How To Change A Newborns Sleep Patterns
Your newborns sleeping patterns are difficult to change, but theres a lot you can do to make her environment more conducive to sleep, including making sure shes fed with a clean, dry diaper, checking that her room is the right temperature and she’s not overdressed for sleep, and avoiding any distracting lights or sounds that could keep or wake her up.
In the meantime, you might need to adjust your own sleep schedule to get the rest you need. When your baby is around 3 months old, you can try getting her on a sleep schedule, and when she’s between 4 and 6 months old, you can try sleep training if you want to.
Parenting is full of surprises, and your babys sleep schedule is no exception. Your little one likely wont start to establish a regular sleep routine until around 8 to 12 weeks of age, and even then her sleep schedule will probably change, thanks to developmental milestones, travel and other common sleep routine disruptions.
From the What to Expect editorial team and Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. What to Expect follows strict reporting guidelines and uses only credible sources, such as peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and highly respected health organizations. Learn how we keep our content accurate and up-to-date by reading our medical review and editorial policy.
References: Baby Sleep Tips
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Custodio RJ, Junior CE, Milani SL, Simões AL, de Castro M, Moreira AC. 2007. The emergence of the cortisol circadian rhythm in monozygotic and dizygotic twin infants: the twin-pair synchrony. Clin Endocrinol . 66:192-7.
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Kaur R, Bharti B, Saini SK. 2015. A randomized controlled trial of burping for the prevention of colic and regurgitation in healthy infants. Child Care Health Dev. 41:52-6.
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Teti DM, Kim BR, Mayer G, Countermine M. 2010. Maternal emotional availability at bedtime predicts infant sleep quality. J Fam Psychol. 24:307-15
How To Get Your Newborn To Sleep
Sometimes it’s hard to fall asleep in strange places especially when home was a warm, dark and very cozy spot inside Mommy’s belly. When it comes to adjusting to life on the outside, your infant might appreciate sleep-enhancers that remind him of home. Try any or all of these baby sleep strategies to make sending baby off to dreamland a little bit easier.
1. Follow safe sleep guidelines. How your baby lies down and gets to sleep is a matter of safety, not just comfort. Put your newborn flat on his back in his crib, bassinet or playard without any loose bedding, pillows, blankets, stuffed animals or crib bumpers. Experts also recommend room-sharing until baby is at least 6 months old. These safe sleep practices prevent overheating and suffocation, and reduce the risk of SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
2. Try putting him to bed drowsy but awake. Your baby isnt born knowing how to soothe himself to sleep, and if you let him fall asleep in your arms, youre doing his important work for him. A better idea is to rock, sway or pat him gently on the back until hes just nodding off, then put him down when he’s drowsy but still awake so he can learn to fall asleep on his own. Another idea: Try your hand at massaging your baby before he drifts off. Studies suggest that babies who are massaged before bed may produce more of the sleep-enhancing hormone melatonin. And its a nice way for you to bond with your little night owl.
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Let Your Baby Cry It Out
One crying-it-out type of sleep training is the well-known Ferber Method, also known as “Progressive Watching” or “Graduated Extinction.” The goal is to teach your baby how to sleep on their own and put themselves back to sleep if they wake up during the night. Richard Ferber, MD, director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital Boston, developed this method. He advises parents not to start this training until their baby is at least 5 or 6 months old. Heres an overview of how its done:
- Put your baby in their crib — drowsy, but awake. Once you’ve finished their bedtime routine, leave the room.
- If your baby cries, wait a few minutes before you check on them. The amount of time you wait depends on you and your baby. You might start waiting somewhere between 1 and 5 minutes.
- When you re-enter your babys room, try to console them. But do not pick them up and do not stay for more than 2 or 3 minutes, even if they are still crying when you leave. Seeing your face will be enough to assure your baby that you are close by so they can eventually fall asleep on their own.
- If they continue crying, gradually increase the amount of time you wait before going in to check on them again. For instance, if you wait 3 minutes the first time, wait 5 minutes the second time, and 10 minutes each time after that.
- The next night, wait 5 minutes the first time, 10 minutes the second time, and 12 minutes each time after that.
What Sleeping Through The Night Means
In addition to new parent concerns, many parents aren’t even sure what it means for a baby to sleep through the night. According to sleep experts, sleeping through the night means different things depending on your baby’s age. “Sleeping through the night” for a 3-month-old is different from that of a 10-month-old.
Generally speaking, your baby will start sleeping through the night when the natural wake-sleep cycle begins to stabilize. Instead of waking every two to four hours at night to eat, your baby may sleep for five hours at night, wake to eat, and then sleep another two or three hours. Additionally, time spent awake during the day may grow longer.
Sleep experts find that by 6 months of age, consolidated nighttime sleep patterns, which include at least six consecutive hours, are seen in over half of the infant population in studies. And by 9 to 12 months of age, 72% of infants sleep at least six consolidated hours at night.
Keep in mind that to be physiologically able to sleep for longer durations, your baby needs an ability to store calories to fuel nighttime growth processes.
This increased calorie consumption occurs when your baby can not only handle larger feedings but also store fat and carbohydrates. But resist the urge to rush this process and overfeed your baby. If your baby is uncomfortable or experiences reflux, this will interfere with sleep, too.
