A newborn baby is not physiologically capable of sleeping through the night, due to his small stomach size and need for frequent feeding, according the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. By the time your newborn weighs about 12 to 13 pounds, he should be physically able to sleep for between six and eight hours at night. This leaves you struggling to get your newborn to sleep at night for the first few months of his life.
Turn the lights down low and keep them dim once evening arrives and it’s time for baby to go to sleep. Eliminate noise and commotion to create a calm environment. This quiet environment eventually teaches your baby that nighttime is for sleeping and daytime is for being awake and playing.
Dress your baby in comfortable pajamas so that he stays warm without overheating. It’s important to avoid overheating your baby due to the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), warns the American Academy of Pediatrics. The appropriate room temperature is one that would keep a lightly clothed adult comfortable.
Watch your baby for cues that he’s becoming sleepy. Generally, catching your baby when he first becomes tired is the best time to move him toward sleep instead of waiting until he becomes overtired and overstimulated because he may have trouble settling down if this occurs. Sleepiness cues include rubbing eyes, yawning, fussing and refusing to hold eye contact.
Begin a nighttime routine, even with a very young baby. The bedtime routine helps your baby relax and learn that bedtime is coming. Your routine might include bathing, pajamas and rocking in a quiet room with a lullaby. Continue snuggling your baby until he becomes drowsy, but don’t allow him to fall asleep in your arms, warns MayoClinic.com.
Place your drowsy baby on his back into his bed. Placing your baby into bed awake helps him learn the important skill of falling asleep without parental intervention and assistance. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not placing loose bedding or soft items in the baby’s bed, including pillows, bumper pads and blankets, to reduce the chances of SIDS. Babies can wear sleep sacks and blanket sleepers that keep them warm in bed without blankets.
Provide your baby with a pacifier if he needs soothing to fall asleep. You might talk softly to your baby also to help him drift off to sleep. If he cries incessantly, pick him up and help him calm down and become drowsy once again before putting him back in his bed.
Respond to your newborn when he cries during the night. Keep the lights low and change your baby’s diaper if it’s wet or dirty. If it’s been more than two hours since he last ate, feed him. Burp your baby and try to encourage him to become drowsy again so you can place him back into his bed to sleep.
Items you will need
- Sleep sack or blanket sleeper
- Pacifier (optional)
- Some babies respond well to swaddling to help them feel secure and calm. If your baby has difficulty settling down and cries after you’ve taken care of all his physical needs, author and pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp's website recommends swaddling a newborn to simulate the snugness of the womb.
- Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Standford: Newborn Sleep Patterns
- Web MD: How to Set Good Sleep Patterns for Your Baby
- HealthyChildren.org: A Parent's Guide to Safe Sleep
- American Academy of Pediatrics: AAP Expands Guidelines for Infant Sleep Safety and SIDS Risk Reduction
- Happiest Baby: 5 S’s System May Help Colic Symptoms
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