How do Sleep and Postpartum Doula Care Work Together?


Over the years, as a newborn care specialist and postpartum care support for families has been an enriching experience. If you are getting into the field or have been a postpartum doula for a few years, there is something extraordinary about what we offer to new families. 


There is a fantastic feeling when our clients hand their baby to us and say, please take care of our baby. The trust is unbelievable, and the care we offer our new client gives us this high. It's very addictive to support families. 


If you work longer than four weeks, a lot of times, clients ask us at some point do you sleep shape or support the baby to sleep longer stretches? When I started my career, I was focused on overnight feedings and care, but the more jobs I got, the more sleep became important. 

My newborn care specialist course didn't dig into sleep because it wasn't the focus of care, so over time, I started researching ways to help the baby sleep longer stretches safely. 


I realized there was a system that did support parents and babies over 12 weeks. My goal became bonding and chestfeeding/bottle feeding for the first four weeks, allowing parents to grow with their baby; this helped when I needed to start implementing a daily and bedtime routine. 


Around 4-5 weeks old, we implemented a bedtime routine it could be 6 pm,7 pm, or 8 pm. I try not to be any later unless it's a sports family with a late schedule.


We worked on bedtime with bath, massage, feeding, burp, and swaddle in bed all by sleep. The baby is waking up early, so the day needs to start at 6 am, meaning bedtime is 6 pm. As the baby gets older, you can shift to a later wake-up. 


What does that mean? Establish waking up every day at the same time and bedtime simultaneously. During the day may vary, but parents need to understand their baby's feeding and sleep cues. That's our job to teach. 

You might be reading this and saying that babies don't work on a clock or have connecting sleep cycles until four months old, and you are right to a point, but I've learned that babies are remarkably consistent over the years. Babies have expectations that we are expected to respond to feeding, pee/pooping, sleep, and grow.  

If your goal is to sleep shape over 12-16 weeks, here are my must-haves:


Step 1- establish bonding and feeding.

Step 2- four weeks, establish wake and bedtime.

Step 3- starts moving each nightly feeding by 1 hour- hold, pacifier. 

Step 4- eight-nine weeks- start watching the baby for signs they are ready to remove the swaddle. 

Step 5- transitions to a swaddle sleeve pod 'my transition sleep sack.'

Step 6- continues to stretch feedings by week and hours, such as ten weeks old is 8-10 hours of sleep. 


You have started to move ounces slowly to the daytime feedings to get to this point. We are not removing feedings at night, just shifting. 

You can start to see a pattern developing over the weeks, and as we know, babies will have growth periods; when that happens, we adjust for the baby to eat and sleep during that time of growth. 


Giving the gift of sleep is priceless. As a postpartum doula and or newborn care specialist, you are given a powerful time to guide and support parents. To learn more about my programs, you can reach me at [email protected]


Written by Summer Hartman ICNCS

Certified Sleep Consultant


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