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How To Help Newborn Sleep


how to help newborn sleep

How To Help Newborn Sleep Peacefully

Whenever you hear of someone sleeping quietly for a long time, they are said to be sleeping like a baby. That saying can be incredibly annoying to new parents because babies don’t sleep for that long and they can wake up at a drop of a hat. I can tell you right now whenever I heard that saying when my son was struggling with colic when he was a newborn- I would have gone out of my mind. Newborn sleep is very erratic. That being said how to help newborn sleep peacefully is tough, especially as a first time parent.

I mean I was going out of my mind anyway but even more so if I heard that saying. Getting him to sleep was a big struggle, as well as getting him to stay asleep! So the term sleeping like a baby to me meant like never sleeping at all! As a single mom, I was all by myself night after night so I had no other person there with me at night to “take turns” soothing my son, feeding him and rocking him back to sleep. It was all me. And I was slowly becoming more delirious and doing things such as dropping a cup, or tripping over a rug, and becoming very cranky because a lack of sleep. This is not good for a new mom. It happens to all new moms however.

Babies actually really do sleep a lot, which is typically about 17 hours a day. And a good rule of thumb is that you should probably catch some shut eye as well during the time your baby is also sleeping. However, most babies rarely stay asleep for more than 2-4 hours at a time during the day and at night until they are around 8 to 10 weeks old when they begin to understand the difference between day and night.

As an adult who is probably more accustomed to sleeping in larger chunks of time ( like nice 8 hour stretches, oh… those were the days!) when a baby comes along, and sleep is cut off. All you get is those 2 to 4 hour pockets of time, which do not allow you as an adult to acquire R.E.M sleep so its not very restful even when you sleep whenever baby sleeps.

So How Do Newborns Sleep?

That said, newborn sleep is unpredictable. New parents are usually very surprised to find out that it is not possible to develop a set schedule for the first few weeks of the baby’s life. Newborns will get hungry, need a diaper change or need comfort at any time of the night or day. This is the most exhausting time because of the baby’s irregular sleeping patterns.

However, there is more of a reason behind the fact that newborn sleep patterns are incredibly unpredictable other than them needing a feeding, a change and comforting at any time of the day or night.

The reason that baby’s sleep stretches last much shorter than the sleep stretch of a typical older child or an adult is that their rapid eye movement, also known as REM cycles takes up most of their sleep time. REM cycles are meant to last in shorter intervals, and babies need to go through a lot of that because it is crucial for their brain development. When the REM cycle is complete for that sleeping phase, the baby will wake up and will need a feeding or change!

how to help newborn sleep Therefore, it is not possible to set a newborn sleep schedule until you see signs of your newborn sleeping for longer stretches. Like I previously mentioned, many babies that are approximately 8 to 10 weeks old learn the difference between day and night and as long as they are well fed during the day- they will sleep for longer stretches in the night.

Additionally, babies that are around this age begin to have shorter REM sleep periods and begin to develop longer deep and non-REM periods of sleep. This is a big milestone in your newborn’s development.

Some babies as early as 6 weeks of age begin to learn the difference and can start sleeping for longer stretches in the night. But you can start teaching them to sleep at night at that age, which I will get to in a bit!

However, by the time your infant is anywhere between 4 to 6 months of age, most babies are capable of sleeping for 8 to 12 hours in the night. But some babies still wake up in the night frequently into toddlerhood. But in order to lessen the odds of that happening, it is necessary to create a sleep schedule when your newborn is showing signs of sleeping for longer stretches.

Newborns need time to adjust to their new world outside the womb

Once your baby’s sleep becomes more predictable, it is necessary to establish some good sleep habits. Here are some tips to help your baby sleep better:

  • Teach your baby the difference between day and night; You can actually start doing this when your baby is 2 weeks old, even though at this stage, you can’t technically set any kind of schedule. However, the way to teach your baby the difference between day and night is by playing with your baby during the day. Be sure the lights are bright in your home during the daytime and don’t worry about minimizing noise either. But only play and interact with your baby when he or she is awake and alert. If your baby sleeps through a time when you feel it is best for a feeding, wake him or her up for that. When it is night, don’t interact and talk to the baby, keep the lights and noise at a low setting. Your baby will begin to figure it out once his or her sleep becomes more predictable and regulated.
  • Allow your baby to nap regularly; Establishing a good newborn sleep pattern is making sure your infant sleeps during the day only when he or she is obviously tired. Like I said previously, if your baby is awake and wanting to play during the day, then that is the best time to take advantage of that! Babies become tired quickly, and that is when it is time to put him or her down for a nap. If your baby is pulling on his or her ears, rubbing the eyes or overly agitated- then your baby needs a nap! A baby that doesn’t nap enough during the day will become overtired and not sleep well at night which means disaster for everyone involved!
  • Put your baby to bed at night even when awake. You can start this process when your newborn is 6 weeks old so how to help newborn sleep that eventually he or she begins to associate bedtime with night- even if your 6-week-old baby has not quite grasped the difference between day and night. Even if the baby is wide awake at night, the baby must go to bed. Eventually- it will click and your baby will begin to sleep for longer stretches in the night and be awake more often during the day.

