With my first baby, I was very surprised at how much sleep I needed to recover after a birthing experience. I was also surprised at how difficult it was sometimes to get my newborn daughter to sleep. In the eighties, before the internet revolution, the only medical person I could turn to was the hospital nurse! Now sleep studies reveal many proven techniques that will help you get your baby to sleep.
Establish Routine Sleep Patterns for Your Newborn
Newborns generally develop sleep patterns on their own as they adjust to their new environment. For the first four months of life, a baby will sleep thirteen to fifteen hours during the day and night, usually three to four hours at a time. You can establish healthy routine sleep patterns for your newborn with these sleepy time techniques:
For the first two to four months of life, keep a sleep diary of your baby’s sleep cycles. Keeping a daily sleep diary will help you determine how much and at what times your baby likes to sleep. You can also jot down important facts about their behavior before bed time. This will help you understand times when your baby might be suffering from over tiredness, over stimulation or gas. It will also help you find those comforting bedtime routines to sooth your baby to sleep. Soon, you will see a sleep pattern develop and be able to establish more definite times for naps and bed time.
Avoid over stimulation just before a recorded sleep time. Babies generally do not go to sleep when they are over stimulated from the sights and sounds of their environment. A fussy baby is an indication of over tiredness, overstimulation and/or gas. Prevent overstimulation with quiet time just before a recorded sleep time. Prevent gas by making sure your baby is well-burped.
Make sure your baby’s sleeping area is safe, clean and comfortable. Newborn babies might miss the tight familiarity of the womb. Instead of starting with a big crib, consider using a bassinet, cradle or a small crib that you can attach directly to your bed. The smaller bed helps your baby feel more snug and feeding your baby during the night is a cinch if he or she is right there beside you.
Some parents choose to co-sleep with their baby and have the baby sleep in their bed. Although this can be a very effective technique for promoting overall sleep and feeding patterns, exercise caution and follow the safety measures for co-sleeping at The Natural Child Project .
Just before a recorded sleep time, make sure your baby is changed, well-fed, burped and comfortable. Babies enjoy sucking and some babies like to fall asleep while nursing or having a bottle. However, do not make this an ongoing habit as your baby will start to associate feeding with going to sleep. Instead, use a pacifier and train you baby to go to sleep after being fed, burped, changed and cuddled.
As your baby grows into their fourth month and the sleep patterns become more apparent, establish more regular naptime and bedtime routines. Start by waking your child up and putting them to bed at set times every day. Small babies need both a morning and afternoon nap during the day. Once bed time and wake times are established try and set times for both morning and the afternoon naps. Keep in mind that all babies have their own developmental sleep patterns and what will soothe one baby to sleep may not work for another. Try these different soothing techniques before bed time or naptime to see what combination works best for your baby;
A Soft Nightlight
A warm bath
Gentle Back Rub or Patting
Keep in mind that a baby has sleep cycles similar to that of an adult with a shorter amount of time spent both in deep and light sleep. In light sleep a baby will demonstrate slight movements while deep sleep is characterized by relaxation and deep breathing. Light sleep is the time when your baby is most likely to wake up due to hunger, wetness, environmental noise or by movement from their own arms and legs. Swaddling your baby and protecting their sleep environment from unexpected noise during light sleep cycles will train them to fall back to sleep and sleep longer.
Supporting your baby’s sleep patterns will help them learn healthy sleep habits that will prepare them to sleep through the night. It will also create some wonderful bed-time bonding experiences for you and your baby.
For a baby sleep chart to track your baby’s sleep patterns visit the Baby Center .