the womb, and will decrease the chances that the baby will move and startle himself awake.
  • Babies should be dressed in a onesie, pajamas and a swaddle (3 layers), each made of breathable cotton fabric
  • White noise is essential, and must be played continuously throughout the night in case the baby wakes up. This will help him self-soothe back to sleep.
  • Keep room as dark as possible (use blackout shades if you need to)

Infant sleep associations:

  • The less the baby associates movement, feedings and other external stimuli with sleep the better. The sooner they disassociate these things with sleep, the sooner they will sleep through the night. This includes rocking, nursing, putting the baby in a swing or stroller, walking around, etc.
  • Baby should be put in crib or bassinet drowsy but not asleep. Always try to let the baby fall asleep lying flat (not in your arms) even for naps, so he will being to associate that feeling with dozing off.
  • Help baby differentiate between day and night by programming their body clock. Keep room pitch black at night, but allow some natural sunlight to shine through during the day.  Develop a nighttime routine before bed, and a shorter routine before naptime.

Other fun facts: 

  • During the first 12 weeks, you can’t do anything wrong. Focus on bonding with the baby and developing a eat/sleep schedule of 2-3 hour rotations.
  • 12-16 weeks is a big developmental stage for the baby, so begin developing sleep routines at this time.
  • At 16 weeks, babies can sleep 11-12 hours without a feeding.
  • Newborns can only be awake 45 minutes - 2 hours at a time. If they’re awake for too long, their body will produce cortisol which keeps them awake longer and sends them into the “I’m fussy and exhausted and can’t fall asleep” stage. Avoid this by watching the baby’s cues (eye rubbing, dazed off look) and keeping track of the time.
  • Babies will often go to sleep easier for others (meaning not their mama) because you are their comfort, food and entertainment. To them, everyone else is boring!

I found all of this fascinating… but also kept in mind that all babies are different and will need different things to develop a healthy sleep pattern, as I’m sure all new moms who have gone through this can attest! Nonetheless, this is a great starting off point for the first 3-4 months.

What were some of the biggest lessons you've learned about infant sleep?