Updated: Nov 26, 2021
How To Establish Good Sleeping Habits
You might be surprised to find out that newborns need to eat about every 2-3 hours around the clock. Although sleep training is not recommended until your baby is older, there are some sleep habits that you can start early to help with better sleep later on.
Your baby has just spent 9 months in a warm, dark, cozy space and may find it difficult to sleep outside of their womb. The concept of sleeping at night and being awake during the day is new to them as they do not yet have a mature circadian rhythm. Taking them outside during the day to have a few minutes of sunlight can be helpful. Reminding yourself that it is totally normal for babies to wake up every few hours to eat might help ease the feeling that you are doing something wrong. You are doing just fine- your baby just needs to adjust to being earth-side!
A frequently asked question is how baby's sleep space should be set up. First and foremost is the idea of safe sleep. The AAP recommends the ABCs of sleep: alone, on their back, in a crib. This means no bumpers or pillows and blankets in the baby's crib, no matter how cute they are. If you would like more resources on safe sleep, please visit our resources tab. If you are interested in cosleeping, James McKenna is a wonderful resource to see diagrams of exactly how safe cosleeping is achieved. It is also recommended to room share, meaning sleeping in the same room as your baby, for at least the first 6 months.
As far as how to create a sleeping environment that your baby thrives in, you may find the following tips helpful. After being in a dark womb, bright light is a new concept to them and they may feel more comfortable sleeping in a dimly lit room. This does not mean that the room needs to be totally dark, but dimming the lights to decrease stimulation is helpful. Turning on some white noise or a fan can mimic the noise that your baby hears in the womb. This noise is actually as loud as a vacuum cleaner in the womb, so don't be afraid to make the volume louder. Swaddling your baby can help to mimic the feel of the womb and can prevent excessing startling of the moro reflex. Temperature of the room can also make a big difference in sound sleep. Just like adults, babies tend to sleep better when they are neither too hot nor too cold which for most babies is between 68-72 degrees. Wearing a onesie or pajamas in addition to the swaddle can help keep baby comfortable.
Ensuring that your baby is taking in enough calories is also a key factor to getting them to sleep longer stretches. Most babies need about 1-1.5oz per hour, for example if it's been 3 hours since baby ate they may need 3-4.5 oz. If breastfeeding, ensuring that your baby is satisfied after feeds is a good way to know if baby is getting enough. Awake windows are another important factor that goes into better sleep. An under tired baby might fight sleep as much as an over tired baby. Awake windows are the time that baby is awake between periods of rest. Newborn awake windows last from 30-60 minutes, 4-6 months is 1.5-2 hours, 7-9 months is 2-3.5 hours, and 10-12 is 2.5-3.5 hours. If you have any questions about infant sleep in regards to your specific baby, please feel free to reach out for a customized sleep plan.