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Newborn Sleep Tips: How I Set My Newborn Up For Good Sleep Habits

Before we dive into this, I just want to preface it by saying that I am not a sleep expert by any means and am just sharing what worked well for us to help my son develop good sleep habits from birth.

Establishing restful and restorative sleep patterns has always been important to me as sleep is essential for developing babies. It’s also important to me as a mom because I’m far less patient if I don’t get enough sleep. 

We always fed on demand — so this is really just a general schedule of how our days went. Sometime he would feed more frequently or sooner and sometimes he would feed less. We let him lead.

I also never let him cry for more than 30 seconds as an infant whether he was going to sleep or not. It’s a controversial topic, but it was important to me to not let him cry longer than that under 6 months old.

As a parent, you learn to cue into your child’s needs over time and you figure out if they’re crying because they’re upset or just letting out frustrations.

My son had a distinctly different frustrated cry versus an “I need you” cry. We would let him fuss if he needed to but more often than not it’s not because he needed us. Even now, he gets frustrated at something and we offer a hug or help but most of the time, he doesn’t want us. He works through his emotions in less than a minute and moves on. When he needed us, we responded immediately to build our bond and let him know we were there for him. 

As he got older, we started working on patience stretching and not responding immediately as he learned to be more independent — but that’s a topic for a different post.  

Sleep tip: Set up a bedtime routine early to help your baby tell the difference between night and day.

We really established “bedtime” early on and put him right back to bed during the night hours with minimal lights and distractions. I’m a fan of a simple bedtime routine that takes 10-20 minutes max. 

We gave him pumped breastmilk during these feeds because he was a sleepy nurser and when he had the bottle it was a more efficient process of feeding him and getting him back to sleep. After about 2 months we stopped nursing and I switched to exclusively pumping (more on that here). 

Below, I’ll walk you through the schedules we followed at different ages and share more about the tools we used during those times. 

Newborn Stage

We used the Snoo from the moment we brought him home from the hospital. He slept in it exclusively for overnight sleep and (most) naps for the first two months of his life. When he wasn’t napping in the Snoo, he was either in our arms or in the baby carrier.

We tried the Dockatot but he wasn’t really a fan so we didn’t go back to it after a few tries.

After he was back to his birth weight, we started letting him sleep 4 hours stretches without waking him up, gradually moving towards 5-6 hours. Make sure you discuss this with your pediatrician because there are many reasons doctors have you wake your child up to feed.  

At this point, his daily wake windows were around 1 hour, his naps varied from 30-90 minutes, and he was feeding every 2-3 hours.

Sleep tip: Use blackout curtains and a sound machine to help your baby distinguish sleep time from awake time.

Starting at 2ish months

My husband went back to work at 6 weeks so we really needed a more predictable schedule for us all. It helped our household run more smoothly and kept us aware of what he needed.

At this point he was in the Snoo overnight and had at least one nap in the crib a day. 

Loose Schedule: 

  • 4 am feed, back to sleep in the Snoo
  • 7 am feed 
  • 9:30/10 nap (usually a stroller or carrier nap)
  • 11/11:30 feed 
  • 12:30ish crib nap in the Merlin suit — I always put him down drowsy but awake for this nap. I would change him, snuggle him, turn on the sound machine, put him in the Merlin suit, tell him I would come get him when he woke up and that I loved him — telling him that was always important to me to establish trust, even if he didn’t fully understand the words. Then I turned off the lights, and sat out of view. I would watch him and if he started to cry I would intervene. But 99% of the time he would turn his head back and forth to put himself to sleep and be asleep in under 2 minutes. If he fussed I would come and put my hand on his chest and most of the time he would go to sleep. 
  • 2:30/3ish feed 
  • 4ish nap (usually in the carrier)
  • 6ish feed
  • 6-9:30 we mostly just cuddled and hung out, he usually took a short nap around 8ish that was 20-30 minutes long, sometimes he would cluster feed during this time of day.
  • 9:30pm Final feed and bedtime in the Snoo.

We mostly followed that schedule until 4.5 months or so when he started pushing the 4am feed back on his own and it would be closer to 6 am and he had one less feed everyday. That feed was a little more unpredictable for awhile — sometimes he would be up at 4 and other times he would sleep later. We just followed his cues.

He also napped shorter around 4 months. Many of his naps would be 30-45 minutes long and he would take 4-5 of them throughout the day. As far as I know this is developmentally normal, just a challenging time. At 4 months we also purchased blackout curtains for his room to help him better establish sleep and wake times.

A tool like the Merlin Suit or a sleep sack can be comforting to your baby.

Around 5.5 Months

He was outgrowing the Snoo’s motion so we turned that off. We could tell because he was frustrated and wouldn’t get to sleep. He was also outgrowing the need to be swaddled so we started putting his arms out in the Snoo swaddles. After he did okay with that, we felt ready to say goodbye to the Snoo.