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But Dont Make Them Nap For Longer Than 2 Hours
This will be hard to do initially, especially during the early weeks. But try as much as you can to prevent longer naps during the day, so they can go have a longer sleep during the night.
You can gently wake them up by opening the curtains, exposing them to sunlight, changing their clothes, etc. Do anything you can to wake them up if theyve been napping for longer than 2 to 2.5 hours.
Bottom line is, make them nap frequently but limit the length of their nap, to encourage them to sleep longer at night.
Sleep Problems After Illness
A sore or scratchy throat, congestion and fever can all make it harder for babies to snooze soundly.
Of course, you want to do what you can to soothe your sweetie and help her get the rest she needs, whether that means popping in for a dose of fever-reducing meds if your pediatrician says it’s okay or a quick nursing session, or holding her upright while she sleeps to ease her congestion.
But sometimes, especially if wake-ups happen for several nights in a row, its possible for a baby to get used to the midnight visits, snuggles and even feedings. And that could potentially lead to sleep issues even after she’s feeling better.
What it looks like: Your babys normally good sleep habits got disrupted when she was sick, but now that shes healthy again, shes still waking up crying for you during the night.
How to solve it: Once your baby is back to her healthy, bubbly self during the day, its time to get back to the usual sleep habits at night. It might take her a few nights to get reacquainted with the normal routine, so hold steady. The more consistent you are, the sooner shell get the message nighttime is for sleep, not hanging out together.
Speed bumps in the sleep department are a common, and even normal, part of babyhood. The good news is that theyre usually solvable.
- What to Expect the First Year, 3rd edition, Heidi Murkoff.
Have A Bedtime Routine
A 2015 study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that children with a consistent bedtime routine tended to have better sleep. They went to bed earlier, fell asleep faster, woke up less frequently throughout the night and slept longer overall. Make sure you follow the same bedtime routine with your toddler all weekweekends included. It should be 20 to 30 minutes and include changing clothes, nightly hygiene such as tooth brushing, and time spent with a caregiver without a screen, says Myron. Read books, tell stories or sing songs in your childs room, then turn the lights out at the same time every night.
When You Need Artificial Lighting At Night Use Bulbs That Block Blue Wavelengths
If you eliminated all sources of electric and electronic light at night, you and your baby would probably find it easier to sleep. But for most of us, total blackouts arent a realistic option.
What can we do when we want to engage in evening activities, like reading? What can we do when we need to change a diaper?
Happily, all light wavelengths dont have the same effect on the inner clock. Yes, white light has a disruptive effect on sleep patterns, and young children are especially sensitive to the effect.
But it appears that one component of white light the blue part of the spectrum is responsible for much of the trouble. If we can block that part of the light spectrum, we might minimize the negative effects of light exposure at night.
A low watt, amber bulb can protect your baby from blue wavelengths, yet provide you with enough light to carry out nighttime infant care. Likewise, blue light filters may reduce the risk to sleep caused by viewing electronic screens at night.
Read more in my article about the opens in a new windoweffects of electronic screens and artificial lighting on childrens sleep patterns.
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Be Mindful Of Television And Other Electronic Media
As already noted, nighttime use of electronic screens can cause trouble because they emit sleep-busting, artificial light. But as I explain in opens in a new windowthis Parenting Science guide, daytime electronic media use might be problematic as well.
Researchers report links between total electronic media use and late bedtimes . And in one recent study, the effect was strongly dependent on the dose:
For every additional 2.5 minutes that babies watched, it took them 5 extra minutes to fall asleep at night .
Where Your Baby Should Sleep
Cot death or sudden infant death syndrome is the sudden and unexpected death of a baby who seems healthy during sleep.
It can happen in a cot, pram, bed, car seat, baby seat or anywhere a baby is sleeping.
The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot in the same room as you.
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Week 4 The Of Newborn Sleep Schedule
Now that both you and baby are good and used to one another, its time to find a mutually beneficial routine and get your newborn on a schedule.
A routine that serves the needs of your infant for nourishment, sleep, and lots of mommy bonding.
Check Out Our Sleep Tips
In Baby Sleep Simplified you’ll find sample schedules for every age through the first year, as well as tips on what you should focus on during every sleep stage to help your baby become a good sleeper. You can also check out our 7 Tips and Tricks on How to Get Your Newborn to Sleep or our 7 Highly Effective Sleep Tips.
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Think Your Baby Is Waking Up Be Cautious About Intervening Too Soon Your Baby Might Be Asleep Or Ready To Resume Sleeping On His Or Her Own
As I explain in my article about night wakings, its normal for sleepers of all ages to experience many partial awakenings at night. When parents report that their infants are sleeping through the night, it isnt that their babies are never waking up. Rather, babies are falling back to sleep, quietly, without signaling their parents.
But young infants sleep very restlessly. They frequently vocalize, and sometimes even open their eyes.
So its easy for new parents to make the mistake of waking a sleeping infant or intervene too fast with an infant experiencing momentary wakefulness. And that can interfere with the development of mature sleep patterns, hindering babies from learning to settle themselves.
This Parenting Science article about opens in a new windowbaby sleep patterns can help you understand the stages of baby sleep, and become more savvy about how and when to respond. If you give your baby the chance, he or she may learn to self-settle at an earlier age.