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How to add waketime to your newborns day when your newborn sleeps all day. Tips to get your newborn sleeping for naps and all night.
I know I have mentioned my waketime strategy for newborns in a post in the past, but it wasn’t the topic of the post. I get enough questions about it that it is obviously not easy to find, so I will outline it here.
My strategies in this post really apply to the sleepy newborn. If your newborn is like my son was, he doesn’t want to sleep and you have no trouble keeping him awake unless it is time to nurse. I will link posts on keeping awake while nursing/bottlefeeding at the end of this post.
If your newborn is like my oldest daughter, however, you will put 110% of your effort into keeping her awake without any success. You can hold her straight up and she continues to snooze. She loves her sleep. That is wonderful and all, but you know you need to add waketimes to the day to ensure she sleeps well at night, learns the difference between night and day, and gets some learning time in. Here are my steps to adding waketime for your newborn. First I will write out a sample feeding schedule so we can all be on the same page:
9:30–eat, treat as dreamfeed. No waketime afterward.
11:00–possible feeding if baby will take it. Again, no waketime following this feeding. If you have another feeding at this time, you might feed at 9 PM instead of 9:30.
How to Keep a Newborn Awake
Here are six rules to follow when your newborn sleeps all day and you want to get some wake time happening.
RULE 1: From day one, always work to keep baby awake during feeding times. See Sleepy Newborns and Baby Whisperer: Feeding a Sleepy Newborn for ideas on how to accomplish this. What happens after the feeding is over will depend on where you are in your efforts.
Your baby is 0-1 week old. During week one, don’t even worry about it. Let her sleep, and you in turn sleep as much as you can. Even my son was very sleepy this first week. Babywise says during week one to simply focus on establishing nursing (if you bottlefeed establish that). It also says to not even pay attention to the clock, so just take this week to focus on yourself getting all the rest you can.
RULE 2: As you start to add waketimes to your day, be sure you are keeping waketimes to an appropriate length. Remember that for a newborn, 30 minutes (including feeding time) might be all she can handle. See this post for help in figuring out the optimal waketime length for your baby: Optimal Waketime Lengths
During week two (your baby is between 1-2 weeks old), choose one cycle in the day to start to try to keep her awake. Write down your desired schedule and decide which time of day would be best for you to try to keep her awake. Maybe it is in the evening when Daddy is home. Maybe it is the first waketime of the day. This is the first one I did. I assumed it would be the easiest one since she had been sleeping without any waketime all night long.
Think of an activity that is likely to keep her awake. For me, this was a bath (or sponge bath and washing of hair before the umbilical cord fell off) in the morning. Remember, don’t keep her up too long. Start slowly. Take the entire week to get her to stay awake for this one waketime. You aren’t in a race. Take it at her pace.
RULE 3: As you are training your baby to stay awake for a waketime, keep in mind that it will take effort on your part. While she is adjusting, you likely can’t leave her to lay somewhere by herself–even at a toy gym. She will fall asleep. Once she is used to staying awake for that period of time, you can change your activities so you aren’t her sole source of entertainment all day, but while she is learning, be wary of leaving her to her own devices.
WEEK THREE:During week three (your baby is between 2-3 weeks old), choose another cycle in the day to add some waketime to. You will now have two waketimes in the day. Again, don’t keep her up too long and work up to it throughout the week. The second waketime I added was after her 4 PM feeding. My husband gets home close to the time she was done eating, and Brayden usually wasn’t up yet, so it was some good time for him and her to spend together.
RULE 4: As you add more waketimes to the day, try to stagger them. For example, don’t start with the first two waketimes of the day. Do a waketime, then just let her sleep, then a waketime, let her sleep, etc. You can stagger them ore than that if you want to (one in the morning and one in the evening). She will be more successful at staying awake if she is better rested.
Your baby is between 3-4 weeks old. As in other weeks, add one waketime to your day, so you are now up to three. At this point, some babies might be able to add two. Many start to be more awake at this age, but some (including my daughter) are still very sleepy. This was the age my son started to reject the idea of sleeping in the day (remember we didn’t start BW until he was 9 weeks old). The third waketime I added was after the 10:30 AM feeding. We occasionally ran errands and/or had visitors after this feeding, so it was a convenient time to have her awake for a bit.
RULE 5: Growth spurts can really throw things off. 4 weeks is a typical growth spurt age, so be on the lookout for it. Your baby won’t nap as long, so waketimes will likely need to be shorter. Watch for the nap cues (see Nap Cues and Sleep Cues from the Baby Whisperer). Also, once the eating portion of the growth spurt is over, the sleeping portion begins. Your baby will be more tired.
WEEK FIVE:Your baby is between 4-5 weeks old. The babies who did not become more alert in week four often do in week five. Again, you add a waketime to your day, but if your baby is more alert, you might be able to add two. You will be up to four if you are doing one per day, and five if you have done more than one during a week. Kaitlyn was sleepy, so we just dropped one. We added the waketime following her 6:30 PM feeding. This was a time for the family to be together and also get ready for bed.
RULE 6: If you find your baby is really sleepy, you can prolong the addition of another feeding if needed. Perhaps you will take two weeks to add one waketime to the day. Maybe a week and a half. If your baby is very alert, you can add more than one waketime to the day, just be cautious to not add too may at one time. These strategies are not set in stone. Adapt them as useful to your family.
WEEK SIX:Your baby is between 5-6 weeks old. You can again add a waketime to the day if you are still working on it. This should complete your waketimes. Your baby’s optimal waketime lengths might be extending also, so be mindful of that. Also, 6 weeks is another growth spurt time. The last waketime I added was after her 1:00 PM feeding. One reason for this is that for the first four weeks, I napped at this time since Brayden was napping. Another is that it was her hardest time of day to stay awake.
You should now be done! If not, continue adding waketimes as needed. Again, your baby might need to start slowly, but can add them quickly as she gets older. She might need to take things more slowly. Take things at her pace. Each baby is different. Don’t feel stressed out to add all waketimes all at once. It will all come with time.
Read more about what to expect with newborn sleep here: