A person holding their crying baby wondering how to get the baby to sleep through the night.

Tips to encourage uninterrupted sleep in your newborn

As a new parent, chances are, when you do have the chance to catch a quick nap, you are dreaming of uninterrupted sleep.

How to get your baby to sleep through the night

Unfortunately, while every day puts Baby one day closer to sleeping through the night, it’s not even a goal you and he should be working towards yet. For the next few days or so, until approximately the end of Baby‘s second week, he is still working to gain back the weight he lost after birth, and that means that not only should you be feeding him when he wakes up hungry, but there may even be times when you’ll have to be the one to wake him to feed. This can be a challenging time for parents and caretakers, so it is important to remember that each night, Baby is one step closer to sleeping the whole way through. Still, there is no straightforward rule for when Baby will sleep through the night, and it’s likely that it will take longer than you’d like for him to get there, no matter what tips and tricks you have on your side. Try to be patient, and remember that Baby will sleep through the night when he is ready.

First nights at home

After you bring Baby home, don’t waste precious energy trying to get him adjusted to nights and days. During this early phase, he has no concept of the clock. Focus on taking the best care of Baby and yourself as you can, which means napping when he sleeps during the day.

Baby needs to eat every 90 minutes to three hours, and will be no less inclined to eat during the night. Hunger overrules Baby’s need for sleep; therefore, new parents can expect to be up multiple times each night. At this point, though, Baby may not actually wake to eat, and may depend on you to keep him on a consistent food schedule, at least through the end of the first few weeks, when he should be well on his way to gaining back the birth weight he may have lost. It can feel like going against all of your instincts to wake Baby when he is sleeping, but unless the doctor advises against it, it may be the best thing you can do for him – and if you’re breastfeeding, it can also help to establish your milk supply.

On the other hand, Baby may be most wakeful in the middle of the night and tend to sleep most of the day. This pattern is also perfectly normal, and while it is very challenging for parents, just remember that it will pass. You can help encourage it to pass faster by teaching Baby the difference between night and day, and helping him learn about circadian rhythms. The best way to do this is to make sure that he gets some sun during the day, and by keeping him in fairly dim light for night time feedings, though not so dark that it’s a danger to either of you.

Reasons Baby might wake up during the night

First of all, no matter what, it will take Baby some time to get to the point where he can reasonably be expected to sleep through the night. One guideline says that after Baby first few weeks, he should be able to sleep as many hours in a row as he is weeks old, and by the time babies are eight months old, according to the National Sleep Institute, 70 to 80 percent of babies are sleeping through the night. If Baby’s sleep pattern does not seem to be improving as he grows, though, don’t despair! Here are a few reasons why he might be a restless sleeper, and some ideas for how to develop a healthy sleep routine.

  • He might be over-tired – it sounds strange, but sometimes it’s the newborns who don’t get enough sleep who have the hardest time staying asleep. As a general rule, the better a newborn sleeps during the day, the better a newborn sleeps at night. Trying to keep Baby awake during the day could backfire and keep him up even longer. On the other hand, putting him down for bed a little earlier in the evening could actually help him stay asleep longer.
  • It’s too quiet – most newborns love white noise (remember, it sounded like a vacuum in the womb). Especially now, when Baby is still officially a newborn, he might just be looking for a little background noise. White noise machines are great, but so are vacuums, dryers, particularly loud fans, and pretty much any noise that might have been just a little irritating before – you’ll love it if it helps Baby get a little rest.
  • Bedtime is starting too late. Like with hunger, crying is Baby‘s last sign that he is ready to get some sleep. Watch for signs that he is tired, like rubbing his eyes or unusual fussing, and put him down to sleep then, instead of waiting for him to get grumpy.
  • He doesn&;t know night from day yet! After all, there wasn’t much of a change in the lighting between night and day in the womb, and daytime was when he was rocked to sleep with motion all of the time, anyway. During the day, open the shades and expose Baby to sunlight. Go for walks outside if possible. In the evening, dim the lights and engage in calming activities such as reading.
  • Newborns with colic or reflux can have a harder time sleeping for longer stretches of time than newborns without these conditions, and even normally very solid sleepers can seem to backtrack as they hit growth spurts that leave them needing a little more fuel, so they wake up for added night feedings.
  • You’re making being awake all night too much fun! It makes sense – if you and Baby are both going to be awake anyway, why not bond with him? But it can set up a precedent where Baby doesn’t want to sleep through the night. Instead, feed him and put him back to sleep. Try not to play with him or engage in stimulating activities in the middle of the night.

Importance of routine

Most experts agree that establishing a bedtime routine is one of the best things that you can do for your newborn. For example, you may opt to bathe, dress, and feed Baby at the same time every evening. Right before he begins feeding, dim the lights and play the same lullabies or white noise. Your personal routine may vary, but keep in mind that newborns thrive on consistency. Even if you don’t set out to schedule a routine, there’s a good chance Baby will fall into a pattern of sleeping and waking all on his own, and if you’re planning for it, you can help steer him towards healthy habits for your entire family.

Getting your newborn to sleep through the night is one of the most difficult challenges of early parenting for many. Just remember that your efforts to teach Baby good sleep habits will pay off soon!


Sources
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Baby sleep: Helping baby sleep through the night.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, November 23 2016. Web.
  • “Newborn-Sleep Patterns.” Stanford Children’s. Stanford Medicine, 2017. Web.
  • “When will my baby sleep through the night?” La Leche League International. La Leche League International, January 10 2016. Web.

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