The beginning of a child’s life is such a special time. After so much anticipation and excitement and hard work to prepare a little nest, there the little one comes. Your baby is even more perfect than you could have imagined. You’re obsessed. You would do anything for your new member of the family, to make your baby feel safe and comfortable, or even get a little of his or her attention.
If you just had a kid, you know. You’re not a person right now. You’re a zombie. You are on duty 24/7 and even when you’re body tells you it’s time to sleep, the baby tells you differently, often waking up multiple times at night. And when you try to nap at the same time as the baby during the day, sometimes those naps just aren’t long enough. More importantly, you’re so concerned about the baby’s every move. The thought that he or she could be not getting all the ever-important sleep a baby needs would keep you up at night if you weren’t already so busy trying to put your little one back to bed.
What you need is a number of tips you can turn to in order to help give your baby a good night’s sleep. That way, you can stop worrying and give yourself and your partner a most-deserved rest.
10 tips for a good night’s sleep:
After being in such a tight space for nine months, babies are used to being suspended and held in the mother’s womb. Within their first four or five months of life, they have what’s called a “startle reflex.” Poor kiddos feel like they are falling causing them to jerk their arms or legs which often wakes them up. They do this especially as they move from drowsy to light sleep to deep sleep, which of course, is your goal.
The trick is to make sure your child is tightly swaddled. First of all, you want to use the right swaddle. A 100 percent cotton swaddle will stretch, and not only replicate the elasticity of the womb but better resist any jerky movements your baby will make.
Similar to the swaddle recreating the feeling of being in the womb, a bit of white noise can provide the same effect as the mom’s heartbeat, blood flow, and breathing. The key to all of these is that they’re repetitive.
Many babies need this familiarity to fall asleep and stay asleep. You can try using a white noise machine that plays a gentle hushing noise, or repetitive nature sounds, like soft ocean waves. Just make sure you keep it quiet as you don’t want an unpleasing noise level at your baby’s ear all night. For some babies, the sound of a fan works just as well.
A firm, quality crib mattress
A crib mattress is one the of most important component for a newborn baby. First of all, you’ll want to make sure the mattress fits the crib you’ve bought. Then, you need to make sure the mattress is firm. Soft mattresses will yield to newborn’s head or face and increase the risk of suffocation or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Whether it’s foam or an innerspring crib mattress, you want to make sure it is high quality.
Shorten the daytime naps
This tip is only for parents who feel like they aren’t getting enough sleep at night. Because of work, having to eat, and other things that come up during the day, your body needs the night time to catch up on sleep. But if your baby is waking up multiple times and only sleeping for 1-2 hour stretches, then it might be because he or she is sleeping too much during daytime naps.
It’s so hard to give up the precious free time when you have it, I know. But you can give yourself a better night sleep by waking your baby up before he or she goes over 2 hours during the day.
You can even try waking your baby up, feeding, keeping him or her up for a little, and then putting the baby back down. But simply splitting up the blocks of sleep should lengthen the baby’s nighttime sleep.
But don’t confuse tip #3!
Just because you cap off your baby’s naps doesn’t mean you should intentionally keep your little one up in hope of better sleep during the night. It will actually work against you. When babies are tired, they get fussy and anyone who’s had a fussy baby knows how hard it is to get him or her to sleep. And for the baby’s health, the more sleep and feeding the better.
Follow Nature’s Schedule
Sleep, eat, wake. Sleep again.
Nature’s cycle builds strong, smart babies. It gives them a full feeding time after waking up. Then with that energy, they can play and learn. And when they tire, they fall asleep again to rest up.
Following this pattern can also help you avoid the common association between the comfort of feeding and the comfort of sleeping. This makes it harder to sleep because your baby will fall asleep during feeding time only to wake up when he or she isn’t feeding anymore.
(Even so, always feed your baby when he or she requires it. Don’t be afraid to feed your baby is he or she needs a little comfort and you want to encourage healthy weight gain, especially in the early months.)
Stick to a routine
Babies need stability and predictability. The world is already so much, so fast. They are comforted by an everyday routine. For naps, repeat the same simple steps every time. Nap in the same place. Prepare the same way, closing the door and the blinds. Play the same song or two perhaps before putting them down.
Bedtime you can take longer, but it should follow the same order. For example, you can start with a bath, then feeding, music, and then bed.
This will put their minds and bodies at ease, knowing exactly what’s coming next, inducing them to sleep.
Be smart about when you change your baby’s diaper
If your baby wakes up in the middle of the night, you probably will want to change his or her diaper before the desired feeding time. This way your baby won’t wake up because of an uncomfortable dirty diaper after you’ve already done the work of swaddling the baby again after his or her night time feed.
Don’t go to comfort a woken baby too quickly
If you do, you might actually end up waking the baby up when he or she is just cooing or babbling or even cry a little. Hold your breath for a little to see if they really are awake before going to pick them up.
Try to get your baby to sleep independently
This is, of course, the holy grail of getting your baby to sleep. The trick is to put your baby to sleep when he or she is awake but still drowsy. Most babies will cry when you do it, and so when the baby wakes up in the middle of the night, they cry even if they aren’t hungry or uncomfortable. It takes a light touch, perfect timing, and a little patience, but if you can, you can get your baby to fall back asleep after waking up.
If you’ve just had your first, or you’re back to the basics with your next child, it’s always good to know newborn sleeping tips to give your baby the best sleep possible!