Baby Sleep: How to Get your Baby to Sleep Better

It’s World Sleep Day and a great time to talk about your baby’s sleep.  Sleep is an issue that most parents struggle with at some point in their baby’s infancy.  Babies often take time to adjust to normal day and night cycles and many have a hard time staying asleep.  Of course the goal is to get your baby to sleep through the night within a few months after birth, but some families have a hard time getting there.  Today we’re talking about baby sleep and how to get your baby to sleep better.

At the beginning, baby sleep can be very unpredictable which can send parents into a tailspin of anxiety, worry and frustration, often stemming from their own sleep deprivation.  Infants up to around six months usually sleep 15 to 18 hours per day.  This includes nighttime sleep and naps.  Newborns spend much of their time alternating between sleep and short bursts of wakefulness.  At around one month, babies tend to stay awake longer as they become more aware of their surroundings.  By four months or so, sleep patterns usually emerge and parents can encourage a regular naptime and bedtime schedule.  While not 100% reliable, this element of predictability can bring great comfort to parents, especially those who have been quite sleep deprived for the past several months.

Creating healthy sleep habits for your baby and using a few simple tricks can help get your baby’s sleep on track.

baby sleep__1457446711_162.206.228.38Use the five S’s:  Dr. Harvey Karp, author of “The Happiest Baby on the Block” recommends swaddling, shushing, side-laying, sucking and swinging to soothe fussy babies.  These methods also help in lulling a baby to sleep.  Try a few or all five at once to calm your baby.

Breastfeed more later in the day:  Cluster breastfeeding later in the day fills your baby up so he doesn’t wake as often in the night to nurse.  Usually newborns and young infants need to eat every two to three hours, however cluster feeding may help your baby sleep for longer stretches of four to five hours at night.

Keep the room dark: Like adults, babies are stimulated by light.  During the day, expose your baby to natural light even during restful times.  At night, create a dark environment for your baby’s best sleep.  Invest in blackout curtains if necessary.

Let your newborn sleep in a bassinet:  Many parents “room in” with their babies even at home by bringing a bassinet into their bedrooms.  Bassinets are usually cozier for babies as they encapsulate their bodies.  Plus, babies enjoy the proximity to mommy and daddy.

Watch what you eat:  For breastfed babies, foods and beverages that make your baby gassy will surely disrupt sleep.  Limit caffeine to earlier in the day. Avoid spicy foods, excessive vegetables and too much fiber.  Also, alcohol can be irritating to babies.  Take note of what bothers your little one and adjust your diet accordingly.

Don’t make eye contact:  Babies are more aware of who’s watching than you think.  If you make eye contact with your baby when he’s trying to get to sleep, he may be more interested in staring at you than catching his zzz’s.  If you need to hold or massage your baby, focus on an area besides his eyes.

Keep the room cool:  Help your baby lower his core body temperature by keeping his room between 65 and 70 degrees.  Lower body temps are more conducive for sleep quality and duration.

Skip diaper changes if possible:  If your baby has only urinated a little, avoid middle-of-the-night diaper changes.  Even if your baby doesn’t mind diaper changes, chances are the stimulation will wake him up.  However, if your baby has had a bowel movement, do change the diaper.

Skip burping too:  Babies usually breastfeed slower at night because they are drowsy.  This means they are probably swallowing less air and don’t need to be burped as often.  Burping can be jarring to babies and make them more alert at the wrong times.

Cheers to World Sleep Day and sweet dreams to you and your baby!