Even during the first few months, your baby's sleep needs will change dramatically - as will his bedtime habits. So, keep up to speed with our guide.
If there are no problems with latching on and feeding, and your baby is otherwise healthy, he should sleep a lot in the first few weeks. ‘In the first month or so, forget about strict routines and just focus on establishing feeding (whether that’s by breast or bottle), nappy changing, keeping him warm and cuddling him,’ says Tina Southwood, M&B sleep consultant and maternity nurse (sleep-baby-sleep.co.uk).
But that doesn't mean you can't encourage him to take large, spaced out feeds rather than lots of short ones. If you get your baby into a good pattern of feeding right from the start, it sets you up for things to go smoothly. 'If you’re breastfeeding, offer your baby the breast every two to three hours, whether or not he’s asking for food - but if he wants more, let him have more,' says Tina.
Again, you need to follow this pattern through the night, which may mean waking your baby for him to feed - this is because you want him to take good regular feeds.
‘Let him have a good long feed from one breast,’ says Tina. ‘Then, if you think he’s getting sleepy, take him off and change his nappy. This is a guaranteed way of waking your baby up. Now that he’s alert again, offer him a feed from your other breast. He may not want any, which is fine, but you’re teaching him to take in what he needs. You’re also teaching him that this is a time for feeding, rather than a nice, soothing place to fall asleep.
If you do find your baby is falling asleep on your breast, another thing you can do is remove some of the clothing from his legs. He won’t feel quite so warm and cosy, so he’s less likely to drift off.’
Typically, your baby will sleep for up to 20 hours in the first several weeks. This sounds great, but he’ll also wake every few hours for a feed.
Your sleep trick
'Swaddling in the first few weeks reduces the startle reflex and can help your baby sleep longer'
‘My top tip for all new mums is to try swaddling,’ says Tina. ‘Babies have a strong startle reflex that can wake them up. Swaddling in the first few weeks reduces this and helps them rest for longer.’ This wrapping technique creates a slight pressure around your baby’s body, mirroring the secure sensation he felt in the womb.