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Is your newborn not sleeping? I know it doesn’t make you feel any better, but I do know what that’s like. It’s perhaps one of the worst parts of parenting. Learning how to take care of a baby when you’re sleep deprived makes it so difficult to enjoy what should be a bundle of joy.
However, there are some things that will make it easier to get through it. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to getting your newborn to sleep better, so try these things until you find what works for you.
1. Talk to your pediatrician.
Every newborn is different. What works for you won’t work for someone else. This advice sounds like a broken record, I know. But one of the most important things you can do is talk to someone who knows your baby almost as well as you do.
Your pediatrician can speak from a medical perspective about why your little one may be having trouble sleeping.
It’s important to remember that no newborn is going to sleep 12 hours a night from the get go. They simply can’t hold enough milk in their bellies to keep them full for that long. However, if you do feel like your newborn should be sleeping for longer periods, speak to a medical professional about why they may not be.
After all, even if they tell you what you don’t want to hear – that this is normal – at least you have the reassurance that your baby isn’t sick.
2. Get some fresh air.
A breath of fresh air can do us all some good. It makes us feel refreshed, and for babies, it can help wear them out and get them ready to go to sleep. In fact, it’s interesting to read about how other cultures use fresh air to help their babies sleep.
Some doctors say that taking your baby on a daily walk outdoors can help them sleep better at night.
3. Keep your baby awake a little longer.
During periods of being awake, try to keep your baby awake a bit longer. If you notice them drifting off to sleep, play with them for a few minutes before letting them nap. Longer periods of being awake can help them sleep longer later.
We’ve all heard the same advice. If your baby is tired, let them sleep. Never wake a sleeping baby. However, for some, helping their baby exert a little extra energy might do the trick. Not only that, but it can help you keep a schedule if it’s just not quite time for a nap yet.
4. Let your baby sleep.
On the contrary, some parents find that if they let their baby nap when they need to and don’t place restrictions on how much their baby sleeps during the day, it can help promote better sleep at night.
After all, it is true that not getting the naps a newborn needs during the day can affect their sleep schedule at night. All babies need naps. Sleep is critical to healthy growth and development.
Does your baby sleep better at night if you let them sleep when they need to during the day? It’s a theory well-worth testing.
5. Avoid sleep inducing activities during the day.
Don’t hinder your baby’s need for sleep. We’ve already talked about how important naps are. But you also shouldn’t be promoting it during the day, either.
Go about your normal daily routine and only encourage sleep at naptime. This will not only help develop a schedule for everyone, but it may help your baby enjoy more restful sleep when he or she is supposed to.
6. Feed your baby.
Duh. I know you’re not starving your baby. However, a full tummy makes for more restful sleep in a number of ways. Sucking is soothing for an infant, so the act of feeding can help relax them and help them get ready for sleep.
A full baby will also sleep longer before needing to feed again. If your baby falls asleep without being fed, that’s a good indicator of an excellent self soother, but if they’re waking sooner than they should, it may be because they need to be fed before going down for a nap.
7. Establish a routine.
It’s going to take some time for your newborn to understand the schedule. They often get confused between day and night, which is another reason why they might not be sleeping well.
Establishing a routine now, even though it may not seem like it matters, will teach them early on what a bath, a book, and a song mean. It will make your sleep schedule go so much smoother later one.
Trust me on this one. Your routine may not be working right now. But having one now will save you hours, days, weeks, or months of frustration in the future. This one is for the long-term gain.
8. Avoid stimulation when it’s time to sleep.
Babies are very sensitive to stimulation. While you shouldn’t promote sleep when it’s not time for sleep, you should be aware of when your baby does need to relax or wind down. Naptime and bedtime routine are important for this reason.
Choose relaxing sleepy time activities to get your little one ready. It’s not the time for loud music or bright lights. The best things you can do before it’s time for sleep are take a bath, get a clean diaper, eat, or read in a quiet room with the shades drawn and a soft lamp.
