4 tips to help put your newborn to sleep
Anyone who has ever had a newborn to care for knows that whoever coined the phrase “sleep like a baby” could not have possibly had a baby. Who wants to sleep like a baby if sleeping like a baby means countless interrupted nights due to sleep regressions, teething, illness and everything in between? Many parents dread sleep training because they think this undoubtedly entails leaving their baby to cry alone in his crib. I prefer to call it sleep coaching rather than training. Gentle coaching starting on day one can set the stage for healthy sleep for years to come.
1. Beware of the overtired baby
Newborns become overtired very quickly. In fact, most newborns can barely stay awake long enough to get through a feeding and a diaper change. Ironically, an overtired baby has a harder time getting to, and staying asleep. An overtired baby can be the cause of frequent waking during the night and short naps. Look for your newborn to become tired 45 minutes to 1 hour after waking. This wake time will slowly start to lengthen over the first three months when your baby will be able to stay awake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
2. Establish a bedtime routine A bedtime routine can be as simple as putting on pajamas, reading a book, and cuddling while singing a lullaby. In the first couple of months when your baby is still waking every couple of hours to eat, the bedtime routine will most likely happen after the last feeding of the day, when you are ready to go to bed. As the baby gets closer to two or three months of age, bedtime will slowly start to shift to an earlier time. Having a predictable routine already established makes this shift to an earlier bedtime much smoother.
3. Have a consistent wake-up/bedtime Once the baby’s bedtime shifts to an earlier time, keep the wake-up and bedtime consistent every night within a half hour either way. This will help to set the 24-hour clock and aid in developing consistent nap times. A consistent morning nap should start to develop at 3-4 months of age and afternoon nap at 5 months of age. Having a predictable and consistent daytime routine helps to establish better nighttime sleep.
4. Put baby down drowsy but awake This is a tough one for many parents, as they believe it involves leaving their baby to cry. When a baby is fussy, especially during the first few months, soothe them to sleep by any means necessary to avoid over tiredness. When the baby is not fussing, put them down drowsy but awake and see what happens. If they cry, pick them up and use whatever soothing method you choose. If they are just fussing a little, wait a few minutes. Continue allowing the baby to practice falling asleep on its own, every non-fussy chance you get. They may just surprise you!