Baby Sleep Tips Thatll Help Baby Sleep Longer Stretches
Sitting on the couch with my swollen legs propped up on pillows, I looked over at the stack of newborn baby sleep books on the coffee table. Over the course of several hours, I devoured each book, skimming through the pages.
I was determined to learn how to make a newborn sleep.
Thenmy son was born.
And.he didnt sleep.
Imagine that. A baby not sleeping the way a book says
I fumbled through it the first six weeks. I was so unsure of myself.
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! Weve experienced sleep regression, sleeping on the go, sleeping through teethingand so much more!
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Newborn Growth: What To Expect
After an initial post-birth drop in weight, expect your newborn to settle into a feeding routine. Theyll gain back the weight, and most babies grow steadily from then onward.
You can monitor your babys growth progress by keeping track of their feedings and dirty diapers. Your pediatrician will also weigh them at each checkup.
Over 24 hours, most babies need approximately 25 ounces of breast milk. That volume will stay fairly constant for the first six months of life, except during growth spurts. You should see your babys weight increase, while the number of feedings per day will decrease. Theyll get stronger, and their stomach will get bigger.
Formula-fed babies have a slower rate of feeding than breast-fed babies. They stay full longer, so theyll feed less often.
If Your Baby Doesnt Seem To Be Sleepy At Bedtime Dont Try To Force It
Getting pushy doesnt make babies any sleepier. If anything, it makes them more excitable. And you dont want your baby to associate bedtime with conflict. That can be a difficult lesson to unlearn!
Instead, try the technique known as positive routines and faded bedtime, which I describe opens in a new windowhere.
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Understand How A Baby Sleeps
The more your baby sleeps, the more they will sleep.
Its backwards but true!
If your newborn wont sleep, theres a very good chance, hes way overtired.
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 overtired baby will sleep shorter, not longer.
Note: Sometimes this tip confuses readers. And its no wonder. First I said limit naps during the day, and now I said an overtired 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 dont 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.
Secrets Of A Baby Sleep Expert
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There’s nothing like climbing into bed after a long day, placing your head on a soft pillow, and drifting off to sleeponly to be abruptly awakened by your baby’s cries.
For many moms and dads, this repeat scenario can go on for months, and in some cases, even years.
But getting enough shut-eye each night isnt just a concern for the parents in the house. When infants don’t snooze enough, it can negatively affect both their bodies and minds.
“Sleep impacts every aspect of a baby’s development, from physical growth to emotional development,” says Lisa Meltzer, Ph.D., a sleep specialist and associate professor of pediatrics at National Jewish Health in Denver, CO. “Babies who sleep more have better gains in weight, length and head circumference. Sleep also helps an infant’s brain process and reorganize information learned during the day, develop stronger social skills, and have better maternal/child interaction.”
If you happen to be a sleep-deprived parent reading this, you may be thinking, easier said than done!
So what exactly constitutes a solid bedtime routine for baby? According to Dr. Meltzer, there are seven simple steps that any parent can practice each night.
Tips To Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep
When you bring your brand new baby home, no one tells you that sleep like a baby may not happen, or that if it does, it may only last a short time. This article will give you 10 great tips to help your newborn sleep better.
Before I get to the 10 tips to help your newborn sleep, I thought I should note that it can be dangerous for a new newborn baby to sleep all night. They really do need to eat at least every 3 hours in those early days so they can grow well and thrive.
Addtionally, it is only recommended to place baby on his back to sleep, to guard against SIDS. You may be interested in other ways to lower SIDS risks here too.
There, now that I got that out of the way
How To Help A Baby Sleep
- Find what works for them, whether it be a lullaby or a childrens book, and stick to it.
- Increase pre-bedtime activities like going to the store or tummy time to help make the baby tired.
- Help a child develop an association between an object or a movement with sleepiness, as part of a bedtime routine.
- Once youve established a bedtime routine, dont deviate from it.
That doesnt mean theres no hope. The key, says Reinstein, is establishing some sort of routine or ritual where a certain activity becomes mentally associated with sleepy time.
Establish a bedtime ritual reading a book, a bath if the child is relaxed by it, singing lullabies and create a routine so the message to the child is that its time to settle down and go to sleep, he says.
Physical activity helps too, but during infancy, a childs mobility is severely limited. Still, simple acts like taking them for a walk in a stroller or even grocery shopping offers up ample mental stimulation, which can wear a child out. Tummy time, too, can result in a tired kid.
As for feeding, theres a misconception that breast milk has a more calming effect on a child than formula. This, Reinstein says, is backward. In fact, formulas long gestation period leaves a child feeling full for longer, typically resulting in more sleep.
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How Long Will My Newborn Sleep
Newborns should get 1417 hours of sleep over a 24-hour period, says the National Sleep Foundation. Some newborns may sleep up to 1819 hours a day.
Newborns wake every couple of hours to eat. Breastfed babies feed often, about every 23 hours. Bottle-fed babies tend to feed less often, about every 34 hours.
Newborns who sleep for longer stretches should be awakened to feed. Wake your baby every 34 hours to eat until he or she shows good weight gain, which usually happens within the first couple of weeks. After that, it’s OK to let your baby sleep for longer periods of time at night.
