Creating Healthy Sleep Habits For Newborns
The first 3 months of a baby’s life are so special. Those 9 months of waiting for baby’s appearance are behind you and the awe of having this little person beside you is overwhelming. Who knew such big love could come in such a small package. The first few weeks of a baby’s life, baby truly does “sleep like a baby” – anywhere, anytime. These deep sleep patterns will start to change after a few weeks and you may have to work a little harder at getting your baby to sleep. So why not create some positive sleep habits for your newborn when it is easiest to do?
Here are 3 tips to help you establish good sleeping habits for your baby from the beginning.
1. Separate night and day
You don’t want baby to be up partying for longer period in the night time. Establish environmental cues to assist baby to distinguish night and day. For night feeds, keep the lights dimmed in the room baby is sleeping in. Have a bedtime routine that has one distinguishing factor from the daytime routine. For example, always change baby’s pajamas before bedtime. Don’t let baby sleep more than 4 hour stretches during the day. This also helps to ensure she’s getting the necessary calories in during the day and not sleeping through feeds. You want her caloric intake during the day to be greater than at night. You don’t want to start shifting more calories into the night.
2. Feed baby when she wakes up vs feeding her before or as she is falling asleep.
This helps to avoid the common association of nursing and falling asleep. This helps avoid “sleep props”. Sleep pros are external factors that baby needs to fall asleep. Other common sleep props are rocking, swinging or being held to fall asleep. You can use these sleep props to help your baby to fall asleep when she is having trouble, but why not give her the opportunity to fall asleep on her own if you can.
3. Put baby down calm but awake.
If you feed her when she wakes up, she’ll then be awake 45 minutes to 1 hour, from the time she woke up, those first 3 months. Yes, they have very short awake times when they are newborns!
- The first signs of fatigue are decreased activity, disengagement, or eyes looking glazed over.
- The second set of cues are increased fussiness, increased limb movement, yawning, rubbing eyes.
You want to put your baby down when the first set of signs roll through and give her the opportunity to put herself asleep independently. It is easier for a baby who is well rested to fall asleep compared to a baby who is overtired. It is very common for parents to keep a baby up longer, thinking she will sleep better and longer. This is simply not true. The more overtired a baby gets, the harder it is to get her to sleep. If your baby has trouble falling asleep on her own you can be beside her and ssshhh/pat. This is easiest to do earlier in the daytime when they aren’t as tired as at the end of the day. At the end of the day you will probably need to assist in some way – either via swaddling, rocking until drowsy, or “bounce and walk”.
If this doesn’t work for you, don’t fret.
The most important thing in the first three months is to get them to sleep, no matter how. If your baby develops a sleep prop such as an addiction to sleeping in the swing, or sleeping on Mom, that’s okay. There are methods you can use after 3 months to teach your baby how to fall asleep independently.
Lastly if you are a new Mom, don’t forget to take lots of pictures and record all those amazing milestones! It passes so quickly.