In those first several weeks baby sleeps all the time, regardless of where they are or who is holding them. And then, just like that, baby no longer sleeps well during the day without purposeful intervention on your part.
At or around six weeks of age baby starts “waking up” so to speak, and it’s at this point that you must help them develop good sleep habits.
Don’t worry, even if you haven’t been on a routine up until this point, it’s easy to get baby on track and can typically happen after 2-3 days of consistency on your part.
Ready to get baby to sleep better (or at all!) during the day?
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The three biggest reasons your newborn isn’t napping during the day
Reason #1: You haven’t mastered baby’s awake and sleep cycles
By far, this tip is the biggest game changer when it comes to getting your baby to sleep! As I briefly mentioned earlier, once babies “wake up” around six weeks, they no longer sleep well without intervention. Rather than pretty much just waking to eat, they now have clearly defined awake times.
Each baby is different, but in general here’s the awake/sleep cycles to look out for during those first few months:
At six weeks of age:
Baby can likely stay up 45 minutes to an hour
At two months of age:
Baby can probably stay up 1-1.5 hours
At three months of age:
Baby typically can stay up 1-2 hours at a time
Now, remember what I said earlier: every baby is different. The absolute key to mastering this is to pay attention to your baby’s sleep cues. Each baby is different, but in general, baby will start to:
- Move arms and legs sporadically and with force (cues for both of my girls)
- Starts to fuss
- Gets annoyed with toys (this will come later at 3 months or so)
- Stares blankly
- Rubs eyes
- Must be held to be soothed
If you’ve read anything by baby sleep experts, a lot of these “signs” are actually signs of being overtired. But darn those babies if they aren’t hard to read, because most won’t exibit too many signs at all before they start to display the classic “I’m tired” signs like moving jerkily or yawning.
The best advice I can give is to pay attention to the clock while you’re getting to know your baby’s “hey, put me down for a nap, now!” signs. If your baby is six weeks old and they’ve been up for 50 minutes and they’re just starting to fuss, it’s time to put them down for a nap!
Reason #2: You aren’t swaddling
Chances are, your baby can sleep great until that pesky moro reflex startles them and wakes them out of dead sleep. Unfortunately, this reflex won’t disappear until 3-6 months of age, but fortunately for you, you can work around that by swaddling your baby for naps (and at night, too!)
I know, I know, some babies don’t “like” the swaddle. Mine included. Once I learned this tricks, they loved the swaddle and slept insanely better:
I used Dr. Harvey Karp’s famous five S’s to help baby calm down in the swaddle and it was like a lightbulb switched on…it instantly calmed my babies:
Step 1: Swaddle
Step 2: Turn baby to their side (away from your face)
Step 3: Recreate the sound they hear in the womb by making a “shuushing” sound over and over. Shuush. pause. Shuush. pause, and so on. This mimics the sound of blood flow they heard all day while they were in the womb.
Step 4: Introduce motion. Again, recreate the womb atmosphere by jiggling baby. Different than rocking baby, to do this correctly you’ll put your hand under babies head (when they are sideways, facing away from you) and bobble them as you gently jiggle baby. Your hand should be supporting baby’s head and neck while you do this.
Step 5: Introduce the pacifier. I know, I know, you’re either pro paci or not, but honestly, it just makes those newborn days so much easier.
If you’ve followed this method exactly baby should be calm and drowsy–perfectly ready for sleep!
Please note: Once baby is four months old or shows signs of rolling, it’s time to drop the swaddle!
I always felt very uneasy about using swaddle blankets as I felt like they’d come undone. Here’s some of my favorite swaddles:
We used the swaddle me for back ups, but the halo sleep sack was my favorite with both of my babies. The halo is pretty cool because you can swaddle arms out once they start to show signs of rolling.
Reason #3 The sleep environment isn’t set up properly
There’s a few very simple things you can do to completely transform the way your baby sleeps. Here’s the top three things to do to set up the perfect sleep environment:
Get black out curtains
You don’t want it to be super bright wherever you lay baby down. In my experience it doesn’t have to be pitch black for babies to sleep, but it does need to be dark.
Use white noise
This made the biggest difference for my babies and still helps my toddler sleep well, too! You want a something that has a consistent noise (not like the ocean moving in and out) and does not shut off after a certain amount of time. If you just set the white noise for 1 hour or so it can actually wake up baby when it goes off.
Bonus tip: You’re expecting too much
If your baby is under three months of age, you might just be expecting too much in terms of naps. I know I was certainly guilty of this. Even three and four months can be hard too, but guess what? It does get easier! If you can try to get in a good first nap of the day (which is typically easiest for babies to do successfully) and then just be super excited if they nap well the rest of the day.
Being consistent with putting them down the moment you notice sleepy cues, setting the right environment and swaddling will go a long way towards setting them up for successful naps as they age.