Whether your newborn baby is your first child, or you’ve been through the newborn sleep struggle that can come with all babies in the first several weeks before, most people know even before having a baby that they’re likely to lose sleep.
The first few weeks of a baby’s life can be a constant battle of sleep and wake, and when night falls and you’re exhausted from taking care of your new bundle of joy all day, you want nothing more than a few solid hours of quality sleep.
Unfortunately, more often than not, those hours are interrupted several times throughout the night. Having a newborn doesn’t have to mean 24-hour exhaustion, and believe it or not, there are certain things you can do to help alleviate some of the newborn sleep struggles that come with a new baby.
Try some of these helpful tips to get your newborn on a solid sleeping schedule, and hopefully get some rest for yourself in the process.
1. Swaddle Your Baby
This may seem like common knowledge for most people, but exactly why we swaddle babies can sometimes be lesser known. From birth, until about four or five months of age, babies have a natural ‘startle reflex,’ which can cause them to feel like they’re falling.
That may not be a comforting thought to consider when thinking about your baby, even if nothing is really wrong. Still, this falling feeling can cause babies to jerk themselves awake suddenly. By swaddling your baby snugly, it can help to alleviate that feeling of falling, and your baby will sleep more soundly.
You can swaddle with a blanket, or do a bit of research – there are plenty of ‘sleep sacks’ available nowadays that make it easier to comfort your baby by keeping them wrapped up safely.
2. Limit Naps
Whenever you get a chance to get something done or get some rest while your baby naps during the day, it can feel like paradise.
However, if your baby sleeps too long during the day, it can interrupt their nighttime routines, and they won’t want to sleep through the night. If your baby naps for longer than two hours, try gently waking them up, feeding them, taking care of their needs, and then setting them back down for another nap if they still seem tired.
3. Follow A Newborn Sleep Routine
Babies thrive on routines and structure, and actually do well on a day-to-day basis when the routine is relatively the same.
It’s a good idea to make sure their nap and bedtime routines stay the same as well, as it can help them sleep more soundly. Before bedtime, try a longer routine, such as a bath, reading a story, feeding, swaddling, cuddling, turning on white noise, etc. Before a nap, the routine can be a bit shorter – perhaps a story, lullaby, etc.
However, if your baby associates these routine things with sleep, they will have an easier time falling into dreamland, because you’re giving them the time, and tools to do so comfortably and quietly.
4. Don’t Keep Them Awake
This is an important tip to follow, especially when you’re considering how long to let your baby nap during the day, as suggested above. While your baby shouldn’t nap their entire day away, it’s also important to make sure they’re getting enough sleep, both day and night.
Some people think that by keeping a baby awake during the day, or for longer periods of time, you can ‘tire them out,’ and they’ll sleep through the night. Actually, it could end up being just the opposite. An over-stimulated baby will actually have more trouble sleeping, and could sleep for shorter periods of time.
This could result in exhaustion in many different forms, could make your baby cranky, etc. Look for the signs that your baby might be tired during the day, and let your newborn nap.
5. Independent Sleep
It can be difficult for a parent to simply let their newborn sleep independently, but teaching them to sleep well using the tips above, and letting them fall asleep on their own can actually save a lot of time and stress in the long run. Adults wake up throughout the night all the time, and babies are no different!
However, we, as adults, know how to fall back asleep on our own, and babies oftentimes do not if they haven’t been encouraged to sleep independently. If you allow your child to learn how to fall asleep on their own if they wake up, chances are, they’ll pick up on it quickly, and be able to soothe themselves back to sleep in no time.
Every baby is different, depending on personality, age, their sleep patterns up to this point, etc., but these helpful newborn sleep tips can really make a difference in the overall sleep habits of newborn babies.
If you’re currently expecting, these are great little solutions to keep in mind, so you can start practicing them right away.
Ultimately, you’ll know your baby better than anyone else, and chances are you’ll be able to pick up on their own little ‘quirks’ – how they express their tiredness, how much sleep they need in a day, etc. Don’t be afraid to use your own intuition and natural expertise that comes with being a parent to cater to your baby’s individual needs.
But, keep these tips in mind as a general guide, and you and your baby can both experience a more restful night of sleep. If you have any questions, contact your pediatrician.