The first months of a baby’s life can be the hardest for parents, who might get up many times at night to tend to the baby. Each baby has a different sleep pattern. Some start to sleep “through the night” by 23 months of age, but some don’t.
Put Your Sleepy Baby To Bed
Starting when your baby is 6 to 12 weeks old, soothe them until they are drowsy. When they are on the verge of sleep, put them down and let them drift off on their own. Don’t wait until they are fully asleep in your arms this could be a behavior that may become a struggle to get rid of later in their life.
This routine will teach your baby to soothe themselves to sleep, and you won’t need to rock or cuddle them to sleep every time they wake up during the night.
If your baby has trouble settling down, try moving their bedtime earlier, not later. Being overtired can make it hard to nod off.
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Limit The Length Of Naps During The Day
I know its 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. It also enables you to get more feedings in during the day, which is very helpful.
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.
Related: How to Help Baby Take Longer Naps
When To Contact A Doctor
When in doubt, contact a doctor. Only a doctor can accurately determine the reason that a newborn is sleeping too much. In many cases, a pediatrician may be able to assess the problem over the phone.
Excess sleep in a newborn is not typically an emergency unless they also show signs of respiratory problems. or go to the emergency room if the following apply:
- The baby is gasping for air or wheezing.
- The babys breathing is very loud.
- The babys nostrils flare when they breathe.
- The skin around the babys ribs sinks in when they breathe.
- The baby has a fever.
- The baby may have inhaled, touched, or eaten something toxic.
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How To Get Your Baby To Sleep Tip : Do What Works
Help can come in many forms. Perhaps its your partner taking some night shifts, a family member or friend coming over during the day so you can get some long hours of uninterrupted sleep, or it could be using a sleep aid- like a white noise machine, swing, pacifier, etc. Moms might be wary to try any of these with fears of developing sleep associations or becoming dependent upon those aids. But lets get real: sleep is a priority. If you can avoid using a sleep aid with your baby, thats great! But these products exist for a reason, so dont beat yourself up for using them. If it works, let it.
Even lead sleep coach and President of The Baby Sleep Site, Nicole Johnson, says in the first six to eight weeks, you do what you have to do:
FROM THE EXPERTS
In an ideal world, we wouldnt use sleep crutches but every stage a baby goes through a parent needs to use different tools from their toolbox, whether its a swaddle, white noise machine, swing , a pacifier, etc. That doesnt mean your baby will need these aids forever or that you wont need to transition away from them later, but in the newborn days sanity is the priority and the most important thing you do with your newborn is bond and part of that is making sure their basic needs are met.
– Nicole Johnson, The Baby Sleep Site
So, when you find yourself in need of a sleep crutch, feel free to lean on us! Learn more about how our Zen Swaddle works here.
Be Strategic With Diaper Changes
Changing your babys diaper can be a stimulus for your little one, making it difficult for her to go back to sleep. If diaper changing is revving up your baby, you may want to choose to limit changes to just poopy diapers and diapers that are exceptionally wet. Lightly wet diapers can wait until the morning. The tradeoff will be longer, more uninterrupted sleep at night for you and your baby.
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Keep Your Newborns Wake
Early-on, the key with your newborn is to keep wake times very short. You should look for sleepy signs and soothe your baby for sleep after just 1-2 hours of wake time TOPS. If you wait until she is fussy, cranky or crying, you are actually too late, because an overly-tired baby will have more trouble settling down, and falling asleep.
Start Early And Enlist Help
- Teaching your baby to sleep can be stressful for many new parents – long days of cleaning blowouts, listening to inconsolable cries, and keeping up with insatiable hunger followed by interrupted nights takes its toll on the whole family. The best advice is:
- Start laying the foundation for healthy sleep as soon as you return home from the hospital, by adopting these tips.
- Get your partner on board from the start. Even simply having help with those dreaded middle of the night feedings can give you the couple extra hours of shut-eye you need to function during the day
- Tip: Be aware that sleep deprivation is directly linked to postpartum depression – enlisting help from your partner, friends, neighbors, or relatives can make all the difference.
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Bedtime Secret: Draw A Warm Bath
Few activities can be as soothing as taking abathand thats especially true for little ones. After coming out of a warm bath, a baby’s body temperature starts to cool, which can help your infant fall asleep more easily.
Use water that’s warm but not hot , and fill the tub with just a couple of inches of water. If your infant cant yet sit up, support your babys head and back with one hand, while using a washcloth and mild baby wash to cleanse your little one.
Don’t Give Up On Swaddling
“It’s the first piece of advice I give to new parents, and they often say, ‘I tried swaddling, and my baby hated it.’ But sleep changes so rapidly in those early weeks and that what she hates at 4 days might work at 4 weeks. And you’ll get better with practice too. It’s common to swaddle to loosely the first few times or feel flustered if your baby is wailing. Believe me, it’s worth another shot, as long as she is still too young to roll over. Try different styles of swaddles, like the Miracle Blanket, which wraps snugly around, or the Swaddle Up, which lets your baby keep her hands up by her faceand maybe make it a little tighter to leave one of her arms out.” Linda Szmulewitz, a licensed social worker and founder of The Chicago New Moms Group and Sleep Tight Consultants
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