Now you understand why newborn sleep is so erratic and unpredictable. It is just how newborns are biologically made. There is not one single newborn baby out there in the world that settles down to sleep at 7pm and doesn’t make a peep, sleeps straight through until the next day at 10am.  Lol nope…. not in a million years.

However, once your newborn becomes a little older, you can begin to establish good sleeping habits which will help encourage your baby to sleep through the night much better in the long run! With practice and patience you can train your newborn to develop good sleeping habits early!

Hopefully, this will have helped you figure out how to help your newborn sleep. How are you sleeping? Are you a single parent or are you and your partner taking turns at night with baby? Remember this time period with your little one is going to go by so quick! Before you know it they will be crawling, then walking, and then ….. oh my goodness,my son is already 16 months old! Where has the time gone!

Just remember to be patient, make sure you love on and always enjoy your babies.

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Hi
So pleased i have found your post as my friend has only a few months left until her little bundle arrives and i cannot really give her much advise as my two children are all grown up now and so many things have changed with baby’s now.
Oliver looks adorable by the way:)
I want her to be able to cope if there are any dramas there is nothing worse than someone saying they are not a good mother.
Do you agree with dummies? or is that something she should avoid?
This is great that i can show her information that will really help her.
Thanks.

Not so much has changed with babies over the years, babies have always stayed the same. Same biology anyway. I think what has changed over times is society’s ways of raising children and how to handle babies have changed. Back in the 80s when I was a baby, the principles and things that were of norm seem backwards now. I think “Dummies” books are useful.. I think the Stigma attached to them is the way the book looks while you are reading it. But its always real useful information – always what you need to know. Hope this helps 🙂

Wow this is great information, my sister is having a baby soon so i shall certainly get her to take a look at this as it will certainly help her a lot. thank you you have done a great job here 🙂
you have illustrated the importance of a well balanced sleep and this is so important for the parents to get their baby into a good routine and you have explained this very well

Thank you so much. I want to make sure I convey clearly to other parents that it IS possible to get your newborn on a good sleeping schedule. It takes diligence and patience. Every new mom & dad is going to experience SOME sleepless nights so its OKAY, but getting into good habits now is important because baby is adaptable and will learn new sleep habits easily if you are consistent and keep your baby on a schedule.  

Hi Sophia,
Every baby is different. My baby would not sleep for a long time when she was a newborn, which is understandable as they get hungry very often due to the small size of their stomachs. Baby’s stomach is so tiny and they do not have the ability to stretch under food, therefore once the fuel is burnt they need to get more.
You provided with the great tips, though I would add that this makes sense only when your baby passed a 4-month sleep regression. Before this time babies do not have hormone developed to actually recognize day and night.
We sleep trained our baby somewhere at that time and never regretted it. We picked a soft transition. Even though it called that way, our baby was still quite stubborn to try to put herself to sleep without being held or for the most part having a boob. It took us a couple of weeks step-by-step to teach her to fall asleep by herself.
It is interesting enough that babies, for the most part, do not know how to put themselves to sleep. However, there are babies who learn this process very fast and lucky parents who can actually enjoy nights as their babies would start sleeping through the night quite fast.
I would also add that before 4-month mark it is very important to establish a sleeping routine. The more it is established by that time, the faster the sleep training process will go, as your baby by that time will get used to a certain action that will give her/him a clue that now he/she is going to sleep.

Anna , you are right. Every baby is different and each one has their own temperament, and their own sleep personality. I agree its best to wait until 4 months old because that is when baby is able to distinguish between day and night. It sounds like you took the ultimate, ideal, organic, holistic approach to sleep training your baby and you came out with fantastic results, which usually comes when you have a lot of patience and keep the same routine every single night without fail. 

