"When you become a mother, forget about sleep." This is one of the more frequent predictions you'll hear during your pregnancy. It's true, parents will generally lose quite a few hours of sleep during their baby's first year, but the situation is not necessarily as black as it's painted.
Newborn babies sleep most of the day. They will wake up if a wet nappy is making them uncomfortable or because they're hungry, but otherwise they will not be awake much during the first few days. But a newborn baby's intervals of sleeping and feeding are irregular and can therefore be difficult for parents who are used to distinguishing between daytime and night-time. It is quite common for a newborn baby to wake up every two hours to feed, and to feed for almost an hour. But the periods of sleep will get longer every day and the situation will improve.
The first month is not a time to try and teach a newborn baby about daytime and night-time. On the other hand there is nothing wrong with showing your baby the difference between day and night by feeding them lying down at night, in semi-darkness, and talking in whispers.
After the first month you can start introducing the beginnings of a routine. Make sure that days follow a similar timetable and that the same activities always precede putting the baby down to sleep. Always change your baby before putting them down and ensure that the room in which they are going to sleep is quiet. There is no need, however, for the room to be completely dark even during the day.
In the evening, when it is time for bed, first bathe your baby gently in warm water. This will help them to relax. Make sure they are dressed in a suitable sleepsuit and that the room is at a suitable temperature. Babies who are sweating and whose cot is too hot will not be able to sleep well. Finally, feed your baby and gently rock them to sleep. The sequence of activities before bedtime, otherwise known as a bedtime routine (e.g. nursery rhyme or story, bathtime, feed and sleep), should be the same every day. You can adapt it if it's not working for you, but you should try and stick to the timetable.
A wide range of cradles and Moses baskets are available on the market, and also cots of different sizes. Some experts say that for the first two to three months babies feel better in a smaller cot. If the cot is too big, they can feel lost after being in the womb, where there was not much space. It is also advisable to place the baby as close as possible to the foot of a big cot so that they cannot slide under the blanket in their sleep. Babies don't need pillows but you can place a folded muslin square under their head, in case they are sick during the night. This will save you from having to change the bed linen every day.