Rocking and swinging are good quiet activities to promote sleep and enhance your bond. Dancing and running may not be. Every baby responds to these physical activities differently, so test the waters with your little one to see what seems to be the most relaxing.
9. Create a sleep zone.
For some, letting their baby sleep in the swing or the bouncer during the day might work. For others, it’s important to designate a place for sleep and stick to it. Your baby may learn how to sleep better if you make this sleep zone a part of the normal routine.
The crib in the nursery or the bassinet at the foot of your bed are great places to start promoting sleep. It’s a dark, quiet, secluded area where your baby can feel comfortable. It’s also predictable, which is all some babies need to get some rest.
10. Make sure you’re in it together.
If you have a partner, make sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to sleep routines. Your baby can hardly get used to the routine or learn what he or she is supposed to do if there’s no consistency.
Whatever your routine looks like, make sure all caregivers know it. Grandma, the babysitter, Mom, and Dad should all be in the loop. As your baby grows, you can begin to add in special bedtime rituals that are unique to each parent. They will enhance that bond eventually, but not now.
11. Follow through and lead by example
They always say to sleep when your baby sleeps. This is some pretty solid advice. You’re exhausted, so you really should get all the sleep you can. However, there’s another reason for it that you may not be aware of.
Your little one is observant. Their brain is like a sponge. If you set a good sleep example, they’ll learn very quickly what a sleep routine looks like and understand how it works.
Infants are also very good at sensing your emotions. If you are wishy-washy about sleep and you don’t mean business, they’ll be the first to call you out on it – by not sleeping.
12. Muffle the door click.
This may sound silly, but there are just some noises that have a knack for instantly waking a sleeping baby. If you normally put your baby down for a nap in their room, but you’ve noticed that pesky door click always ruining it, loop a thick rubber band around each side of the doorknob to make an X over the latch.
13. Infant massage.
Some parents even swear by infant massage strokes or gently rubbing arms, legs, or face to induce sleep. Two of my kids thought it tickled and it stimulated them more than anything. But for the other two, all it took was a few gentle swipes across their cheeks and they were out like a light.
Massage can be very relaxing, and there are some techniques that have been proven to work on infants for lulling them to sleep. It can also work to help move gas or make them feel better when they’re sick or stressed.
14. Use white noise.
I will be the first to swear by white noise. I used it on all four of my kids and it was the best thing ever. It was just enough noise to be comforting without stimulating. Plus, it blocked out whatever noise was happening outside of their room.
It proved to be a lifesaver when I had two or three other kids running around during naptime.
The same white noise didn’t work for every baby. One like rain, one liked waves, one liked lullabies, and one decided that after three or four months of white noise, he’d had enough and didn’t want it anymore.
Listening to lullabies while asleep is actually proven to help your child’s brain develop, too.
15. Use the dreamfeed.
You put your little one down at his or her bedtime. You follow the bedtime routine. Bath, books, singing, feeding, and off to bed. You and your spouse decide to have a little quality time while the kids are asleep before you head off to bed, too.
Just as your head hits the pillow, your baby wakes up. If you say that’s never happened to you, I say I don’t believe it.
But if you follow the baby’s bedtime routine, spend quality time with your spouse, get ready for bed, and then wake your baby to feed once more, you can ensure that your baby will sleep for just a bit longer so you can get some rest.
In fact, most babies can be waked just to the point of feeding, without being fully awake. That means they can top off their bellies and drift right off to sleep again so you can go to bed without being interrupted. At least not until the next time your baby gets hungry.
There are so many ways you can help your baby get some restful sleep, and you along with them. It’s nearly impossible to know what’s going to work until you try it. You know your baby better than anyone. Get creative. Eventually you’ll land on something that works!
The most important thing to remember is that no infant is going to sleep through the night on their own right away. You’re a great parent and you’re doing a great job. This is a learning experience for the both of you. You can do it!