Sleep Hygiene with a Newborn: Moving Beyond “Sleep When the Baby Sleeps”
Sleep plays an imperative role for all people, irrespective of their ages. But sleep problems are common among newborns and infants and they affect the parents’ lives equally. Newborns and toddlers usually sleep longer than adults.
A newborn sleeps about 16 to 20 hours and is awake only for 1 to 2 hours between sleeping intervals. Infants sleep nearly 13 to 15 hours counting nighttime sleep, morning naps, and afternoon naps. On the other hand, toddlers sleep around 12 hours including an afternoon nap.
Let’s take a look at some of the sleep hygiene habits to improve your baby’s sleep.
- Ensure that your baby is not starving when you put him/her to bed
- Feed your little one just before bedtime so that he is not famished when you prepare him for sleep.
- Keep your baby in bed when he is sleepy but not yet asleep
- Ensure that your little one is still awake when he is put down for dozes and at bedtime. When your baby is still awake, then only place him in bed as he will learn to fall asleep on his own.
- Always keep your child on his back when putting him to bed, at least up to 1 year
- Prepare a nighttime routine and make a daily sleep schedule.
- Don’t forget to set a bedtime for your child and follow the routine stringently by putting your baby to bed at the same time each night
- Sketch a nighttime routine that includes feeding, bath, bedtime story, etc.
- Never allow your child to take a nap for too long or too late in the day. Restrict the period of naps by not more than 3 hours. Also, ensure that your little one is awake from the afternoon nap by 4 pm. Children who sleep after 4 pm may not go back to sleep easily during the nighttime
- Never keep your child in the bed with a bottle or cup. If your child sleeps with milk or juice in the mouth, then this may cause cavities and tooth decay
- Offer a pacifier at nap time and bedtime
- If you are breastfeeding your baby, then wait for some time before offering a pacifier. You need to follow this at least for 3 to 4 weeks of age. If you use a pacifier, then this could lessen the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
- If your baby is an early riser or a night owl, you should change routines and schedules according to his natural habits and patterns.
- If you need to take care of your baby at night or feed him at night, use dim lights, a soft voice, and slow movements. This will allow your baby to sleep early and not play.
- Your baby might be fussing or crying a lot before finding a suitable position and falling asleep. If the little one can’t stop crying, check on your baby and offer some soothing words and leave the room.
These are some tips for good sleep for babies that every parent should follow.
1. Sleeping in Parents’ Bed
For safe sleep practices, parents must share their rooms with infants for up to one year. An infant (under one year of age) should sleep on his back while lying on the bed. If your older child is sleeping with you, you need to change this habit but this could also be a challenging job for parents. Put your little one to sleep in his bed at a younger age as he can easily adopt this habit.
2. Prepare and Follow a Regular Bedtime Routine
Put your little one on the bed when he is sleepy, but not fully asleep. He may cry or have trouble for a few minutes, you must check him for a few minutes to see whether he is comfortable on his bed or not. Most of the time, this fussy period usually lasts for 10 minutes. Don’t go repeatedly to his room or don’t let him see you. He will gradually fall asleep. Though this could be frustrating initially, you must be persistent and consistent. If you are not satisfied with this habit for several weeks, then stop it and again try it after 4-5 weeks. Consult a pediatrician who will explain to you how to manage the situation.
3. Night-Time Feedings
When babies are twice their birth weight (at about 6 months), you don’t need to feed them at night. But if your little one still wakes up for the feeding, consult a doctor regarding how to shorten the nighttime feeding until you need to feed him anymore.
When to Consult a Doctor
- If sleep problems are there even after following the aforementioned tips
- Your child snores loudly or has a long gap in breathing during sleep
- You have other issues or concerns
The Bottom Line
As a mom sleeping with a newborn, try to establish healthy sleep hygiene for your baby as it will also help you to get a peaceful night’s sleep. Try to understand your baby’s habits and requirements. Establish communication in such a way so that you can offer him to become a better sleeper.