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Newborn Series: Mastering Sleepy Cues and Wake Windows



This month at Dwell Pediatric Sleep, we're diving in to our tiniest friends - NEWBORNS! Today, I want to talk some foundations of building rhythms and routines with these little ones. With my firstborn, I remember I was legitimately dying for any semblance of routine. But I had no idea how to make that happen or where even to begin.


While it's virtually impossible to get on a true clock schedule those first few months, you can build some predictability into your days by really honing in on your baby's wake windows and sleepy cues.


So let's start with the basics. What's a newborn? For these purposes, I'm going to be defining a newborn as a baby between 0 and 12 weeks of age. For babies in this window, they are going to need to sleep after 45-90 minutes of awake time. After 90 minutes, your baby is going to grow overtired and become very difficult to put down. (True story - I remember telling my husband after our daughter had been awake for over three hours early on how incredible she was for being so alert. Spoiler alert - her mama had no clue what she was doing back then, and she was so exhausted that it took her literally HOURS to go to sleep.)


But that's quite a range, 45-90 minutes, right? So how do you really hone in and find the sweet spot? This is where it's critical to know and be able to watch for your newborn's sleepy cues.


This can look like:

- Yawning

- Turning away from stimuli

- Slight redness around the eyelids and eyebrows

- A peaceful, glazed over or zoned out look

- Pulling at ears

- Jerky movements or an arched back


If you start to notice these cues during that time window, go ahead and try to start the process of falling asleep. Rock, nurse, offer a pacifier, snuggle, swaddle, or lay down awake and offer a gentle pat. Don't stress about your newborn falling asleep independently yet - they NEED your assistance falling asleep at this age, so don't worry about spoiling them! The good news is you CAN'T spoil a newborn! So as much as you can, enjoy it! :)


Coming up later this week - lengthening those short naps!

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