Sleep is one of those things that can take parents by surprise because it’s not something your baby instinctively knows how to do. Research suggests your newborn isn’t expected to sleep through the entire night before 6 months of age. The bittersweet news is that these first six months will fly by, so use these tips to help yourself and your newborn get better sleep now!
1. Help your baby differentiate between day and night. Although your baby’s circadian rhythm, or natural body clock, won’t fully develop until about 4 months, you can help them begin to differentiate between night and day by taking them outside every day. In the morning, open the blinds and keep them in brighter rooms. In the evening, dim the lights, especially when getting ready to sleep.
2. Encourage your baby to sleep. Night wakings can be tiring. Remember, it’s okay to do what it takes to help your baby sleep during these first six months. In fact, it’s okay to rock, feed, nurse, walk, shush, and pat your baby to sleep. At this stage, you will not cause any “negative” sleep habits that cannot be changed. The main goal is to help your newborn get enough sleep and encourage healthy development.
3. Create a soothing bedtime routine. Your baby’s sleep environment and soothing bedtime routine will help set the stage for great sleep. Your newborn’s room should be dark, quiet, and cool (68-72 degrees Fahrenheit). Consider using a soothing white noise machine or gently blowing fan to screen out environmental noises. During nighttime wakings for feedings, keep the room dimly lit and speak softly.
4. Hold your baby. Did you know the more you hold your baby, the less they will cry? Skin-to-skin contact creates a bond that has been proven to provide amazing benefits to both the parent and baby. You may also want to consider infant massage or “wearing” your baby throughout the day.
5. Avoid overstimulation. During the first few months, your baby’s nervous system is very fragile and may need a break from stimulation if their system gets too overloaded. Start to observe your baby’s cues and make note of when the fussiness starts. By noticing these cues early you can help to avoid potential meltdowns.
6. Have a flexible routine. Newborns are not yet ready to have a “schedule,” but as early as 6-8 weeks, you can slowly introduce new routines. Having flexible routines can help them to differentiate between day and night. The easiest place to start is with your baby’s bedtime routine that you repeat every night.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, August 2019
- Sleeping through the entire night isn’t expected during the first 6 months.
- The main goal during your first few months is to help your newborn differentiate between day and night.
- Avoid overstimulation and be flexible with your newborn’s routine.