Mar 16, 2024
March 16, 2024

Surviving (lack of) Newborn Sleep

Let's start with a fact… you will get sleep again! But, sleep sure looks a bit different, and there’s a lot less, when you have a newborn. Our Summer Health sleep experts are here to share a few tips to improve those sleepless nights.

The First Month

“Newborns don’t know the difference between night and day when they are born.  That’s one of the reasons why you feel like they are up at all hours,” says Dr. Alisa Roysman, who specializes in baby sleep training.  “Establishing a consistent routine can be tremendously helpful for getting more sleep with a newborn.” 

Here are a few tips to help you and baby both squeeze in a few more zzz’s:

  1. Create a daytime and nighttime environment. During the day keep lighting and noise at a normal level, even when they nap.  This may include some lighting in the room and light music playing. At night, keep the room dark and quiet, including during feeding times. This way, babies can start to recognize the differences between day and night. 
  2. Feed your newborn when they are hungry. At this age, your baby is still feeding on demand, so watch for signs of hunger
  3. Check for a dirty diaper. Newborns poop often and find their dirty diapers uncomfortable. Changing them after each bowel movement is important for their comfort and to prevent diaper rash.
  4. Put your baby in their crib while drowsy but still awake. This is one of the most important steps in teaching a baby how to fall asleep on their own.
  5. Keep a consistent bedtime schedule. It does not need to be a long, drawn out process and can be as simple as a bath and story time before putting your baby down at night. Baths are also helpful for calming and tiring out a newborn, so even though they don't need to be washed with soap daily, a quick bath without soap is great for getting them in the bedtime mood. 
  6. Swaddles are incredibly helpful for newborn sleep since it suppresses the startle reflex which can often jar a baby awake. Some babies are little houdinis and like to squirm their way free, so experiment with different swaddles until you find one that works for your baby or make an appointment to discuss with one of our pediatric specialists. 
  7. Simulating the womb is one of our goals when it comes to newborn sleep. That is all a newborn is familiar with and taking them out of that environment can be confusing to them. Using a heating pad to warm the bassinet before sleep (make sure to remove it when baby goes into the bassinet), a white noise machine (since inside the womb there was constant noise) and rocking/swaying are all important components to this simulation. 

Don’t forget to try and catch up on the rest you also need. Taking naps while your baby sleeps or asking for a few hours of help from a friend or family member can be tremendously helpful.

Month Two

“Within month two, you may notice your baby has started to develop new patterns such as a more consistent feeding schedule and being more alert in the morning,” notes Dr. Ali Alhassani, Head of Clinical at Summer Health. “Remember every baby is different and it is important to stay flexible during this stage. Your baby may get a good stretch of regular naps, but then a growth spurt or travel may move them off this new rhythm. Be patient, you will continue to find more of a routine as your baby gets older.”

A few tips for keeping on a routine for busy days or travel:

  1. Keep to your sleep and feeding schedule as much as possible.. If you are flying, booking the time your baby naps can be helpful.
  2. Keep your constant bedtime routine. This may include a bath or story time before putting your little one down. 
  3. Add in a short nap. If your baby’s sleep schedule gets off track, add in a short nap to help prevent overstimulation and get your baby back on their nap pattern.
  4. An overtired baby actually leads to more difficulty with naps, night sleep and quality of sleep. Many people think that when a baby is exhausted, it will lead to better sleep, but in fact we find the opposite to be true. “Sleep begets sleep” notes Dr. Alisa Roysman, so a well rested baby will lead to better quality sleep for both day and night. 

Month 3

“At this time, your baby has started to learn the difference between day and night time. Keeping a consistent wake-up time and bedtime schedule can now become a routine and help transition your baby to a full night of sleep.”
Dr. Alisa Roysman

Around week 10-12, you may notice that your baby is a little small for a bassinet. Most bassinets are safe for 3 months or younger, so as you get closer to 12 weeks it is good to consider transitioning your baby to a crib. 

Crib safety is important, you can help to make sure you have set up your baby’s new sleep environment safely by reviewing these tips. You won’t need any blankets, pillows or bumpers to keep your baby comfortable at night – and it is important to keep their crib empty to keep a safe environment. 

For some babies it takes time to transition to their new sleep environment. To start, it can be helpful to have them nap in the bassinet and gradually add more sleep time to their new sleep space. Remember to try and follow the same sleep schedule through the day and keep your baby on their back.  

When can a baby sleep on their stomach?

Newborn babies should sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). However you’ll likely see at some point your baby has rolled over onto their stomach in their crib. 

“Once a baby has the ability to roll from their back to their stomach on their own, it is usually safe for them to sleep on their stomach,” notes Dr. Alisa Roysman “This usually happens between 4-6 months of age.” 

Once babies are rolling, or even getting close to rolling, it is important to take them out of their sleep swaddle for safety. A nice transition is a sleep sack or even the “Zipadee-zip” for babies that like to feel their arms inside cloth. 

Month 4 and on

Every day brings something new for your newborn. Flexibility is key and always follow your baby's cues. 

Spitting out their pacifier? If it is no longer helpful for soothing them, this can be a great time to let the pacifier go and prevent the amount of times you need to go into your baby’s room. If your baby relies on it heavily for sleep, you can scatter several throughout the crib for easy access in the middle of the night. 

Wondering when your baby can go without a nighttime feed? Most babies wean off between 4-6 months, however many factors influence when the right time is. It’s important to talk with your pediatrician before making this transition. If you would like to speak with one today, reach out to Summer Health and we will connect you to a licensed pediatrician in 15 minutes.

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