Here are the 10 best tips to help your newborn sleep better, and that will set the stage for future good night's sleep
Bringing home a newborn is probably one of the most exciting things you can experience. But besides the love, excitement, and affection you have for your baby as a new parent, there is also exhaustion and insecurity.
The nights can be long, and sleep deprivation is real. New parents often don't know what to expect from their little one sleep-wise.
Because of the lack of sleep, many parents are desperate for different strategies to improve their baby's sleep. But this age calls for a lot of guilt-free bonding, not sleep training or a rigid sleep schedule.
Because the truth is that such young babies will not sleep through the night (unless they are unicorn babies). They will have shorter naps, and sometimes they prefer to sleep during the day and party all night.
While this sleep behavior is normal, I don't want you to just wait it out. There are a lot of great strategies to improve your baby's sleep that are easy to implement but are still very effective. Many of them also set the stage for healthy sleep habits in the future.
Therefore, here I have gathered the 10 best newborn baby sleep tips that will help your newborn sleep better, are easy to implement, and will also help you get more rest.
What You Should Not Do
1. Think About Sleep Training
I see so many posts on social media asking when they can start to sleep train their 3-week-old baby. I know you are desperate, but this is not the time to even think about sleep training. This is the time to bond with your baby, to have skin-on-skin, and to be a safe haven for your newborn.
2. Stress About A Sleep Schedule
I love schedules, but they should be implemented at the right time and age. Having a newborn on a sleep schedule will not work. Your baby's sleep is still all over the place, and trying to enforce a sleep schedule will only stress you out more.
Once you notice that your baby develops a regular sleep pattern which usually happens after 2-3 months, you can start with a loose schedule.
3. Force Sleep
I say this over and over again. You cannot force a baby to sleep when they are not tired, even when it is 8 PM, and you think it should be bedtime. You will only end up fighting.
Isn't it frustrating when you are lying in bed and cannot sleep? Why would you think it is different for babies? It's better to follow their sleep cues than constantly watch the clock.
4. Worrying About Bad Sleep Associations
Whenever I read or hear a sleep consultant warning parents of newborns not to teach bad sleep associations, I cringe. Your baby just came out of your womb. There is no such thing as teaching them bad sleep associations. Babies this young cannot get used to specific ways of falling asleep, being carried around too much, or being spoiled. It's not possible.
Stop worrying about rocking or feeding your baby to sleep. Instead, use these associations to your advantage! The time will come when you can lead your little one to more independent sleep.
5. Following a rigid bedtime routine
A bedtime routine can be very helpful in setting the mood for sleep. But a routine is more important for older babies and toddlers. For such young infants, a rigid routine is not a must. You can use certain elements of a routine such as changing the diaper, a belly massage, or a bath, but you don't have to do it every evening. It's ok to mix up the order or to skip a massage or bath. Don't stress about it. Sometimes babies want to sleep asap, and then you should not have to think about every little step you still have to do according to your routine.
The Best Tips To Get Your Newborn To Sleep
1. Use Black-Out Curtains
My first tip is to get those black-out curtains installed immediately. Once you have a baby, black-out curtains should be on top of your shopping list. They prevent any unwanted light from coming in in the morning or evening.
They not only work very well for newborns or young babies, but they are also very helpful for toddlers. Once they have dropped their last nap, bedtime might be early. Sometimes it will still be bright outside, and your little one will have trouble falling asleep. And then black-out curtains can help you out.
This is definitely an investment that you will have for years. So measure your window right away and get those curtains asap!
2. Use White Noise
Young babies often have very light sleep. Their sleep cycle is shorter, and they will erupt from sleep much easier than older babies. Outside noises can easily wake them up. Playing a white noise sound can help mask those outside noises.
As your little one grows older, they will have deeper sleep, and noises won't bother them anymore. You can then very quickly wean from the white noise sound.
