6 Tips To Get a Newborn To Sleep
You've carried your baby for nine months, dragged yourself to hospital, given birth, and finally got your little one home safe and sound. While the feeling of joy never really goes, after a couple of weeks of sleepless nights, new parents are often burnt out and more than a little bit frazzled.
If you want to join the ranks of those who can smugly say, "oh, mine sleeps the whole night through,” then have a look at these six tips to get a newborn to sleep. While all babies are different, these tips are proven successful.
1. Set Your Baby’s Internal Clock
While this may sound like your baby is some kind of wind-up toy, it's actually referring to their circadian rhythm. This is the natural, internal 24-hour cycle that our bodies go through, which helps regulate our sleep and wake behavior.
Being a biological process, our circadian rhythm is "programmed" by the natural stimuli of daylight and darkness.
By exposing your baby to daylight in the day and involving them in daytime activities as much as possible, you cue up their internal clock, resulting in more sleep at night.
2. Avoid Blue Light at Night
In the same vein as above, avoiding certain kinds of light at night will keep your baby's internal clock set correctly.
Electronic screens almost all emit light in the blue part of the spectrum, mimicking daylight. This includes our TVs, some LED light bulbs, and even our phone's screen.
When a baby is exposed to this sort of light at night, it confuses their circadian rhythm as their body believes it to be daylight. This has the effect of disrupting your baby's sleep.
To avoid this, put a low-wattage, warm-colored bulb in your baby's nursery for midnight feeds. These are often called "sleep lights.”
It's also important to keep babies away from electronic screens as much as possible to avoid the blue emitted. If possible, use blue light filters that are often built into phones and screens. This will also help keep Mom and Dad's circadian rhythm in time too.
Swaddling has been around forever and is a time-tested, proven way to comfort a crying baby.
Babies have a built-in response called the Moro reflex, which occurs in the presence of loud noises or something startling. This often happens during sleep and periods of drowsiness and is why many babies reach out and cry.
By snuggly wrapping your baby in a thin, breathable sheet or blanket, they feel safe and secure. This has the effect of suppressing the Moro reflex, soothing them if it does occur, and allowing them to drift off to sleep.
4. Avoid Overly Long Naps
It's a good idea to take a look at your baby's sleeping habits and see if they are, perhaps, sleeping too much during the day.
While sleep is vital to a baby's growth, overly long daytime naps will affect their quality, extended rest at night.
If you find your baby sleeping for more than 2.5 hours at a time during the day, consider gently waking them up and allow them to feed.
You will know if your little one is too tired and needs more sleep. Trust your instincts.
5. Try Dream Feeds
This is often touted as the holy grail of methods to get a newborn to sleep at night. It's based on the idea that babies usually wake up at night because their bellies are rumbling and want feeding. It's a long time from bedtime until morning, after all.
Dream feeds are where a baby is semi-roused and encouraged to feed during the night, at a time you feel is appropriate. The hope is that the baby will stay satiated throughout the night until morning, at least 5-6 hours.
To do this, gently wake the baby up, place the breast or bottle to the baby's lower lip and encourage feeding.
Some people like to do this around 10-12 PM. Others will wake early in the morning, about 1 AM, to try and dream feed. Just remain consistent.
6. Use the Eat-Wake-Sleep Method
This routine has proven highly successful for many people. It involves three stages: eating, waking, and sleeping, and aims to dissociate feeding from sleeping.
The "Eat" stage is to simply feed your baby as soon as they wake up.
The "Wake" stage involves encouraging activity after feeding and not letting your baby immediately sleep.
Therefore, the "Sleep" stage is a step removed from feeding, with sleep induced by rocking or being held instead.
The thinking behind this method is intuitive, don't let feeding be how your baby gets to sleep. This results in more nighttime sleep, and keeping your baby awake allows bigger feeds rather than "snacking.”
It’s important to remember that all newborn babies are different. Some are just naturally good sleepers, and some get hungry quicker than others.
With these tips, you should find yourself a little less sleep-deprived and able to function better during the day. As with all things “baby,” consistency is key, allowing babies to develop sleep patterns over time.