I have a 6 month old son who still wakes up throughout the night – is that normal or should he be sleeping throughout the night by now? My wife and I take turns every other night going into his room and putting him back to bed. I really enjoyed these tips on establishing good sleep habits for your newborn. It makes a lot of sense to keep a routine or else your baby will have no idea what to expect! I will pass this on to my wife who will also benefit from reading this. Thank you so much!

You welcome! And your son is completely normal! Some babies do not sleep throughout the night until they are 3 years old! Hopefully that won’t be the case with you if you stick by the set of rules I laid out and make sure you keep that routine! Good luck!

My 2 month old baby wakes up several times throughout the night. I know that this is normal for a baby of this age, but I do want to establish good sleeping habits because if I don’t then my daughter will not learn how to self soothe. These are really great tips. I never considered white noise before. We have an air cleaner in our home and strangely enough when its on is when our daughter sleeps the best.

Yes the sooner your establish good sleeping habits the sooner your baby will learn how to soothe themselves when they wake up in the middle of the night. That is goal here, to teach your baby how to soothe themselves. White noise helps by mimicking the sounds of the womb. All babies respond positively to white noise. Aianers, ceiling fans, blow dryers and vacuum cleaners all count as “white noise” – please read this article on white noise for babies for more information 🙂

I am having trouble with helping him understand the difference between day and night. We have two very noisy dogs and it’s hard for me to keep them from making any kind of noise at night so they eventually end up waking the baby. Putting the dogs for adoption is out of the question but I also know I can’t keep with the current situation for long. What should I do? Should I let the baby get used to the dogs’ racket?

I wouldn’t worry about it. I bet you anything that your baby is used to it already. Babies already hear everything that is going around them. When my son was born, he would nap in his crib and our german shepherd would bard right next to it, and my son never moved, flinched or made a peep. He was used to hearing the sound of barking I guess while he was still in my tummy. So don’t stress yourself out and try to hide the baby from noises during sleeping. You will wind up with a kid who wakes up at the littlest noise or movement.

When a baby is not sleeping can be exhausting for a mom. I’ve never had a big problem with my boys but my sisters have had very rough nights. You definitely have some great tips! Thank you very much for sharing!
How old is a baby generally by the time he sleeps through the night?

Hi Justina, the age of when a baby sleeps thorough the next varies because each child is their own unique spcial case. Some babies sleep through the night at 6 weeks and STAY like that, some dont sleep through the night until 1 or 2 years. My son was sleeping through the night and then he hit a phase where children get “Separation Anxiety” and it disturbed his sleep. He keeps waking through the night now looking for me. So this is a whole new can of worms.

A very good article. You are right about allowing them to nap regularly, after few days with missing nap times and cranky disturbed nights I searched on the internet that those habitual naps that we skipped was doing more damage than good. Seems ironic that an overtired baby won’t sleep well when a well napped baby will likely rest more and better at night!

Hi Diosa! I think one of life’s mysteries is why does an overtired baby, toddler, or child get hyper before they sleep? My little boy gets so silly! He flings himself all around and laughs. But ultimately he knows what time it is because I keep his schedule the same everyday.

My niece is about to have a baby and I have been offering lots of unsolicited advice to her (LOL) especially about sleeping.

I can not stress enough how important having a strict sleeping schedule is for babies. My wife and I were very diligent and dedicated to making sure our kids were on a tight schedule for bedtime, as well as naps. You have some great tips here, about putting them in bed even when they are still awake, and allowing them to nap frequently. I used to love nap time…for the baby of course!

My wife and I have two kids, teenagers now, but we were strict with sleeping schedules from day one. I think that makes a huge difference, having them on a schedule. I enjoyed reading, and reminiscing, thanks for taking the time to share this. I will pass this on to my niece, for reinforcement 🙂

Great information. We are going to have a baby soon and I am searching for useful information and suggestion all around the internet. I am so glad I found your article, it is a great help for new parents like us to know the experience of other parents. We will surely follow your suggestion and try to maintain a good sleeping habit for our baby.
Thanks again for sharing such a great information.

Great post! I wish that I had your website when my daughter was a baby. I was getting so much conflicting information and finally just put a “closed” sign on my front door and did my own thing. I ended up just doing the whole “family bed” way and she finally settled into a routine.

And that was likely due to what you were saying about knowing the difference between night and day. Plus we had a colic-period of our own that was 5 hours of crying daily from 3 pm to 8 pm and it lasted a few weeks.

Is it possible for babies to sleep too much? We both slept a lot during the first two or three months, just from all the activity and events in our lives. How much sleep is too much?

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