When you have a newborn baby, getting her to sleep through the night seems like a monumental hurdle. In the quest to get baby to sleep, parents turn to a variety of sources, like retail stores that offer a seemingly endless variety of items that promise to put their babies to sleep. They have everything from cradles that rock themselves to blankets that have an audible heartbeat. Although these items seem like the only solution, the key to getting your baby to sleep is understanding normal baby sleeping patterns and creating a routine to get your baby ready for bed.
Although the idea of a good night’s sleep is appealing to both mom and dad, it may not be realistic. Most newborns and babies under six months will not sleep through the night, because they are actually not physically designed to sleep that long. Their stomachs are not big enough to hold enough food to get them through the night, especially if they are breastfed. Babies are adjusting to their new life in the world, and this includes adjusting to sleeping.
Most babies will sleep from two to four hours at a time, even at night. As your baby gets older, the sleep time at night will get longer. Even though you don’t want to hurry the process, there are things you can do to help your baby understand what bedtime is all about.
Most adults have certain things they do at night to wind down and get ready for bed. You can teach your baby to do the same thing. Your personality and schedule will determine your baby’s nighttime routine.
Give your baby a warm bath before she goes to bed every night. A warm bath is soothing at any age and helps the baby relax. Doing it every night establishes a routine. Establishing a pattern prepares baby, mentally, for bedtime. Giving a warm bath, nursing, and then tucking baby in is an example of a patterned routine.
If your baby consistently cries when you put her down, she may not have been in a deep sleep. She may have been in the early, light stage of sleep, when eyes flutter and she smiles and often jerks. You want to wait until baby is in what some doctors call the “limp limb” stage. In this stage, she is completely relaxed and her limbs are limp and hanging. Waiting until your baby is in this stage can prevent baby from waking and crying.
Making sure your baby’s needs have been met can prevent sleep issues. A full tummy, clean diaper, and appropriate clothing for the temperature can make a big difference at bedtime. If your baby is cold, she will not sleep. The same goes for babies who are overheated. A chilly, wet baby is definitely not a happy baby.
If what you are doing is not solving the problem, get creative. If you have been simply covering your baby with a blanket, try swaddling her. Some babies love to be tightly swaddled. If rocking her to sleep isn’t working, try walking with her or laying her in her bed and patting her back. Just as you have likes and dislikes, so does your baby. Take the time to learn from your baby and cater to her likes and dislikes.
To make bedtime as easy as possible, you need to set the stage. Make sure the baby’s room is dark at night. You want the room warm, but not stifling. Play with baby during the day when she is awake and keep her stimulated. When she wakes at night, keep things calm. Feed or comfort her, keeping the lights off, and do whatever you normally do when putting her to sleep. Doing little things like this can prevent sleep issues before they arise.
Keep your expectations realistic. Don’t compare your baby to other babies. Just because Sue’s baby sleeps eight hours straight doesn’t mean yours will — or should. Remember, this stage won’t last forever, and your baby will sleep through the night eventually. When you are at the end of your rope, remembering that your baby can’t do something that’s physically impossible can help calm your concerns.
Belinda J. Mooney is a busy mom of seven. You can visit her at www.childr