Encouraging Night-Time Sleep: Newborn Edition
Habits to encourage newborns to sleep through the night.
The first couple of weeks with a newborn is typically a sleepy time in our house.
I find myself waking him for daytime feedings and watching him fall quickly into a milk-drunk state following them. Repeat that process every two hours.
With each of my five babies, I’ve worried that sleeping too much throughout the day would negatively impact their nighttime sleeping.
Luckily, newborns need lots of sleep and I’ve developed a few habits to cue our newborns into the difference between daytime and nighttime and encourage them to continue sleeping soundly throughout the night.
Encouraging Night-Time Sleep in Newborns
Habit #1: Feed Often
Preparation for nighttime doesn’t begin in the evening but is, instead, a day-long process.
Throughout the day plan to feed every 2-3 hours (measuring time from the beginning of each feeding), waking the baby up if needed. In the early evening consider feeding even a bit more often, perhaps every hour-and-a-half.
Feeding your baby often and well throughout the day helps him to bulk up for a longer stretch between feedings at nighttime. Meaning you can let baby sleep as long as he wants throughout the night!
Habit #2: Swaddle
At bedtime, plan to swaddle your newborn routinely, every night, until they outgrow their swaddle.
In general, newborns love to be swaddled anyway but I reserve a different swaddle for nighttime than anything we use during the day. Our nighttime swaddle positions baby’s arms down by his sides whereas during the day we might position his arms across his chest. If your baby resists the swaddle try positioning his arms differently.
I’ve found it best to swaddle baby partway through the last feeding of the day. Swaddling too early cues them to fall into a sound sleep before they’ve fully eaten. Following a feeding, the jostling around of positioning a swaddle sometimes wakes them up. Mid-feeding has seemed to work best for me as it allows baby to get a good feeding before falling into that deep sleep.
Habit #3: Timing
Resist the urge to put your newborns to bed early in the evening in order to have time alone before you turn in.
With a newborn, it’s generally easier to keep him up later than other children (until about 9 or 10 pm), feed him, and then head directly to bed yourself. This way you’re getting every possible moment of good sleep right along with your baby before you get awoken to do a nighttime feeding.
Don’t worry, this is temporary! As baby grows you’ll recoup that evening time.
Habit #4: Location
Change up your feeding location for bedtime and nighttime feedings.
Use low light and resist the urge to carry on conversations with others. This is a great time to get comfortable, grab a good book, relax, and feed your baby. Changing to a different room, with different lighting, and reducing the amount of external stimuli helps clue your baby into the change from daytime to nighttime.
Habit #5: Be Consistent
When you’ve determined what bedtime routines work best for you, stick to it!
Babies learn by repetition and thrive with consistency. You might think they’re just sleeping, or screaming, through the system you’re trying to create but they’ll be on-board before you know it. After time, you’ll also feel more confident and comfortable with the predictable bedtime routine you’ve created.
You can do this! Stick to these five habits and soon you'll discover that your newborn will be sleeping through the night.
Need more baby sleep advice? Check out the best-selling On-Becoming Babywise.
Jess Wartinger resides in rural New York with her husband and five children. Formerly an early elementary teacher, Jess currently spends her time loving her kids and holding down the fort at home.
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