Bringing home your newborn home is one of the most exciting days of your life. It can also be one of the most terrifying days, as well. Suddenly, you are left to care for this tiny baby with little to no experience. All new parents feel this overwhelming feeling at some point. However, you learn as you go because you love this baby with every fiber of your being. These feelings can be exasperated if your newborn doesn’t sleep well. The first few weeks to months of life can be a dramatic change to your sleeping schedule. It is normal to feel tired, overwhelmed and exhausted when you bring a newborn home. Remind yourself that the lack of sleep is temporary and focus on trying techniques like the ones below to help your newborn fall asleep easier each night and hopefully sleep longer stretches.
Each night you should try to stick to the same bedtime routine. This routine should be calming, relaxing and ultimately prepare the baby to lay down for the night. The routine can be as simple as a warm bath, a massage, book or lullaby, and feeding before placing the baby in their crib. Rocking your baby to sleep may help the baby fall asleep but could make the baby dependent upon rocking to fall asleep, leading to problems sleeping as the child grows. The routine does not need to be complex but should be done at roughly the same time each night. Avoid loud sounds, bright lights and other stimuli as you help prepare your baby for bed. Be sure that anyone who cares for the baby knows the routine and follows it to help form very good, relaxing nighttime habits.
Soothing sounds can help relax and lull your child to sleep quickly. A white noise sound machine is a great option. This can also help prevent household noises from waking up the baby, especially during naptime when the rest of the house may be up and active. Soft music, such as smooth jazz radio, is also a great relaxing choice.
Swaddling provides a feeling of comfort and protection for many babies, as it mimics the feeling of being in the womb and can decrease the baby’s startle reflex. It is worth trying to see if swaddling helps your baby fall asleep faster and for longer stretches. You can swaddle with a blanket or use swaddle wraps. Your baby may rest easier because they will feel like you are holding them close. Swaddling can also help enforce sleeping on the back, decreasing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- Internal Clock
Be aware of the signs and signals your baby’s body is giving you. As the baby becomes calmer and less active, notice that as a sign that their body is preparing for bed. Take advantage of this window and begin the bedtime routine. Your baby’s body is alerting you that they are tired and it is the best moment to encourage sleep. Missing this window of opportunity can lead to overstimulating the baby or cause delays in the sleep process, making it more difficult to get your baby to sleep.
There will be a time when your baby learns to fall asleep independently and soothe themselves back to sleep throughout the night if they wake up. As you work towards this, remember that sticking to a routine can help you tremendously, even if it means being home earlier or avoiding going out in the evenings. Give these tactics some time to see how they work with your baby and modify them as needed. Above all, be patient. These sleepless nights may seem to drag on, but the time with your child will fly by. When you look back on life, you probably won’t remember the sleep struggles. In the meantime, keep your sanity by trying these approaches to establish good sleeping habits from infancy on.