Your baby will learn a lot from you over the years. Perhaps the first and most important skill you’ll teach your baby is how to sleep. Fact is, sleep isn’t an innate skill—it must be learned. And while we don’t sleep train until 4 months from their estimated due date, those first few months are an opportunity to lay the foundation for healthy sleep habits. By doing so, you’ll help your baby take better, more consistent naps (you can shower! Drink hot coffee!) and sleep more soundly at night (yes, please!) You can start putting these tips into action right away and they’ll continue paying off for months to come.
- Help your baby overcome day/night confusion
Have you noticed that your baby sleeps like a rock during the day, but wants to party all night? This is a very common occurrence for newborns that’s known as day/night confusion. Think back to when your baby was in your womb just a few days or weeks ago. While you were up and about during the day, the motion lulled her to sleep. Then, as soon as you’d lie down to sleep, she’d start kicking and moving because the stillness stirred her awake. Here’s how you can help your baby work through day/night confusion so you can both catch more Z’s after dark:
- During the day, expose your baby to plenty of natural light.
- When you feed and change your baby during the day, engage with your baby and keep the room bright.
- When you feed and change your baby during the night, keep the room dark and minimize interactions with your baby.
- After a nighttime feeding, change and swaddle your baby and put her right back to sleep.
- Create an environment that’s conducive to sleep
Use black out curtains to make your baby’s room completely dark. Darkness sends a signal to your baby’s brain that it’s time for sleep. Use continuous white noise during day and nighttime sleep. White noise is very comforting to babies—it mimics the sound they’re used to from being in the womb—and also blocks out background noise in the house or from the street that could disrupt baby’s sleep.
- Follow a basic routine
With a newborn, you don’t have to follow a rigid schedule, but it’s helpful to have a routine. When your baby wakes from a nap, change her diaper, have a little play time and tummy time, feed your baby, and then swaddle and put her right back to sleep. You may have heard that you should never wake a sleeping baby, but this isn’t entirely true. If your baby is taking a long nap, cap the nap at two hours and gently wake your baby. This will help make sure that you fit in enough feedings during the day, which can help result in longer stretches of sleep at night.
- Swaddle your baby
You might think that your baby doesn’t like being swaddled because she fusses at first, but all babies feel most secure once they’re swaddled. Swaddling helps prevent the Moro reflex from startling them awake. As a result, your baby is better able to stay asleep and connect sleep cycles, leading to longer naps and nighttime sleep. In most cases, if your baby is breaking free from the swaddle it means that the swaddle isn’t snug enough. (Be sure to stop swaddling once your baby is able to roll from back to tummy, around 3 to 4 months of age.)
- Establish a bedtime routine
Even though bedtime tends to be a moving target until around 3 to 4 months old, it’s still a smart idea to have a routine that you repeat most nights before putting your baby to bed. A simple routine may include a bath, lotion, diaper, jammies, and a feeding. Even very young babies will begin to pick up on the cues that this series of events signals that it’s time for sleep.
- Practice laying your baby down to sleep drowsy but awake
The key word here is “practice” because it won’t always be perfect. Many newborns fall deeply asleep during or after a feeding and that’s okay during those early weeks. At the same time, look for opportunities during the day when you know that your baby is sleepy and ready for a nap so that you can put her in her crib drowsy but awake and give her the opportunity to fall asleep without being fed, rocked, or held to sleep every single time.
- Avoid an overtired state.
When babies are awake for too long, they can become overtired. When this happens, the stress hormone cortisol floods their brain and makes it even more difficult for them to fall asleep. To prevent this from happening, offer a nap every 60 to 90 minutes from when your baby last woke up.
Article by Carolynne J. Harvey – Baby Sleep Expert, Author of “Dream Baby Nights©” & Founder of Dream Baby Sleep®. Feel free to schedule a free 15-minute sleep consultation by visiting www.dreambabysleep.com/scheduler. You can also join @dreambabysleep on Instagram every Friday for Free Question Friday.
About Dream Baby Sleep
Dream Baby Sleep® is a loving group of certified experts who are successfully teaching families throughout North America how to create and maintain healthy sleep. Our diverse education and team dynamic empower us to customize a plan catered to your family’s personal needs. By studying the temperament of your baby, parenting style and family dynamic we’re able to draw from all sleep training methods available to create success for your family.