3. Use A Swaddle Or Sleeping Bag
A sleeping bag, sleep sack, or swaddle has three great advantages. For one, your baby's movements are slightly restricted. This will help them feel more comfortable. Newborns also have the Moro reflex or startle reflex. Sounds and bright lights can make your little one throw back their arms or legs. A swaddle will significantly help reduce the startling.
Secondly, with a sleeping bag, you can much better control your baby's temperature. You don't have to worry about your baby throwing off a blanket and getting cold. They are also much safer.
Thirdly, a sleeping bag is a great passive sleep association. My babies came to love their sleeping bags so much that they didn't want to take them off after waking up until toddler ages.
4. Keep It Bright During The Day
Early baby sleep patterns are much different from adult sleep patterns. Babies are born with day/night confusion, meaning they don't know when it's day and night. That's why many newborns like to sleep all day long and stay up at night.
To help your baby develop their circadian rhythm, expose them to a lot of light during the day and keep it dark at night. This will help accumulate night sleep. It can take 2-3 months until your little one's circadian rhythm has developed.
5. Have Safe Contact Naps
Newborns and young infants thrive on contact naps. Maybe you also have a sleeping baby on your hands that only wants to be help and wakes the minute they wake up!
I know it can make you feel trapped, but this is very normal infant behavior, especially in the first few weeks. I have seen so many parents obsess about this sleep behavior. But this will not get you very far. The best thing you can do in these early stages is to give in. Contact naps will not happen for a very long time, but they can help your baby sleep much, much better during the day.
So prepare a safe sleep space for you and your baby, prepare your snacks and drinks, and enjoy the cuddles with your newborn baby.
6. Use A Carrier
A carrier is a great solution if your baby prefers contact naps. Your baby can enjoy your closeness and sleep soundly while you have your hands free to do some other stuff.
Sometimes parents think their baby does not like the carrier, but I would give it several tries. Check if your baby is placed in the carrier properly. Also, a little bit of crying in the beginning is very normal. A carrier will make you feel much more flexible again.
7. Feed Before Naps
Newborn babies have very small stomachs and will have multiple frequent feeds. A nap of two hours is a long time without a feeding. Your baby might wake earlier from their nap.
You can have an additional feed (please don't force-feed) 15-20 minutes before their nap. Or you can simply feed to sleep (which works great, by the way). This way, you can rule out hunger when your baby has short daytime naps.
8. Avoid Too Much Exposure To Electric Devices
Research shows that exposure to blue light emitted from electronic devices can lead to poorer infant sleep. Your baby can have a harder time falling asleep and more frequent night wakings.
You should generally avoid screen time at least 2 hours before sleep. Especially, newborns and young infants are easily overstimulated, so you should also minimize exposure during the day.
You don't have to skip watching tv or your phone entirely. We all know that binge-watching shows and endlessly scrolling through Instagram are great activities in the newborn phase. Just try to shield your little one from the screen, for example, by moving away from the screen or using an umbrella.
9. Learn Your Baby's Sleep Cues
Learning about different sleep cues is very important to figure out the right time to get your baby to sleep. You will soon learn the sleep cues of your baby.
Typical sleep cues are looking away or a blank stare, rubbing eyes, pulling ears, and red brows. If you see these signs, you should get your baby to sleep as soon as possible.
10. Learn To Stay Calm
My last sleep tip is more for you than for your baby. The bitter truth is that sometimes we attempt to change too much regarding our baby when in fact, we are the ones who have to adjust their mindset or thinking.
Besides understanding normal baby sleep, it is also important for us as parents to learn to stay calm, even when our baby is crying or not sleeping. Babies have such sensitive stress receptors they pick up on stress immediately. Even when you are trying to hold it in, and it does not necessarily reflect in your voice or face, they feel it when it is within you.
I know it is not an easy task always to stay cool, and you won't. God knows I haven't, and I still don't. But you can practice it with affirmations, breathing techniques, and meditation.