Our son gave us a run for our money when he was first born! We really struggled trying to figure out the whole baby sleep thing for quite some time. Learning all the newborn baby sleep tips, we still fumbled through it for the first six weeks. We were so unsure of ourselves! Thankfully, we pulled ourselves together, armed ourselves with some key infant sleep facts, developed a plan and implemented it. We stuck with it, and at 4 months old, our son was sleeping 11-12 hours at night and naps extended to 1.5 to 2 hours. Woohoo! We’ve experienced sleep regression, sleeping on the go, sleeping through teething…and so much more!
If you’re interested in learning some awesome newborn baby sleep tips, then you are in the right place. When your baby sleeps better, you will notice a more patient, more tolerant, more engaging baby after a good nights rest or quality nap. Be encouraged. It’s never too late to foster excellent sleep habits in a baby, and ultimately help yourself get some much needed rest as well.
From birth to about age four to five months, babies innately possess a startle reflex, in which they feel as if they are falling. The sensation of falling causes jerking movements, and the baby will incidentally wake up. Keeping a tight swaddle prevents babies from startling themselves awake, helping the newborn baby sleep both better and longer. I like to think of the baby as ‘snug as a bug in a rug,’ and I used to tell my son this every time I’d swaddle him snugly.
I love the HALO SleepSack Cotton Swaddle but the Woombie is amazing too! Both help keep the baby swaddled snugly yet safely.
We stopped swaddling once our son could regularly get his arms out and roll over. We continued to use the Halo Sleep Swaddle and just swaddled around his torso, leaving his arms out.
The dreamfeed is the feeding given to the baby right before you go to bed, and it helps prevent the baby from waking up just after we moms finally drift off to sleep. Isn’t this the pinnacle of sleep deprivation? You just fall asleep and the baby wakes up. The dreamfeed can really help your newborn baby sleep for longer while you sleep. We used it until about age 4 months.
3. Limit the length of naps during the day.
I know it’s hard to wake a sleeping baby, but sleeping too long of a stretch during the day can rob nighttime sleep. If the baby sleeps past the 2 – 2.5 hour mark, I would go ahead and wake the baby up, feed him, keep him a wake for a bit, and then lay him down for another nap. If you feel the baby truly needs longer naps, feel free to increase the nap limit to 2.5 hours. Breaking up sleep during the day will help your newborn baby sleep better at night.
There were, of course, times where our son was overtired and needed a little recovery nap. We would allow him to sleep for a little bit longer for just that one nap and then we started getting back on track with our daily routine.
4. Use white noise.
No one wants to miss a party, so if your baby is listening to all the fun going on in the house it can be hard to fall asleep and stay asleep. I place a fan on medium in the baby’s room rather than directly next to the baby, so it does not blow directly on him or sit too close to his sensitive ears. Using white noise also helps immensely when we are traveling! We are usually able to avoid asking friends or family to be quiet
I’ve used both a regular fan and a white noise machine in the past.
5. Follow the eat, wake, sleep cycle.
The baby wakes from sleep and immediately eats. Then the baby is awake for a while to play. Then the baby goes back to sleep….
This cycle has several purposes. First, it encourages full feedings by allowing the baby to eat immediately after waking. The baby will have the most energy immediately after waking, making him more inclined to take a full feeding and go longer between feedings. Also, by feeding the baby after sleep rather than before sleep, the cycle prevents the baby from associating food with sleep or using food as a sleep prop. When using this cycle, a feeding before bedtime is typically only feeding before sleep.
Of course, there were times where I definitely fed my baby before sleep. He needed a little TLC for a certain nap, and I was totally fine offering it when he needed it. But for the most part, I tried to avoid feeding him right before sleep.
Note: Newborns require frequent feedings and rest to ensure healthy growth a development in the early months. Always feed your baby as frequently as your baby needs to ensure healthy weight gain.
6. Use a pre-nap and bedtime routines.
It is well known that babies thrive on routine, structure, and predictability. Creating consistent routines for your baby will help bring order to a very chaotic world. Choose a pre-nap routine that works for you. A pre-nap routine may include taking the baby to his room, close the blinds or curtains, place the baby in his sleep sack or wearable blanket, turn on the white noise, sing a quick song (e.g. Twinkle, twinkle), give a few cuddles, and say your sleepy words “I love you. I hope you have a good sleep.”
A bedtime routine would typically be a little longer and may include a bath, a massage, reading a story, offering a feeding, placing the baby in a wearable blanket or swaddle, turning on the white noise, a few cuddles, and saying your sleepy words. Following the same exact routine as consistently as possible cues the baby for sleep, and over time the baby will learn that sleep immediately follows the nap and bedtime routines.
Use these printable (and adorable!) baby sleep routine cards to keep parents, grandparents and babysitters ALL on the same page.
7. Change your baby’s diaper strategically…
Changing the diaper before a middle of the night feeding prevents the baby from waking up too much after a feeding is finished. When the baby wakes up change the diaper and re-swaddle to prepare him for sleep immediately following a night feeding. If you change the diaper after the night feeding, the baby may become too awake, making it more challenging for him to fall asleep.
8. Understand how a baby sleeps.
The more your baby sleeps, the more they will sleep. Keeping a baby awake in hopes of tiring him out will actually result in over-stimulation, and he will experience both difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. It is very likely an over-tired baby will sleep shorter, not longer.
Note: Sometimes this tip confuses readers. And it’s no wonder. First I said limit naps during the day, and now I said an over-tired baby will sleep shorter, not longer.
Let me be more clear:
- Limiting the length of naps is important to support night time sleep. You want the baby to get in as many feedings as possible during the daytime. Think: More daytime feeds = less nighttime feeds.
- You don’t want to keep the baby awake for long stretches. Your baby will get over-tired, fussy and have difficulty falling back asleep.
- Bottom line: Encourage lots of naps AND feedings during the day following the eat, wake, sleep cycle.
9. Don’t rush in…
We may inadvertently encourage the start of a bad sleep habit by rushing in when a baby cries or rustles during the night. Often times, babies wake up babble and go back to sleep. The baby may even cry briefly or babble and still be asleep. Give the baby some time and see if he will resettle himself. Avoid rushing in and disturbing this process in order to help your newborn baby sleep better.
10. Lay the baby down awake, but drowsy.
The most important way to encourage your baby to sleep well in the long run is to teach him to fall asleep independently, which is essentially the beginnings of teaching independent sleep. Babies, like adults, will naturally wake up during the night. Without knowing how to get back to sleep, a baby will cry out after waking regardless of actual need, resulting in night waking droning on for much longer than is actually necessary. Once a baby gets older, falling asleep independently enables a baby to drift back to sleep after waking in the night, ultimately helping your baby sleep better in the long run