When you have a newborn or very young infant, a good night’s sleep can seem like a distant memory. Do you find that even when your little one does sleep, they want to be held the entire time? If so, you’re probably wondering, “when will my newborn sleep alone?”
As a Certified Holistic Sleep Coach, this is one of the most common questions parents ask me. They feel like they are always holding their baby, day and night. The minute they try to lay their baby down, it ends in crying and frustration (sometimes for both parties…).
Babies Rely on Parents to Regulate Their Stress Response
Before we go any further – let’s be clear: it’s normal for young babies to be next to their parents 24/7. A newborn’s main goal is to be close to their primary caregiver to ensure their survival. Newborns still require ‘womb to world’ support – this is the fourth trimester, and they need constant closeness. They do not yet have any self-regulatory abilities and therefore require their parent to help them regulate their stress response. That’s why they protest so loudly when you put them down!
So, how can you help your baby feel comfortable sleeping solo for naps? And how can you transition them to room-sharing instead of bed-sharing (if that’s your ultimate goal)?
Natural Ways to Transition Your Baby to Sleeping Solo
The answer? Do what is natural.
- Hold or nurse your baby to sleep
- Rock or bounce your baby to sleep
- Wait until your baby is in a deep sleep, and then attempt to then lay her down in a bassinet
- Wear your baby in a carrier or sling and go for a walk, as motion tends to lull babies to sleep.
To prepare your baby for sleep, make sure that you take them through a brief and predictable bedtime routine. You can consider adding the following:
- A white noise machine to recreate sounds in the womb
- Safely warm your newborn’s sleep space
- Prioritize feeding close to bedtime
- Avoid all blue light
Most importantly, make sure that you follow safe sleep guidelines.
Should you impose a strict schedule or let your baby cry themselves to sleep?
Have you ever heard that you should set a strict daily schedule with your newborn, but you don’t think it sounds doable? Has someone told you to just ‘let them cry themselves out,’ and it didn’t sit well with you?
Your instincts were right. These methods are neither evidence-based nor appropriate because newborns experience erratic sleep, and do not have predictable nap patterns. Holing up in a dark room trying to achieve ‘nice, long restorative naps’ is not a realistic goal. It’s also terrible for your own emotional well-being.
I recommend closeness and bonding, skin-to-skin contact, and normal light exposure. These simple methods are a better strategy than forcing the issue with ineffective methods that traumatize you and your baby.
While you might be aching for sleep, try to remember that the newborn stage is very short. Enjoy as many snuggles as you can, and relish in the closeness. Try the methods above, and your baby will soon be sleeping solo – and so will you!