One of the most challenging aspects of parenthood is navigating the sleepless nights following the birth of your new baby. Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for both babies and parents. Establishing healthy sleep habits early on can make a significant difference in a baby’s sleep patterns. To help prevent those difficult sleepless nights, here are ten tips to improve your newborn’s sleep at night.
Tips to tackle nighttime sleep problems
Every child is unique. Some babies sleep far more than others, but about one-third of babies have difficulty sleeping. Newborns may also go through stages where they sleep through the night, only to start waking again. This can be related to teething, illness, or life changes like moving to a new home. When it comes to helping your baby sleep better at night, there are several tips and strategies that can be beneficial.
1. Understand newborn sleep patterns
It is crucial for parents to understand newborn sleep patterns so they can be better prepared to promote healthy sleep routines for their babies. Newborns tend to have shorter sleep cycles, sleeping anywhere from 11 to 19 hours per day and waking multiple times to eat and get their diapers changed.
Some babies start sleeping through the night more quickly than others. But just like adults, they require adequate sleep to function. Newborns should take multiple naps throughout the day and eventually sleep for longer periods at night. It is common for babies to wake up every 2-3 hours at night in the first couple months.
2. Why baby sleep is so important
Sleep is as essential as proper nutrition when it comes to your baby’s growth and development. Nighttime waking is inevitable, especially in the beginning, but creating good sleeping habits will promote optimum health, wellness, and happiness for your baby. Adequate sleep schedules have the following positive effects:
- Healthy growth and physical development
- Enhanced cognitive development and maturation
- Improved memory, language, and executive functioning
3. Establish a bedtime routine
Parents should implement a consistent newborn bedtime routine to give babies environmental cues that it’s time to prepare for sleep. Choose a specific bedtime for your baby that works best for your family, and be persistent as much as possible.
If your household wakes up early, then it’s best to put your baby to bed around 7 or 8 p.m. Some parents choose to make bedtime later in hopes that their baby will sleep in longer. Sometimes, this technique works, but if a baby continues to wake up early, it’s best to make bedtime earlier.
Helpful bedtime activities that prepare your baby to start winding down may include the following:
- A warm bath
- Rocking your baby
- Quiet reading time and snuggles
- Playing gentle classical music or lullabies
Instituting your specific bedtime routine will get your baby accustomed to nighttime sleep expectations.
4. Create a safe, sleep-friendly environment
Ensure that your baby’s sleeping environment includes a quiet, dark, and comfortable space. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to create a safe and effective sleeping space, babies should sleep in their cribs, on their back on a firm mattress, and without any loose blankets, pillows, or toys.
Turn off bright lights and use curtains over the windows. Create a quiet space by using calming music or sound machines that can help reduce outside noise from waking your baby. Always practice safe sleep to help prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
5. Follow newborn feeding guidelines
If a baby is not getting enough to eat, they will wake and cry more frequently throughout the night. Babies should be fed every 2-3 hours or 8-12 times within 24 hours. Ensure that they are eating enough times throughout the day and appear satisfied after each feeding and they should have 6-10 dirty diapers per day.
6. Pay attention to your baby’s sleep cues
Babies show us cues that they are tired and require sleep. Fussiness, rubbing their eyes or yawning indicate your baby needs sleep. Recognizing these signs early can help you put them down for naps or bedtime before they become overtired.
7. Encourage daytime napping
It may seem counterintuitive that overtired babies have more difficulty sleeping, but adequate daytime napping helps prevent exhaustion and actually promotes better nighttime sleep for babies. A well-rested baby will have an easier time settling down at night and is much more pleasant while awake.
8. Avoid overstimulation before bedtime
Limit stimulating activities close to bedtime and create a calm environment in the hours leading up to sleep time. Dim the lights, turn off the TV, play calming music, and encourage a quiet and relaxing atmosphere. Playing with loud toys that have flashing lights or watching the TV with the volume turned up can keep your baby from getting sleepy.
9. Stop crying quickly with the 5-minute carrying technique
Researchers have found a simple trick to get your baby to stop crying and fall asleep faster. Carrying your baby in your arms for at least five minutes will help to soothe a crying baby. After your baby falls asleep, wait at least 5-8 minutes before placing them into bed to prevent reawakening.
10. Consistency is key
Attempt to establish consistent wake-up times and bedtimes every day to help your baby regulate their internal sleep cycle. Babies get used to their daily routines, so they thrive on consistency.
By implementing these useful tips, you can create a supportive sleep environment and help your baby develop healthy sleep habits, leading to better nights for the entire family. Your baby’s health, physical growth, and cognitive development rely on adequate nutrition and sleep.
The importance of tracking your baby’s sleep
Understanding the patterns and duration of your baby’s sleep can provide valuable insights into their overall health and well-being. Your pediatrician will likely ask you about your baby’s patterns of eating, sleeping, and dirty diapers. The Baby Daybook app is the perfect tool to track your baby’s sleep and daily patterns. The app provides parents with the perfect organizational system to monitor all of the vital details of their baby’s day.
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Tham E.K.H., Schneider N., and Broekman B.F.P. Infant sleep and its relation with cognition and growth: a narrative review. Nature and Science of Sleep. 2017:9 135–149. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov [Accessed October 2023]
Helping Babies Sleep Safely. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov [Accessed October 2023]