Author, The Sleep Sense Program
New parents know the stress of caring for a baby around the clock and not sleeping well.
Sleep expert Dana Obleman is sharing her tips to help babies and parents get on a good sleep schedule.
“Newborn babies are going to be waking every few hours on a 24 hour clock” says Obleman, the author of The Sleep Sense Program, step-by-step system designed to help children learn the necessary skills to sleep through the night. “That’s just the way that they’re biologically designed at that age.
“The expectation, needs to be that you’re going to be up several times throughout the night to feed your hungry newborn.”
Obleman, who has a podcast called “The Sleep Sense Show,” encourages parents to nap when they can and to accept help from friends and family so they can rest.
She says it’s important to start teaching your newborn some healthy sleep habits so that as they grow and develop, their sleep stretches get longer. New parents can expect their baby to start sleeping more during the night starting at 10 to 12 weeks.
Obleman says newborn babies have very little stamina and need to sleep throughout the day.
“If they’re up and they’ve had a nice feed and a little bit of playtime with the family, at the hour mark is when they reach their threshold and really need to be going back to sleep for a nap or for the night,” she says, urging parents to balance that schedule throughout the 24 hour clock.
The goal is to give the newborn an opportunity to sleep when they’re fatigued, but not overly fatigued. She calls being overly fatigued, a “newborn baby’s worst enemy,” since that’s when they have a hard time settling down.
“My second best tip is to occasionally allow the newborn to fall asleep, without a lot of extra help or support from you,” she says.
For example, put your baby down in the bassinet at the hour mark before they’re asleep. The infant may drift off to sleep, which is the start of helping the baby become an independent sleeper.
“Just that little bit of experience with falling asleep, without always being held or bounced or fed, is going to give them exposure to this idea that eventually, they won’t need all of that extra help,” says Obleman. “They can do it on their own.”
There are a few exceptions, but overall her advice is to never wake a sleeping baby. That’s because babies need to learn to get bigger chunks of sleep.
Teach your baby sleep strategies including self-soothing, which means they learn to relax, get comfortable and fall asleep on their own. That can start with a bedtime routine. For example, give the baby a bath, change them into their pajamas, feed them and then read a story or two. Those are all cues for the body to relax and prepare for sleep.
“Once a child knows what their strategies are and how to make that journey easier, then they become really good sleepers,” she says.