Train Your Newborn to Develop a Healthy Sleep Pattern

Water Balloon Baby Training

My nephew and his wife were expecting their first baby.  As I shared with them some of my “old foggy” memories of having my first child, I vividly recalled my parenting shock when I realized that my baby daughter had a mind of her own.  She wanted to sleep and eat when she wanted to, and it certainly had nothing to do with my perfectly planned pre-arranged schedule. It was an eye-opening experience and it took me several post-partum weeks to make the necessary mental adjustments.

To prepare my nephew and his wife for their own remarkable parenting experience, I recommended that they fill up a water balloon and practice carrying it up and down the living room floor every three to four hours during the night.  I also told him to be sure and change the pretend baby by replacing the water every two to three hours.    We laughed together and enjoyed this joke about the water balloon baby training method.  Even though this is a funny way to psych yourself up for some sleepless nights, the sleep deprivation that most parents experience is no laughing matter. Fortunately, there are many sleepy time techniques that will help your newborn to develop a healthy sleep pattern

Develop a Healthy Sleep Pattern:  Newborn to Three Months

Do not be alarmed when your newborn baby sleeps around the clock.  When you think about it, being born into a new environment is a big deal and it takes a tremendous amount of energy out of both you and your baby.   You will feel exhausted after the birthing experience and so will your newborn.   For the first eight weeks, your newborn will sleep between *sixteen to eighteen hours a day.  Newborns usually have their days and nights mixed up and, for the first few weeks, you may pull more than a few all nighters trying to get baby straightened out.  Use your baby’s wakeful periods to observe their developing personality.  Observe what sounds and signs your baby gives you when they are hungry, messy, sleepy or just fussy.   After the initial eight weeks, you can start incorporating some basic sleep training techniques so that your growing baby will eventually sleep through the night.

Your baby will grow a great deal in the first three months.   Growing takes a tremendous amount of time and energy.   Your baby will need a balanced schedule of sleep, food and stimulating wakeful periods. *As your baby grows, so will their capability to sleep for longer periods.  Gently directing your baby into a balanced schedule will enable your baby to develop a healthy sleep pattern.

Gently Build a Healthy Sleep Schedule

Gently direct your baby into a healthy schedule by keeping them more awake when you want them awake so that they will sleep when you want them to sleep.  From eight weeks to three months, your baby will start to develop a general sleeping, feeding and changing pattern. Try to keep your baby more awake during the day so that they will eventually learn to sleep through the night.  After eight weeks, if your baby is still sleeping a great deal during the day, try waking s/he up by washing their face with a soft, warm cloth.  Put them in an upright position in their car seat and give them a chance to look around while you do the dishes or dust the piano.  You baby will start to learn that day time is for waking and night time is for sleeping.

At three months, your baby will have developed the natural habit of waking up early to eat.  Often, after they have gained weight at three months, they usually will wake up at the more reasonable time of 5:00 or 6:00 a.m.  After feeding, wash your baby’s face and get him or her changed and dressed for the day.  Plan to keep your baby up for one to two hours of stimulating wakeful time.

During wakeful times, play with your baby and lay them on a soft blanket on their back with some baby-safe toys to look at.  Your baby may not enjoy this at first, but eventually they will learn the difference between day and night activities.  Do not be too alarmed if your baby gets fussy about being on the blanket. s/he may feel scared, miss mommy and get a little fussy about such a big open space, but a five to ten minute fuss without being picked up is actually good for your baby.  Crying allows them to expand, exercise and develop their lungs.  Kicking their legs is good exercise to keep all the food and gas moving.  At about forty- five minutes to a half-hour before their scheduled nap-time, feed, change and burp them thoroughly.

A Three Month Old Daily Schedule

A three month old infant’s daily schedule will gradually evolve into a general schedule of two morning feedings, a morning nap, two afternoon feedings, an afternoon nap, one evening and one late night feeding and then a general bed time, usually between 8:00 and 10:00 p.m.  They key word in this schedule is general.  Just like you, babies have appetites that fluctuate based on their growing needs.  One day they may eat a whole bunch, and on other days, they just want to sleep or stay awake and play.  Keep an open general schedule of anticipated wake and sleepy times.  Do not plan too many outside activities. You may get cabin fever, but keeping up with your baby’s schedule is very important in establishing a regular routine.

The “Sleepy Time” Routine

One of the most important things you can do is to establish a regular sleepy time routine.  Sleepy time routines will help your baby understand that it is time to go to sleep.  Start by creating a soft environment with a twilight room, rocking-chair and some soft sounds.  Make sure that the crib/nursery area is safe, soft and comfortable, free from any unnecessary noise and distraction.  Never try putting a baby to bed while watching T.V.  The loud noise, flashing light and distraction can over stimulate, causing baby to associate both naptime and bedtime with noise time.  Loud music is also not a great way to help your baby find the path to sleepy time land.

Before naptime or bedtime, feed your baby, burp them thoroughly and make sure their diaper is clean and dry.  Before bed time you will want to give them a warm bath, about every other night.  Bathing daily can be hard on baby’s skin and you will need to spend extra money on expensive lotions. Bathing every other day will protect your baby’s skin and put more money in your wallet.

Dress your baby to climate temperature, making sure they are neither too hot nor too cold. *An eight week to three month old baby will have difficulty regulating their body temperature so that they conserve heat.   Making sure your little one is warm with a beanie on the head will help your baby sleep better.  As your baby grows, s/he will be better able to regulate their body temperature and feel hot or cold to the climate as you feel hot or cold. Make sure to dress your baby appropriately so that they are neither too hot, nor too cold.  Being too hot or cold will cause any baby to wake up with a fuss.

Let Brother and Sister Help

Brothers and sisters can help put the baby to bed by getting the baby’s blankets and nursery ready.  After that, let them know that it is quiet time so that you can put the baby to bed.  Have brothers and sisters go into a separate room to play and/or read books while you put the baby to bed.  If they are overly eager to help, turn it into a bonding experience by having them sit on your lap, hold the baby and
help rock-a-bye the baby to sleep. Put a sign on your door to discourage callers from ringing the door-bell and/or knocking too loudly.  Take the phone off the hook and let the world go on its merry way while you do the most important mothering job of getting your baby to bed.