Newborn babies can sleep as much as 16 hours in a single day as they adjust to life outside the womb. They tend to sleep in stretches of three to four hours at a time and wake up frequently to eat since their small stomachs digest breast milk or formula quickly. It can be frustrating to get up multiple times every night, but developing healthy sleep habits early on can encourage your baby to sleep longer stretches, giving you some much needed rest at night.
Recognize the signs that he is tired. Babies can get fussy and fight sleep if they get too tired. Typical signs that a baby is tired including rubbing his eyes, excessive fussiness, yawning and dark circles under his eyes. He might also try to bury his face in your chest or in a blanket. Don't try to keep him up later than necessary in hopes that he will sleep longer at night. Put him to sleep when he first starts showing signs that he is ready for some rest.
Establish a sleep association. Pediatrician Dr. William Sears states that children expect to go to sleep the way that they were initially put to bed, whether your method is rocking, nursing or snuggling. Put your infant to sleep a number of different ways to encourage him to adjust to a variety of sleep associations. Some parents choose to allow their babies to self-soothe, which allows them to put themselves back to sleep, but Sears notes that it can cause problems with trust and make parents less sensitive to their child's cries. The primary drawback of helping your baby fall asleep is that he expects it and can lead to less sleep for you.
Teach your baby the difference between day and night. Change him into an outfit for the day, open blinds and windows to allow light to come in, and stay active and play during the day. Allow him to hear noises such as the vacuum cleaner or washing machine to stay stimulated. At night, dim or turn off the lights and create a calm and soothing environment. Dress him in pajamas to signal that it is night time, and don't talk to him as much. Keep feedings quiet and relaxed so that he learns to distinguish between day and night.
- The AAP advises that parents put babies to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Keep bumpers, pillows and blankets or anything else that can interfere with your baby's breathing and cause suffocation out of the crib or bassinet.
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