Sleep seems to be all you think about when you are a new parent. Newborns have been known to sleep as much as 16 hours a day, but they usually sleep for just a few hours at intervals. This is because they have a very small digestive system that causes them to wake up to be fed. Lucky parents have babies who begin to sleep through the night, around 5 hours or more, by around 3 months of age. Then there are the parents who look like walking zombies till their baby reaches a year or even 2 years of age! So what are these sleep deprived parents to do? Well first of all, Marty Baker, MD, from Charlotte Pediatric Clinic, recommends that parents try not to keep baby awake for a ‘full feeding’ during the night. Dr. Baker says, “If her or she needs to feed, keep the environment dark and quiet and provide the minimum amount of interaction it takes for your baby to get back to sleep.” Here are four additional tips to help get your baby to sleep through the night so you will get some much needed sleep as well:
- Increase daytime activity. Newborns often have erratic sleep schedules, causing them to be sleepy throughout the day and be alert at night. To switch their sleep pattern to a more normal one, try to keep them more awake during the day by playing and talking with them. Everyday household noises can also help encourage babies to stay alert during the day. When bedtime rolls around, avoid playtime and other stimulating activities before bed and dim the lights to signal to them that it’s time for bed. Soft, soothing lullabies may also help.
- Keep an limit on nap times. Getting regular naps are good for your baby, but don’t let them sleep too long, or you will risk having them be wide awake at night. Shorter nap times will help them sleep through the night.
- Create a bedtime routine. A steady nighttime routine will help to get your baby’s sleep cycle on the right track. Relaxing activities just before bedtime such as reading, bathing, cuddling and listening to soft music with the lights dimmed, all help to let baby know that it is time to sleep. Constant repeating of these activities each night will help your baby associate this routine with sleep.
- Put baby to bed while he or she is still awake. One step to creating a bedtime routine requires that you put baby to bed before they fall asleep. You want them to be drowsy, but still awake. Why is this? Well, it helps them link the crib with sleep. Try to avoid letting your baby sleep in your bed, because this will make it harder for them to fall asleep on their own. Most importantly, you will increase the risk for (SIDS) or sudden infant death syndrome if you let your baby sleep with you. Once you put them to bed in their crib, some fussing is to be expected, so allow some time to pass before you come in to check on them. Be as quiet as possible and by all means do not turn on the lights! If they continue to cry for several minutes, try using a pacifier or gently rubbing their back. Your baby’s sleep schedule will probably never match up to yours, so you will need to make adjustments to your schedule if possible. Don’t forget to take care of yourself during this sleep deprived time by grabbing a nap yourself when your little one nods off. Having a baby monitor nearby will reassure you that when the baby wakes up, you will be there to attend to their needs. Good luck!