At Westchester Health, maybe the only thing we like better than new babies is helping parents learn how to take of their new babies. They typically come to us with lots of questions, first and foremost being, When will our baby sleep through the night?
For the first few weeks, or even months, babies don’t sleep for very long
They also don’t know that they’re supposed to sleep during the night and be awake during the day. Until they get this figured out, it can be tough on parents, but there are a few things you can do to help them sleep through the night sooner rather than later. (For a baby 4 months and younger, sleeping 5 hours at a stretch is considered sleeping through the night.)
How to get your newborn to sleep? First, start with you
We know it’s next to impossible when you have a newborn, but we urge you to try to get consistent sleep yourself. When you’re rested, you’re much more able to deal with a fussy, over-tired baby. The reverse is also true: when you’re sleep-deprived, everything seems worse and patience wears thin.
- Resist the urge to clean the house or fold laundry when your baby is sleeping. It can wait! And, your baby will wake up before you know it. While you can, grab the chance to lie down, if only for a few minutes, and close your eyes.
- Delegate some of the baby care, as well as household chores, to your partner, family members, friends or a babysitter so you can get some rest.
- Say no to things that will prevent you from resting, if only for the first 3-6 months of your baby’s life.
7 tips for getting your newborn to sleep through the night
All babies take some time to learn how to sleep through the night, and equally importantly, go back to sleep once they wake in the night. The key is establishing a consistent routine that enables your baby to relax and feel safe which will encourage sound sleeping for extended hours. To learn how to do that, we like these pointers from Healthline which we share here.
Figuring out daytime vs. nighttime
A newborn’s understanding of day and night is rather limited. They eat, sleep, wet or soil their diapers, then repeat, no matter whether it’s light or dark out. But, you can help them learn the difference.
New babies sleep for approximately 16+ hours every day, spread out among 6 or 7 naps and longer sleep periods. To help your little one learn the difference between day and night, build in some stimulation during the day, such as noise and light. Take your baby outside if possible, as natural light helps their internal clock adjust to day-night rhythms. During the day, carry on with normal house sounds/noise and don’t make your baby’s room very dark. During the night, on the other hand, make the room dark and keep noises down.
Naps during the day
It may seem counterintuitive, but an over-tired baby won’t sleep better at night. Stick to regular nap times but remember that babies change their habits when they teethe, are sick, are growing or are traveling (especially to different time zones). Naps should not last over 3-4 hours, especially the last nap of the day, which can interfere with nighttime sleep.
Keep a sleep log
For the first several months, or even the first year, keep track of your baby’s naps and sleep times. This will help you identify sleep patterns and also sleep changes, which can signal that your baby is entering a growth or teething period, or is sick.
Establish bedtime routines
One of the most important things you can do to encourage your baby to sleep through the night is establish a bedtime routine and stick to it. Suggestions:
- Give your baby a bath, followed by a soothing massage with baby oil or lotion.
- Dim the lights and feed your baby, either breast milk or formula. Make sure to burp him/her afterward.
- Snuggle with your baby and maybe read a bedtime book. (Hint: Choose one you don’t mind reading over and over again.)
- Sing a lullaby as you put your baby down. He/she will notice the transition but hopefully be drowsy enough not to cry or come fully awake.
- Keep it short, sweet and consistent. Knowing what comes next in the routine will help your baby stay calm and feel safe as you leave the room. If he/she has trouble settling, gently pat their back and sing another lullaby until they’re calm and sleepy enough to drift off.
Don’t let your baby fall asleep while feeding
You don’t want your baby getting into the habit of falling asleep at the breast or the bottle. While some infants won’t have a problem weaning themselves from this habit as they get older, some will become very dependent on it and it will become a necessary sleep prop. To prevent this, gently remove the breast or bottle before your baby reaches deep slumber. Hint: Do this as early as you can, as babies’ sleep routines get well-established by 4 to 6 months.
Snuggle your baby but not to the point of falling asleep
Bedtime snuggles should not put babies completely to sleep so when they wake up alone in their crib, they cry for help
Be flexible, but stick with bedtime routine
Many factors can disrupt your baby’s sleep, such as sickness, teething, traveling, clocks moving backward or forward, growth spurts, even getting a babysitter. Nevertheless, do your best to keep daytime naps and the bedtime routine you’ve established consistent.
What if your baby cries as soon as you leave the room?
As pediatricians and as parents, our advice is to wait several moments before you go back into your baby’s room after putting him/her down. Each time your baby cries, wait longer before responding. After three times of going in the room or picking him/her up to soothe, we think it’s best (even though it can be hard) to not respond again and if need be, let your baby cry him/herself to sleep. Hopefully, this will teach your baby to be self-soothing and encourage him/her to become independent of you.
Helpful blogs we’ve written on sleep and SIDS
- 10 Best Ways To Help Your Toddler Fall Asleep
- How To Help Your Toddler Establish Good Sleep Habits
- What Is SIDS and How Can I Protect My Baby?
You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.
At any age, count on the pediatricians of Westchester Health and Northwell Physician Partners for vital information to help you raise happy, healthy kids. Whether you have teenagers, adolescents, toddlers or newborns, we’ve got years of experience helping parents take care of their children and we’re here to help you with yours. Please call us at (914) 232-1919.
Want to learn more about getting your baby to sleep through the night? Come see us.
If you want further tips on helping your baby sleep through the night, or have questions about any aspect of taking care of your newborn, please make an appointment to come in and see one of our Westchester Health pediatricians. We’ll share our years of experience with you and take as much time as needed to answer all your questions. Most of all, we want to help you raise a happy, healthy child and feel confident as a parent. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.
By Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP, Lead Pediatric Physician with Westchester Health, member of Northwell Health Physician Partners