Maximizing Your Newborn’s Sleep
Many parents are aware they will have numerous sleepless nights when expecting a baby, however many underestimate the difficulties of continuous sleep deprivation. Unfortunately babies don’t always sleep well on their own. Here are some tips from our Certified Sleep Coach to increase your newborn’s sleep and maintain your own sanity!
Establish an Early Bedtime
One of the most common mistakes that impairs your newborn’s sleep is going to bed too late. Your baby’s bedtime should be between 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm, ideally 6:30 pm or 7pm. Putting your baby to bed too late at night can cause overstimulation and affect your baby’s natural circadian rhythm. If you are experiencing a “witching” hour or extreme fussiness in the evening, aim for an earlier bedtime.
Having a calming sleep environment can dramatically affect your baby’s sleep. Keep the room dark and avoid turning on lights in the middle of the night. If you need light to feed your baby or change a diaper, keep the light as low as possible, and use red light. Blue light can block your baby’s melatonin production and drastically decrease the length of sleep. In addition to a dark room, using moderately loud white noise can block out other noises in the environment and mimics the noise your baby was used to in the womb, to help them relax. Control the temperature in your baby’s room. If the temperature is too cold, your baby may wake often, and too warm increases the risk of SIDS. The AAP recommends keeping the temperature between 68-72 degrees.
Nighttime is All About Business!
The middle of the night is not the time to play and interact with your baby, as cute as they may be! Do not engage in eye contact or speak to your baby. This will keep your baby drowsy and under-stimulated. Any interactions with your baby can be very stimulating and signal to them that it is time to wake up and play. Even if you have a calming sleep environment, its important to be aware of your own actions and presence.
Swaddle Your Baby
Swaddling properly can significantly improve your baby’s sleep and help calm their Moro Reflex. Find a swaddle that you can use properly and is easy to do in the middle of the night after diaper changes. If the swaddle is too lose, it will only frustrate your baby or potentially could become a suffocation hazard. Just remember to stop swaddling when your baby begins to show signs of rolling.
Change Your Diaper-changing Strategy
The reality is, you will need to change some diapers during the night. However, there may be a strategy that will limit the disruption of your baby’s sleep. Eliminate as many nighttime diaper changes as possible. Limit diaper changes to only dirty diapers, and change the diaper prior to a feeding if possible. Many babies are not bothered by a wet diaper, so only change wet diapers when needed. The sooner you can eliminate all diaper changes, the less it will affect your baby’s sleep.
Develop a Sleep Routine
Signally to your baby and having a consistent bedtime routine will help your baby learn what to expect throughout the night. Limit your bedtime routine to 15 minutes or less, so it can be repeated every night. Change your baby’s diaper, put on pajamas, swaddle, turn the lights off, turn on the white noise, feed your baby, and put them to sleep in their own bed. Inconsistency is the largest cause of poor sleep.
Have a Night Time Strategy
Always have a plan and know how you are going to respond when your baby wakes up at night. Just because your baby woke up, does not necessarily mean that your baby is hungry. Sometimes your baby may just need to be cuddled or offered a pacifier. Always try and soothe your baby in the crib, prior to picking them up. Placing your hand on their chest or patting them softy will help them go back to sleep if they wake up mid sleep. Your baby may not need your help just because they are awake. If they are quietly hanging out, don’t interfere. If you don’t have a plan in place, you will naturally do whatever it takes for you to go back to bed as fast as possible. Although it may be more work in the beginning, this will help your baby learn to sleep through the night sooner, rather than later.
Understand and Follow Your Baby’s Cues
No matter what, the most important thing to remember — follow your baby’s cues. However, you must first understand your baby. Learn your baby’s sleepy cues and hunger cues. This will help you understand when your baby just needs a little assistance going back to sleep or if your baby needs to be feed. You will also learn when you put your baby down for naps and bedtime, following their tired cues. Overtired and overstimulated babies can be very hard to calm down. Staying calm and taking deep breathes can help your baby sync to your rhythm and begin to calm down. It’s okay to ask for help!
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