You can lay the foundation for healthy sleep right from the start! By applying these sleep shaping techniques, your newborn will be able to take restful naps and have a good night’s sleep.
Danielle Daly is a certified pediatric sleep consultant residing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with her husband and son. In love with her family, food, fun and of course a good night’s sleep! Her gentle approach to sleep has helped more than 200 families around the world get back to restful nights.
Understanding newborn sleep can be quite complex. Add to that a tired mom and dad, and you can easily find yourself in survival mode. Don’t get me wrong, even with a good sleeper, you’ll still be sleep-deficient from time to time. However, understanding a few key elements of newborn sleep can help you anticipate and know what to expect.
You can lay the foundation for healthy sleep right from the start! By applying these sleep shaping techniques, your newborn will be able to take restful naps and have enjoyable nights.
1. Avoiding Fatigue
Babies need lots of sleep! You may be surprised to learn that the average newborn sleeps between 16 and 18 hours per 24-hour cycle. This is divided between night and day. Your baby will be able to handle 45-60 minutes of waking before needing a nap. By offering your newborn a nap at these intervals, you can avoid fatigue and sleep better during the day and night.
Newborns can sleep just about anywhere, and one of the most popular places to sleep is in your arms. Newborn cuddling is not only the best, but it’s also an important time for you and your child. No doubt, there will be plenty of cuddling, but you may think that your baby will only sleep if he or she is in your arms. You may wonder how to create better sleep patterns for your little one (so you can wash your hair, get ready for the day, drink your coffee, etc.).
Start by trying to get at least one nap in his bed. The easiest nap to start with will be in the morning. Start this way and slowly work your way up to adding more naps. By doing this, you are providing your baby with a safe, structured space to learn to fall asleep in his crib and to become familiar and relaxed in that environment.
When putting your baby to sleep, consider using a crib without blankets or stuffed animals. Using a baby monitor, such as Angelcare’s, will help you keep your eyes and ears on your baby while sleeping peacefully.
3. The right environment
Our babies are not born knowing what time it is. This can cause them to have a slight confusion between day and night. To gently help your newborn establish his circadian rhythm (which takes 6-8 weeks), walk around in the stroller during the day or place your baby near a window with good sunlight when he is awake.
This doesn’t mean that baby needs to sleep in a brightly lit room. For naps and nighttime, the optimal sleeping environment is a cool, dark room (18-22 degrees) and a white noise machine. The white noise mimics the womb and provides a soothing environment for the newborn. When your baby wakes up at night for a feeding, turn on a dim light so that you can see enough to feed him, but avoid stimulating him with lights such as the TV or phone. You can also use a small nightlight with a red or yellow bulb. These small environmental changes are important for good sleep hygiene and help prepare your baby’s body for sleep.
4. Establish a routine
You can start your routine the day you get home from the hospital. Although it may take a little time, there are a few steps you can take to create a consistent routine that will prepare your baby for sleep. A bedtime and naptime routine are essential for a newborn to calm down and prepare his body and brain for sleep. Pre-nap routines are quick and easy and last about 5-10 minutes (diaper changes, swaddling, cuddling). Bedtime routines, however, will be slightly longer, lasting about 30-40 minutes, and will include a bath, a drink, swaddling, or cuddling). The more regular your schedule, the more your baby will understand when it’s time to sleep and be ready to go to sleep.
During the day, structure is also important, but routines with a newborn will be a little more flexible, as nap length will certainly vary (20 to 120 minutes). By following the popular Eat, Play, Sleep routine, you can ensure that your infant receives full rations upon waking, has a stimulating activity, and then naps. However, don’t worry if you’re having trouble keeping your baby awake at every feeding: newborns are sleepy. Your toddler will have short naps that may interrupt the “schedule”. Keep track of your baby’s day by writing down his feeding and sleeping times to help you observe his natural patterns.
5. Give yourself a break
Being a new parent is one of the greatest joys of all. It can also be exhausting. While you work very hard to provide the best for your newborn, it’s important to note that some days will be difficult and others will go smoothly. And that’s okay! It takes time for babies’ sleep to improve, but implementing these steps will go a long way toward laying the foundation for healthy sleep for years to come.
Taking care of yourself is an important step in taking care of your loved ones. Try to carve out some time for yourself when you sleep or if you have a family member or friend helping you. The first few weeks can be a whirlwind so make sure you take good care of yourself too.