When I was pregnant with my first child, it never even really occurred to me to think about sleep. I can still remember sitting down to lunch with an old nursing friend, I was six months pregnant and she had a 9 month old. We chatted about what the first 9 months with her new addition had been like.
During that conversation I can remember her making reference to “awake times”. Awake times?, I thought to myself, then went home and googled everything I could find about awake times. I then realized, after being so very naive, that my baby’s sleep was going to be an ever-changing journey and, boy, was I right. Now, after baby number two, my experience as a Registered Nurse and working as a Mama Coach, I love to pass on some of that knowledge to new Mamas. This brings me to my topic: the perfect bedtime for newborns.
Melatonin and Your Newborn
Until your baby is born, they run off your clock. Maternal melatonin is transferred through the placenta and peaks for them at the same times as it would peak for you, helping baby with sleep. Once they are born, babies lose their melatonin and need to develop their own internal clock. This usually starts to happen around 12 weeks of age. For a newborn their circadian rhythm or sleep and wake cycle is primarily centered around their nutrition. As a Mama Coach, we teach Mamas how to guide their baby through a day and night routine to help them develop their own internal clock.
A routine is key. I generally, talk to Mamas about 12 hours of daytime and 12 hours of nighttime. How do you fill 12 hours of day for your newborn? First, establish a routine for them that looks at feeds to increase their caloric intake during the day. A guide for this is the mnemonic MAMAS.
Activity (small pause in between milk and sleep)
The biggest key to success with newborns and sleep is to keep an eye on their awake times to ensure that they are not becoming overtired. An overtired baby will not sleep well. For a newborn baby an appropriate awake time will be around 45-60 minutes. Remember that your new baby will likely nap four to five times a day.
All babies, even young babies, benefit from a bedtime routine. A bedtime routine cues your baby that bedtime is coming. A great place to start a bedtime routine is a bath. If you have decided not to bathe your baby every night, you could start, instead, by washing your baby’s hands and face. Another essential part of the bedtime routine, especially for a young baby, will be a massage after their bath. Massaging your baby has many benefits but it also aids in melatonin production.
Here is a guide for what a bedtime may look like for your newborn:
Bath/ face wash
Kisses goodnight and then into their bassinet or crib
The Perfect Bedtime for your Newborn
Now, you ask, what time should a bedtime routine begin for a newborn? Well, I wish I could tell you that your new baby will be ready for bed at 6:30pm because I know that most Mamas are exhausted by this time. However, new babies aren’t ready for an early bedtime just yet. Because new babies do not have a developed internal clock and their melatonin levels are not as high earlier in the evenings, a bedtime for a new baby is going to be later. An ideal time to start their bedtime routine would be around 8:00pm, aiming for a bedtime of 8:30-9:00pm. An earlier bedtime will start around 12-13 weeks of age but every baby is different. Remember, you got this Mama!
Having a newborn isn’t easy. You are experiencing a new world that requires new skills on very little sleep and a body that is likely healing from childbirth. If you need some extra support with your newborn, The Mama Coach has a program tailored for newborns, specifically. Reach out to a Mama Coach in your area.