As a parent, you know that newborns and sleepless nights go hand in hand. Those first months can feel like a hazy, never-ending blur.
It’s true that newborns sleep a lot — 16 to 17 hours or more per day. But they might only sleep an hour or two at a time. Plus, little tummies need frequent feedings. Most infants eat every two to three hours for the first couple of months.
Thankfully, as your baby grows and can eat more at once, they’ll be able to go for longer periods between feedings. By two months, most babies eat every three to four hours. At six months, feedings are typically every four to five hours. Between one and three months, your baby may even start to sleep for a longer stretch of five to six hours after a late-night feeding.
In the meantime, here’s what you can do to help your newborn — and you — sleep better.
Show the difference between day and night
This helps regulate your baby’s internal body clock. Expose your baby to sunlight during the day. Go outside if you can. Interact and play. Then, from around 7p.m. to 7a.m., keep the lights in your home dim. Too much light at night can block our bodies’ production of melatonin, a hormone that helps us sleep. Keeping the environment dark helps your baby develop healthy melatonin levels.
Remember that waking up at night is normal
Even adults wake up multiple times every night. Your baby will eventually learn how to soothe himself back to sleep. You can help with that process. When you’re feeding or changing him during the night, keep everything low-key and quiet. Use dim lighting and try not to wake him any more than you have to.
Put your baby to bed when she’s drowsy but still awake
This helps her learn to fall asleep on her own. They’ll also learn how to soothe herself when she wakes up during the night. Make sure your baby is sleeping on a firm mattress with nothing else in the crib. And remember that she should sleep on her back until she is a year old.
Give it a few minutes
Hear your baby fussing? See if they goes back to sleep on his own before you respond. If not, check on them, but don’t interact or turn on the light. If they just can’t settle down on his own, it’s time to jump in. They may be hungry, need a diaper change, or not feel well.
Start a sleep routine
Kids thrive on regular routines, especially when it comes to naps and bedtime. You can’t put a newborn on a schedule, but you can help your baby start to make some associations between certain activities and sleep. For example, you could save her bath for right before you put her down for the night. Try putting on some soft, soothing music in the room at bedtime. Your baby will start to connect baths and gentle music with sleep time.
For more tips to help keep your new baby healthy and safe, sign up at HealthyChildren.org to receive age-based texts and newsletters.