Before a newborn comes along, a growing collection of organic cotton onesies with oh-so-cute animal prints was your modus operandi. Then the joyous reality of parenthood hits and it becomes clear that the best gifts for your baby are sleep and nutrition. Leanne Palmerston, co-owner of Hamilton Family Doulas, explains that babies generally double their weight within their first 6 months of life and says, “that’s a huge amount of growth which requires regular sleep and feedings.”

How do you win at providing these life essentials? Well, first of all, stop keeping score, whether it’s about establishing a sleep routine, choosing to breastfeed exclusively or deciding how much formula to feed a newborn. “Turn off the noise and that includes what your family, friends and social media are saying. There is no one best way to do things,” explains Leanne. She advises focusing on what’s most comfortable for you and your family so everyone can thrive while meeting baby’s needs.

Sleep. Wake. Repeat.

Leanne says embrace your newborn’s natural need for sleep and trust a healthy sleep routine is in their future.

Counting the hours. “Newborns generally sleep 16 hours within a 24-hour period. Those occur in cycles of waking, feeding and sleeping, where sleeping can range from 1 to 3 hours. While getting less than 16 hours could be normal for your baby, ask your doctor if you should be concerned about an underlying condition that could be keeping them from getting more sleep.”

Watch and rest. “Sleeping cues include the 7-mile stare; that’s when a baby looks into the distance in an unfocused way. Tired or red-rimmed eyes are also signs and as they get older, if they start yawning or rubbing their face, it’s time for baby to go to bed.”

Settle down now. “How to help baby sleep is an individual choice for parents. Some parents decide to nurse or cuddle their baby to sleep while others may decide to try sleep training.” Providing gentle pressure with a swaddling blanket or swaddle-style sleeper all help baby feel cozy and fall asleep too. Each family is different and finds their own sleep routine for their child.

Sit back and relax. “Babies can sleep up to 3 hours in 3 separate chunks if you let them. They’ll sleep for an hour, then squirm or grunt and fall back asleep. Later, they will squeak or cry out and fall into a deep sleep again. Give them a chance to soothe themselves and wait to feed, change or settle them until they protest loudly.”

Watch. Feed. Learn.

Confused about how much breastmilk or formula to feed a newborn? From when to feed to how to feed, these guidelines are a magic mix of observation and intuition.

Look for feeding cues. After a newborn wakes from a nap, look for moving or restlessness coupled with raising their hands to their face; these motions are usually precursors to the hunger cry. Leanne adds “also look for fish kisses or when they’re sticking their tongue out often”.

Follow baby’s lead. “If we allow baby to express their own feeding cues and we respond to them, then the baby will overall be taking in the proper nutrition,” says the seasoned doula. Monitor their weight with your doctor and if necessary, consult an infant feeding specialist or an international board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) to help your babe get the nutrition they need.

Follow your instincts too. “Some parents choose to introduce a bottle or formula for a newborn as an on-going strategy so the main caregiver can take a break from breastfeeding,” explains Leanne. “Whether you choose to breastfeed, express breastmilk or supplement with formula, feeding decisions are personal and should be met with zero bias.”

Supplementation if required. If you choose to supplement with formula, to help encourage baby to take formula, try mixing it with your breastmilk, pick a bottle nipple similar to their pacifier and ask a friend or family member to feed them—a newborn may not take a bottle from a mama because they associate her with breastmilk only.

How are you embracing life with your newborn? Share your thoughts!