Getting your newborn to sleep

Do you have trouble getting your newborn to sleep, or are you finding yourself pushing a pram around the neighbourhood for hours on end, willing your baby to slumber?

Talk to other new parents just about anywhere and you will soon find that you are far from alone.

And with an overwhelming amount of advice available in parenting books and online, new parents can be forgiven for not knowing which way to turn.

Mary Kirk, the director of nursing and midwifery at Canberra's Queen Elizabeth II Family Centre, said new parents struggled with this issue.

"We see parents who have worked in high-performing positions and all of a sudden their little one has brought them to their knees."

In an interview with ABC Radio Canberra's Laura Tchilinguirian, Ms Kirk said Canberrans were spoilt with maternal and child services designed to help.

"Primary health services, general practitioners and the QEII Family Centre are all available," she said.

"Number one lesson to learn is [parenting] is not a test, so there's nothing to fail.

"Give yourself permission to accept help and think about the sort of help is most useful to you ... be it from services, friends or family."

Ms Kirk said parents should seek help before reaching breaking point.

"Not getting enough sleep for the parent is the equivalent of being severely jetlagged.

"It's so important to seek help so you don't end up in that space."

How much sleep do babies need?

While newborn babies can sleep for as much as 20 hours a day in their first weeks of life, Ms Kirk said most of that time could be spent resettling and comforting.

"When it's your baby, it never feels like they sleep that much," she said.

"We all go through sleep cycles of deep sleep and light sleep and we often lighten between those cycles.

"A newborn baby spends most of their sleep in a light sleep state.

"In that light sleep state they may appear to be waking and you can jump in and respond really quickly and unfortunately then you've got a fully awake baby."

How important is routine?

Routine becomes an important part of establishing good sleep after the first six weeks.

"We say to families that in the first six weeks [just] survive," Ms Kirk said.

"In that first six weeks, get to know each other.

"In those early days, give yourself permission to close your eyes when the baby closes its eyes."

By accepting offers of help from family or friends, new parents can take much-needed opportunities to rest.

"You are not the entertainment officer," Ms Kirk said.

"Slow down and don't look at the dust in the corners."

From six weeks to three months, Ms Kirk said babies would start to engage in a pattern of pre-sleep behaviour.

"That's when you really get into a routine.

"It doesn't happen really early nor by magic.

"There's not one right way, it's about what works best for you and your baby."