Nothing is more challenging to the parent of a newborn than trying to get that new little baby to go to sleep. Whether you're a rookie first-timer or a seasoned vet, it seems that every infant has their own agenda when it comes to catching Zzz's, and sometimes it can seem like there's no rhyme or reason to their insomnia madness.
A newborn will get anywhere from 16 to 20 hours of sleep a day, but not all at once. So try these 10 tricks to help your newborn baby sleep for longer periods of time.
The most important thing to remember to help your newborn baby sleep is this: stay calm. Easier said than done, right? Truth be told, your fussy little one will sense your frustration, and it will only make things worse. So take a deep breath (or several), and start the process of getting your newborn to sleep.
The saying is true that a bad mood is catching, so if you feel yourself starting to loose your cool with your little one, jut put them down for a minute, it's not like you're going to break them by setting them down, and just give yourself a minute or two to relax gather your wits and try again. Remember that being out in the world is new for them, and how you help them adjust is going to go a long way.
Look for the signs. In those first few weeks, you'll learn a lot about your newborn. One thing to especially look out for are those clear-cut signs that he or she is tired. Do they yawn and rub their eyes, do they have a certain "cry" when they're getting sleepy, or do they seem to suddenly get restless? These are the signs you want to look for when you want to put the down for a sleep.
Once you recognize your infants signs of tiredness, it won't feel like you're constantly at their whim, instead you'll be able to predict what time it is just by watching their behavior. Not to mention, you'll feel like mother of the year for recognizing your child's needs before they cry.
Create a routine. Little ones thrive off of routine, especially when it comes to sleep time. That means creating a series of steps leading up to nap or bedtime so that they can start to identify when it's time to sleep. A baby as young as six weeks old can adjust to a sleep routine.
For a nap that could mean a feeding, burping, a swaddle, and bed. At bedtime, you'd likely add in a warm, comforting bath. One of the most important steps of the routine is consistency. A baby won't recognize a pattern if it isn't the same in some way shape or form.
So whether the time you do everything is kept the same, or the steps leading to bedtime remain the same, this routine will make it easier on both of you when it comes to nap times and bedtimes.
Not to mention a routine can be used to transition your baby into toddlerhood and childhood later on.
Swaddle them. Newborns like to be warm and cozy, just like when they were in mommy's belly. In those first few weeks, as they adjust to their new surroundings, they want to feel secure, and this means swaddling them. A good swaddle will offer them comfort, encouraging a more peaceful sleep.
You can swaddle a baby in a blanket or buy swaddler pajamas - it's a one-piece with sleeves and an enclosed bottom like a little sleeping bag. It's easy to unzip and change diapers, but because it's all one piece, no more origami folding of a squirming newborn.
Once they are adequately wrapped up, you'll want some soothing background noise, so...
Use running water. We have heard time and time again about parents who rock their little ones to sleep in the bathroom with the shower or sink running. Water creates perfect white noise for infants to fall asleep to. Think about all the background noise that they had while in utero, hanging out inside mom's (noisy) body, surrounded by everyday racket, and they found a way to sleep then.
Running water creates a calm, soothing tone that infants respond well too, allowing them to block out other background noise and fall asleep. There are a number of products on the market that can help you achieve the right sound for your baby, from white noise machines to soother crib toys that mimic sounds of water or even mommy's heartbeat.
But, before they do doze off...
Have you ever tried to lay your baby down, but it seems like every time you get close to the mattress they wake up like they can sense it. Well, guess what, they can sense it!
Put them down before they fall asleep. A lot of babies find the transition from someone's arms into a bed or bassinet to be too sudden and jarring, so quite often, they will wake up. Don't disrupt their slumber by trying to transport them. Instead, while they are tired, but not yet asleep, put the baby in his or her bed.
And make sure their nursery is preparedahead of time too. If you go to lay them down, but you need to empty the crib first, or some other task that means the baby won't be going intot the crib, make sure get those out of the way first so nothing can disturb the sleepy feeling they're rolling with.
Make their room nice and dark. Oftentimes, it is the light in a newborn's nursery that is disturbing their sleep. Use a shade on the window or even blackout curtains to create an atmosphere that is conducive to sleep.
Also, make sure that the room is the right temperature - too warm could mean an uncomfortable little bean, and too cold won't make them feel secure either. Experts seem to recommend an average temperature of between 17-20 degrees for a newborn to be comfortable in their room.
Now put your little ones down in their crib. If the baby starts to fuss after you have put them in their bed...
Give them a minute (just a minute) to try and work it out on their own. No, no, no, we are not in any way suggesting you let a newborn try the cry-it-out method, but sometimes, infants are fussing because they're trying to get comfortable, they have a strange sensation inside their tiny bodies (gas, perhaps?) and they just need a second to adjust.
Don't forget: a newborn's only way of communicating anything is by fussing, so it doesn't necessarily mean something is wrong... maybe they just need a second to get comfy. Hold off going to your baby for just a moment and see if they are able to calm themselves.
If he or she is still upset, don't pick them up just yet, but instead try to...
Who doesn't love a gentle touch? Touch will become such an important part of your bonding with your baby. Whether you're going skin-to-skin or simply stroking their arm or leg, your gentle touch is sending messages to your baby that they are safe. These gentle touches can also be used to encourage them to sleep as well.
Stroke the infant's nose. Ever so gently, run your finger down your baby's nose repeatedly. The motion will force him or her to close their eyes each time, and it just may be the trick to getting them to keep their eyes closed. Plus, the familiar touch of a parent is always soothing to a fussy baby.
Anyone who is over stimulated will not feel like catching some zzz's. The same goes for your newborn. You may not think that you're doing anything to keep them awake, but by engaging them with visual stimuli you're keeping them from falling asleep.
Don't make eye contact. It's hard not to stare into that cute little face, but you want to avoid the contact, just for a moment, so the baby can focus on sleeping, not you. Animated eye contact (while you're "happily" talking to your baby trying to convince him/her to go to sleep) could only make things worse on the fussy front.
When your little one wakes up after pulling a nice stretch of sleep, you can give him or her all the "lovey" eyes that you want!