Understanding Newborn Sleep

May 4, 2018

Restful sleep is crucial to your baby’s development during the first months of life. Check out this guide for everything you need to know about newborn sleep.

Recognize your infant’s signs of sleepiness.

Helping your baby develop safe, healthy sleep habits is a learning process for both of you. One of the first steps is to learn your little one’s sleepiness signs. If she always rubs her eyes when she’s drowsy, for example, or if she becomes fussy or irritable, you’ll know it’s time to get her ready for bed.

Work on sleep hygiene.

The best way to help your baby develop good sleep habits is to establish a routine before bed—called “sleep hygiene.” When your child becomes familiar with this set of bedtime rituals, he’ll know it’s time to get ready to sleep. Choose activities that will soothe your child and help him feel drowsy, such as feeding him, putting on his pajamas and reading or singing to him.

Practice falling asleep.

To help your baby learn to fall asleep on her own, put her to bed when she’s drowsy but still awake. This will train her to fall asleep in her crib and not in your arms. Your baby will also learn to soothe herself back to sleep instead of being rocked or held, which means more restful, uninterrupted sleep for you.

Follow “back to sleep” guidelines.

Infants should always sleep on their backs. This position keeps them safe while they sleep and greatly reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). At this stage, your child may be able to roll from his stomach to his side, but he is not yet strong enough to roll from his back to his side or stomach. If your baby does roll onto his stomach in his first few weeks, reposition him on his back.

Be sure the crib is safe.

Make sure that your baby’s mattress is firm and is flat against the sides of the crib. The sleeping area should be free of pillows, comforters and plush toys. If you’re worried about keeping your newborn warm, consider swaddling. Ask for a swaddling tutorial while you’re still at the hospital, or look online for a step-by-step guide.

Make the nursery sleep-friendly.

Because infants develop many of their sleep habits during their first weeks of life, it’s important to provide a consistent sleep environment. Be sure the room is dark when you put her into the crib, and dress her in an extra layer and hat to ensure a chill won’t wake her.

Figure out sleep and feeding.

During your little one’s first 30 days, he should sleep for two to three hours between each feeding, for a total of eight feedings each day. When your infant is getting the right amount of food for his age, he should wake up on his own when he is hungry or wet.

In the coming months, your baby will be able to sleep for longer periods of time (three to four hours) between feedings. Your infant should develop a more consistent sleep schedule as his nervous system matures and he is able to go longer between feedings.

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