Sleep training should never be attempted with a newborn. However, there are a few things you can work on so that your baby can begin to develop some healthy sleep habits and routines. In this blog post, I will share some newborn healthy sleep habits you can do with your little one to get things moving in the right direction.
It’s extremely important to remember that your newborn has a very small tummy, so for the first few months, sleep is often driven by hunger. Also, if you are breastfeeding, it’s essential to prioritize this until your baby becomes efficient and gains the appropriate weight. A hungry baby will not be able to settle; therefore, getting good sleep will not likely happen. Some babies can be so sleepy that they are not breastfeeding efficiently and getting the nutrition they need. When this happens, the baby is so exhausted from trying to feed that they will sleep too much and not gain weight appropriately. If you are unsure how breastfeeding is going, I’d strongly recommend getting help from a lactation consultant. They will assess and then help with any feeding issues. Once you determine that feeding is going well, please continue reading for tips to help your newborn sleep.
My first newborn healthy sleep habits tip is swaddling. It is my very favorite baby tool. I love swaddling a baby! I know how much swaddling can help a baby feel snug and secure, just as they did in the womb. In addition to their safe feeling when swaddled, it also keeps their startle reflex from waking them. I’ve had some parents tell me their baby doesn’t like being swaddled.
What I’ve found to be true is that a baby doesn’t like being swaddled but when they get picked up and held close, they will settle down and sometimes even sigh relief. I love hearing that sigh of relief! When your baby is consistently swaddled, they usually stop fighting the process after a few weeks. If a baby is not swaddled properly, they will spend a lot of time scooching their fists and arms from their sides around to the front and will even break out of the swaddle entirely. When they are scooching, they’re not sleeping, so it’s important that their arms are swaddled close to the sides of their body and that the swaddle is put on nice and snug to keep their arms in place.
Swaddles that don’t allow babies to move their hips should not be used. I don’t hesitate to start over when I don’t feel that I’ve swaddled a baby very well. I encourage parents to do the same.
My very favorite swaddle to use is the Sleepea® 5-Second Baby Swaddle. Dr. Harvey Karp, author of “The Happiest Baby on the Block, introduced this swaddle.” This is my new favorite because it makes swaddling easier than any other swaddle I’ve used. It also gives you different options so that once your baby is showing signs of rolling, you can continue to use it with their arms out, yet their body is still getting a nice snuggly feeling.
Many different swaddles are available today, so you may need to try a few different ones before you find the one that works best for you and your baby. There should never be any loose blankets in the bassinet/ crib for safe sleep.
My third newborn healthy sleep habits tip is to have white noise in their room. White noise is another one of my favorite tools. In utero, your baby heard a lot of swooshing noises. I don’t have a favorite white noise machine. The white noise machines I like have an option for a continuous white noise sound. You can try ocean waves and crickets chirping, but research has shown that these noise options can sometimes wake a baby, whereas the continuous white noise is not disruptive to sleep. The white noise should be located between the baby and the door so that any sounds from the hallway will be drowned out, and you don’t have to worry about pets and siblings making noise and waking your little one.
It’s vital that you get your baby used to being placed in a bassinet or crib to sleep. There’s a very good chance they may not like it initially. If they cry when you lay them down, pick them up, settle them, and try again. Most babies need a lot of practice with this before accepting it, so my advice is to keep trying. Do this throughout the daytime as well to get more practice in. If it gets too exhausting for you, try tag teaming with your partner or a willing grandparent. Keep it all business when you take them out of the crib to settle them. If you interact socially with them, they will have a good reason to keep crying each time you attempt to lay them down. Always place your baby on their back in the bassinet or crib.
Try to fight the urge to have too many sleep expectations for your little one at this early stage. When your baby is very young, they may fall asleep anywhere when tired. Usually, sometime around a month of age (sometimes sooner), they may start getting overstimulated by the environment, and that’s when they’ll need to be in a good sleep environment. The sooner you start placing your baby in a bassinet or crib (drowsy but awake) to sleep, the sooner they will accept that they will be sleeping there and not on their parents. I like seeing parents get used to saying a keyword when laying their baby down, like “It’s time to go to sleep” or something similar.
Be consistent with this as part of the bedtime routine and they will eventually understand that when you swaddle them, have white noise on, and say your key phrase, it is indeed time for them to go to sleep.
If your baby is not struggling with extreme fussiness during the evening hours, otherwise known as the witching hour, then try to put them to bed around 9:00 pm.
If they have witching hour issues, I suggest putting them to bed once the fussiness subsides, which may be closer to 10:00 pm. Trying to get them to bed around the same time each night will help set up a habit, which is part of laying the groundwork for bedtime success.
As they approach 3 months of age, it’s time to work on moving bedtime up, but for now, shoot for 9:00 pm or 10:00 pm. At this age, your baby will take 5 or more naps daily. They are often 1.5-2 hours long, but at this age, there will not be any consistency. As I said earlier, try not to have too many expectations.
Most of my clients know how much I love being in the dark. Well, it’s not actually me that loves being in the dark. It’s your baby! A baby can become overstimulated by the environment as early as a couple of weeks of age.
Lights – including TVs, noise and sounds could overstimulate your baby. If you notice that your baby is sleepy but won’t sleep, try taking them out of the main family area where all the activity is. Swaddle them, hold them close to your body, put white noise on, offer a pacifier, turn lights off, and say your key phrase. Try sitting in a rocking chair with them and take a deep breath. Your baby can sense your feelings of frustration. So, take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth and try to relax.
If your baby is very fussy and needs more help to learn to sleep, then try using the 5 S’s that Dr. Harvey Karp is known for:
Once your baby is swaddled, you will do steps 2-5 simultaneously.
I hope these newborn healthy sleep habits tips will help you and your baby get started in the right direction and head for some habits that will set you up for sleep success with your new baby!
Are you ready to help your baby sleep more soundly? Visit our Newborn Sleep Tip Sheet with Coaching services, and we can start your baby’s process of sleeping well today!
August 7, 2023
Trust me: you don’t want your baby to hit this point. If you notice any of these seven signs, it’s time to put your baby to sleep — NOW!
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