What Are the Secrets of Getting a Newborn to Sleep at Night?
You’re likely reading this article today because you have a newborn baby. You’re also most likely reading it because you can’t get your baby to sleep properly at night, and you also miss maintaining some form of regular sleep for yourself. Believe me I get it! I have been there. My eldest did not sleep through the night until he was 18 months old, but by babies 3 and 4 (twins)I had it down.
When you have a baby, your nightly (and daily) routines will soon become a distant memory. If you thought your newborn would settle into a routine that you prescribe, the new son or daughter in your life will quickly destroy that dream! No newborn is going to sleep completely through the night. They need to eat so I think the first thing you need to do is accept that your sleep will be broken.
You’re probably reading all of this and thinking to yourself that all hope is lost. You’re just destined to have little to no sleep each night, and your baby will just make up their own sleep routine.
The truth is, all hope isn’t lost! You might not think so right now, but you and your newborn baby can get a good night’s sleep every night. This doesn’t mean sleeping the entire night through, but it can mean waking for a feed and going straight back to sleep and not having a huge task on your hands to get your newborn to sleep at night. So what are the secrets to getting your newborn to sleep at night you might ask yourself?
Here’s what you need to know:
Limit the Length of Naps During the Day
Let’s face it: if your baby sleeps a lot during the day, they are most likely to spend a lot of time awake during the night when you want to sleep! That’s why it makes sense to limit the length of your baby’s naps during the day, but don’t be tempted to reduce their naps more than the recommended times for newborns as they do need to nap.
You will find out that if you baby doesn’t get enough sleep during the day they will get overtired and bizarrely that will stop your newborn sleeping at night. So it is a balancing act… too much daytime sleep equals a baby who thinks night time is awake time and feeding time!
It can seem a little cruel waking up a sleeping baby. However, you need to remember that more daytime sleep equals less night time sleep. When you have a new baby, you should try to limit their sleep to a maximum of two hours per nap. There is lots of advice out there about the appropriate amount of nap time for babies at various ages.
If your baby is still asleep at the two-hour point, you may want to wake them up. Yes, your baby might be a little cranky at getting woken from their peaceful slumber. But, it means you can try to get them into a routine where they eventually do most of their sleep at night.
When you wake your baby up from a daytime nap, it makes sense to feed them and keep them awake for a bit. Afterward, you can let them have another short nap of up to hours long.
Shorter daytime naps don’t just help for longer night time sleep. They also let you provide more feedings to your baby during the day and this can help prevent the cluster feeding craziness that can occur at the end of the day right when you would like them to go to sleep.
Babies Work to Patterns
Having a fixed routine or schedule seldom works when you have a baby. But, what can help is reminding yourself that babies can work to patterns. There are three main things a baby does: eat, stay awake (and be active), and sleep.
When your newborn baby wakes up from their slumber, the first thing that will happen is they want to feed. Once they’ve fed, they will stay awake for a while before getting exhausted and having a nap to rebuild their energy levels.
Reminding yourself of your baby’s patterns or cycles for doing things is incredibly beneficial to you as a parent. And it’s something that can help if you feel like you’re making progress but then end up dealing with baby sleep regression problems.
Keeping all the above in mind will help you create a rough routine of when your baby will do certain things.
Have you noticed how the above advice doesn’t mention anything about feeding your baby before he or she goes to sleep? Some parents may try to feed their baby before bedtime, but babies will start associating feeding with sleep. Some people report that it is harder to get breast fed babies to sleep through the night and there are some great tips about handling this here: Teaching Baby to Sleep Through the Night
If you give your baby a full feed just after they’ve woken up, they’ll be more inclined to sleep at night without putting up a fight. Feeding your baby to sleep is sometimes easier, but it can create a problem down the line as they get older as they will not know how to settle and get to sleep without milk.
Don’t Force Your Baby to Stay Awake
Some mothers will automatically assume that keeping their babies awake for as much as possible during the day will mean they sleep for a long time at night. The sad truth is that doesn’t happen. In fact, the opposite will occur due to over-stimulation during the day.
Did you know that babies tend to sleep more often if they get plenty of opportunities to nap each day? It sounds crazy, but that’s how it works for babies! With that in mind, let your newborn baby sleep as often as they want – but try to stick to the two-hour daytime nap limit.
Another advantage of frequent daytime naps is you have more opportunities to feed your baby once they wake up. And when you do that, your baby won’t wake up as often during the night to feed.
Try to avoid the urge to rock when getting a newborn to sleep at night
Especially when it is your first baby it can be so tempting to just sit and rock or cuddle your baby to sleep. This is the mistake that we made first time round. The end result was a child who could not go to sleep without being rocked and a husband who ended up walking him around the park every night in the buggy to get him off to sleep. We did not repeat this with our other 3 babies!
They are so little and so precious it is virtually impossible to put them down even if they aren’t fussing so I get it I really do, but I promise you if you put baby down in their cot when they are still awake they will definitely learn to settle themselves and in the long run this will be a god send to you.
We did this with our twins who are now 5 and they go off to sleep within minutes each night and they always have. This means they get more sleep and so do I – win win! If you just can’t bear not to touch your baby when they are heading off to sleep or fussing in the night then I totally recommend the shush pat technique – say shush gently and slowly over and over again whilst gently patting their arm or leg – it is actually a miracle!
Use White Noise to Your Advantage
One final tip for your arsenal is using white noise to your advantage. In case you didn’t know, “white noise” is the sound from appliances or machines in your home, such as your washing machine or an air fan.
White noise can be a good way of dissuading your baby from feeling like he or she should stay awake in case they’re missing out on anything interesting going on in your home. Did you know you can even buy white noise machines?
It’s a good thing for your baby to get used to, as it means you don’t need to keep asking your family members to remain silent while you try to get your baby to sleep.
It can take some practice to get used to doing things in a particular order. But, the results will pay off when you and your baby can sleep for longer each night. After all, it’s just as important for moms to get plenty of rest as much as their babies!
Hopefully, you’ve found the tips on this page inspirational. Remember that you don’t have to set any rules or routines in stone. Each baby is different and will react or do things in their own way and in their own time. The key is to understand what your baby does and when.
Thanks for reading – and good luck!