So we moved him to the crib full time for nights. The first night he slept in the crib was a 6 hour stretch (shorter than what he had been doing in the Snoo). We comforted him and put him back to bed and he did fine the rest of the night. 

He was in the Merlin suit until he could roll onto his stomach and then we used the Nested Bean Sleep Sack until around 7 months old. Then he just slept in footed sleepers.

He was starting to wake up earlier in the nights (2-3 am) so we decided that it was time to follow a sleep training program. We used the Taking Cara Babies course at this point because I wanted a plan when it was the middle of the night and my brain was not as coherent as it could have been.

His bedtime was at 7pm and the first night he woke up around 3 and we had to follow the plan for 45 minutes before he went back to sleep. The second night, he woke up and was back to sleep in 15 minutes and that was pretty much it for us. He then started sleeping 7-6 most nights and now at 15 months, he sleeps 7-7 almost every day. 

We have had less than 5 nights where he has woken up in the middle of the night. He has woken up early a few times (around 5:30) but it’s generally following a growth spurt where he slept extra the week before. 

Sleep training doesn’t mean leaving your baby to cry.

6 Month Naps

At 6 months old he was on a 3 nap a day schedule that lasted until he was around 10 months old. 

He would wake up at 6, nap around 8:30 (crib nap), wake up around 10, nap around 12-2 (crib nap), and nap around 4 for 30 minutes (usually a carrier nap), and then bedtime at 7.

Around 6 months your baby will have a more predictable sleep and nap schedule.

Establishing a Routine

We followed a bedtime routine early on to help him understand what the next step was. Babies can’t tell time but they can tell routines and routines are important cues for helping them wind down.

At first his routine was to change his diaper, change his jammies, feed, diaper change, snuggles, and bed. We never fed him right before he went to sleep. After six months, his last bottle was at least 30 minutes before we started his bedtime routine and after 12 months, his last milk was at dinner time.

Babies can’t tell time. Their cues come from their routines.

As he got older, we gradually changed his bedtime routine to what it is today:

  • Go into his room and close the door
  • Close the windows and say goodnight to the outside
  • Change jammies, change diaper, and put lotion on
  • Get our book to read
  • Cozy up and read our book
  • Brush his teeth (we start, he finishes)
  • Turn on his white noise machine (he actually points to it and then to his crib every night — he likes to turn it on himself)
  • Give kisses and put him in his crib
  • Say goodnight — we will see you in the morning when you wake up 
  • Turn off the light and leave

He’s usually asleep within 2 minutes of us leaving. Occasionally if he is reaching the point of overtired, it will take longer but that’s not as common. 

The Sweet Spot Of Wake Windows

It’s so hard to get an overtired baby to go to sleep. I tried my best to prioritize his sleep schedule around everything else we were doing. But as you probably already know, it’s not always possible to do that. 

I tried to be very aware of how long he had been awake and when to expect his next nap. He would fall into this sweet spot where he was passing the line of “I’m tired and ready to sleep” and there was a window of time (probably a 10-15 minute window) that I needed to put him down in before he reached the “I’m overtired and we’re both going to struggle” point. 

When I put him to sleep (drowsy but awake) here, he would generally put himself to sleep easily. His self-soothing behavior was rubbing his head back and forth and when I saw him doing that, I knew he was going to go to sleep. 

Learn your baby’s “sweet spot of sleep” and bedtime will go more smoothly.

What I Would Do Differently

Looking back, I would have introduced the Merlin suit sooner. It was a great tool for us as his startle reflex woke him up in his sleep a lot as an infant. 

Other than that, I probably would have taken the earlier Taking Cara Babies sleep courses. Knowing how to help my son sleep felt intuitive to me but in her later course (the 5-24 month course) she talks about different processes and tips that would have helped me in the harder moments early on.

I would also have bought blackout curtains sooner. He napped fine without them until about 4 months but I see it now as a tool to help establish the difference between sleep time and wake time and I think introducing them when the baby is younger is a good idea. p;,p,.

As I see it, sleep is a skill, and it’s something we can help our children learn given the right tools and strategies. I think well-rested babies and mamas get along much better and it leads to less overwhelm all around.

I’m also an advocate for safe sleeping spaces and not a fan of bed-sharing but that is your decision to make for yourself. 

About the Author

Nicole Booz is the founder of GenTwenty and GenThirty. She is an entrepreneur, author of The Kidult Handbook, and most importantly, Mama to two beautiful little boys. She loves reading, organizing her home, and living a simple, less toxic lifestyle. You've seen her in The New York Times, TIME, Insider, Inside Edition, New York Post, NextAdvisor, Forbes, Yahoo, HuffPost, and U.S. News & World Report.


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