Expert tips on how to help your new born sleep well those first few nights

The fetal position mimics the snugness of the womb, helping babies feel secure. Picture: Kampus Production/Pexels

The fetal position mimics the snugness of the womb, helping babies feel secure. Picture: Kampus Production/Pexels

Published May 20, 2024


Bringing a newborn home is a momentous occasion filled with joy, anxiety and a host of adjustments.

One of the primary concerns for new parents is ensuring their baby gets adequate sleep while navigating the frequent and often distressing episodes of crying, especially during the night.

Interestingly, one effective way to soothe a newborn and promote better sleep is by mimicking the fetal uteri position.

During pregnancy, a baby spends around nine months snugly nestled in the mother’s womb. This environment is tight, warm and slightly curved, hence the reason newborns naturally seek the fetal position after birth.

The fetal uteri position, where a baby’s arms and legs are curled up and their head is slightly forward, mirrors the snug, protective environment of the womb.

There are benefits to the fetal position. Picture: Supplied

Benefits of the fetal position

Comfort and security: The fetal position mimics the snugness of the womb, helping babies feel secure.

Reduces startle reflex: It limits sudden arm and leg movements, reducing the startle reflex that can wake them up.

Promotes better sleep: It creates a soothing environment, encouraging longer and deeper sleep cycles.

Sleep deprivation is common among parents with newborns. Lack of sleep negatively affects your physical, emotional and social well-being. Tired babies face similar issues and might struggle to learn positive coping mechanisms for stress.

Jen Spiro, an occupational therapist and social worker who co-founded the nurtureOne™ nesting cushion, says the special cushion was designed and endorsed by medical professionals to meet the sensory needs of premature babies.

It is used in intensive care units (ICUs) across the country. Full-term babies, especially during their fourth trimester, can also benefit from the cushion. Newborns can use it until they outgrow it, typically around seven months.

According to Spiro, The nurtureOne™ nesting cushion mimics the calm and secure feeling of the womb, helping babies develop good sleep patterns.

The fourth trimester is the 12 weeks immediately after you have had your baby. It is a time of great physical and emotional change as your baby adjusts to being outside the womb, and you adjust to your new life as a parent.

Newborns only truly “become babies” after about 3 months.

According to Spiro, It is therefore very important, during the fourth trimester, to help babies make a gentle adjustment to their new world outside the womb.

The sleep environment for your newborn baby should mimic the womb environment. In other words, the environment for your newborn should promote a sense of calmness and quiet, and should also mimic the rhythmic movement of the foetus in utero without too many bright lights and distractions.

This can make a huge difference in how the baby sleeps, feels, and reacts to everyday events and stimuli. 

You need a nesting cushion, which assists with a snug position for sleeping (like the experience they have in utero), and also encourages relaxation.

The following tips may be useful to help your baby sleep well:

Understanding your baby's sleep cycle

Understanding your newborn sleep cycle can assist you in having a clearer appreciation of their behaviour. During the light sleep cycle, your baby will tend to wake easily from noise but during the deep sleep cycle, they will sleep heavily.

Be aware of babies' sleep cycles; 45-50 minutes from drowsy to light and into deep sleep. The period of deep sleep is vital for the recuperation of their bodies and their growth and development.

Providing the necessary boundaries like a nesting cushion does, can keep your baby contained and secure, and therefore optimise their sleep cycles and help link the cycles during night time.


Keep your baby’s sleep environment or space consistent.


Encourage self-regulating sleep by offering a sleep soother. This will limit separation anxiety from the mother or primary caregiver, which occurs usually between 4 and 6 months.

The sleep soother in turn encourages independent sleep whether co-sleeping or sleeping in their crib.

Examples of sleep soothers include a dummy/pacifier, blanket, or even something as simple as a nesting cushion that becomes part of the sleep routine. If your baby needs more assistance with self-regulation and calming, a nesting cushion can be beneficial.


During your baby’s wake cycles make sure that they get enough movement. Baby's development is aided by activities like walking in a pram or a kangaroo pouch or sling and communicating with them in an upright position.

Holding your baby while humming softly and rocking them rhythmically will encourage sleep (mimicking the fourth trimester).

If you are putting your baby down, remember to put their bottom down first, then their head, otherwise they may wake from an innate reflex. This is part of the calming reflex and mimics the movement your baby experienced in utero.

Sleep routine

Try to establish a sleep routine for your baby from early on. This will prevent an overload of stimulation which can affect your baby’s sleep.

"It is important to be realistic, adopt a flexible approach and accept that you will have ‘bad days’ from time to time," said Spiro.