Newborns don’t sleep like the rest of the world. Because of their time spent in the womb, they tend to sleep during the day and wake at night. During the day, the movement of his mother walking around will lull him to sleep. At night, when his mother is sleeping, he will wake and become more active. When he’s finally born, he’ll keep to that pattern. Taking him out in his stroller and walking around with him in a carrier or infant car seat will likely lull him to sleep while setting him down or laying him down will rouse him and cause him to wake up.
However, that isn’t the only issues that babies have with their sleep patterns. They also sleep in short bouts, waking when hungry or wet. Most new parents will agree that while scientists claim newborns sleep sixteen to eighteen hours a day in the first few weeks, it certainly doesn’t feel like it when an exhausted parent is trying to sleep at five in the morning. Rather than suffer from sleep exhaustion, try these tips and tricks to get your little one on a better sleep schedule and on their way to sleeping through the night. You can also try this course to make your baby the happiest baby on the block.
Circadian rhythms are the physiological changes your body goes through over a twenty-four-hour schedule. In the morning when you’re exposed to sunlight, your body creates a hormone called cortisol. This hormone keeps you alert throughout the day. At night, when the sun has gone down, your body produces melatonin. This hormone gives you that drowsy feeling you have before going to sleep. Provided that you don’t expose yourself to bright lights in the evening, you’ll have no problems falling asleep at night. Newborns, however, don’t have this system as developed as we do. Their sleep system focuses on getting fed – how long it takes to eat, how long it takes to digest that food, and how long it takes to feel hungry again.
If you’re feeling discouraged, however, you shouldn’t. Studies show that while they don’t have a highly developed circadian rhythms system, they do have the beginnings of one, and changes that you make can encourage your baby’s circadian rhythms to develop quicker. If you’re an active mother, bring your little one along with you. There are plenty of postnatal yoga classes you can take to include your little one; you might want to try this basic postnatal class. Social cues like living an active lifestyle during the day can help your little one develop cortisol for times of waking and melatonin for times of sleeping.
Another great way to stimulate your baby’s formation of circadian rhythms is to avoid too much activity at nightly feedings. If you tend to put your baby to sleep in a crib in a separate room, you might want to try a small bassinet beside your bed. Having quicker access to your baby will allow you to get to her quicker so she won’t completely wake. This will also allow you to remove extensive use of lighting at night, which will also help keep her asleep. On that same note, you should expose your baby to as much natural light during the day as you can. If she falls asleep during the day, let her rest but don’t block out the sunlight with a heavy, dark blanket. A light blanket will allow sunlight without it being too blinding on your baby’s sleeping face. This way, her body will create cortisol that much faster.
When you’re at your wits end and don’t know what else to try, consider infant massage, as you can learn in this course. A study in 2002 showed that newborns receiving fourteen days of massage therapy had better sleep cycles than those of their peers who received no such therapy. Besides, anyone who has ever received a massage knows just how soothing a massage can be to a stressed body. If it doesn’t help your baby sleep, it might at least relax them when they’re being fussy.
Other Ways to Encourage Sleep at Night
- Learn your baby’s sleepy cues.
We all know what it’s like to be overstimulated. You’ve had a long, busy day, and you finally lie down to sleep only to discover your mind won’t turn off. Instead, you spend the night tossing and turning thinking about everything you did and everything you still have to do. Adults can easily create to do lists or have other methods to get rid of that extra stress before lying down. Your baby has to rely on you. If you ignore his sleepy cues, you’re going to find a very fussy baby on your hands when you do try to get him to sleep.
- Start on a bedtime routine.
Everyone has a routine, and it’s never too early to get your little one started on his even if it’s just as simple as getting him in pajamas, singing or reading him a sleepy time book, laying him down, and giving him a kiss. However, don’t do this every time you’re laying your little one down. Save it for the time just before you unwind and go to sleep; it will help him learn that night time is designed for sleep.
- Let him fall asleep on his own.
By six to eight weeks old, your little bundle of joy is old enough to start figuring out how to put himself to sleep. Lay him down when he’s sleepy but still awake. Studies show that putting himself to sleep gives him a higher chance of sleeping through the night. You might find this difficult if you’ve always rocked him or nursed him before laying him down to sleep, but it’s important to realize that what you do even at this early in his life will effect him later in life. Babies who are rocked or bounced or have some other kind of movement to help them sleep tend to have difficulties sleeping without some kind of movement, and the same goes for babies who nurse before sleeping – they begin to expect a meal just before bed.
- Differentiate between feeding times and sleep times.
After the first month, don’t let your baby fall asleep while feeding. If she drifts off for longer than a few minutes while being fed, lay her down to sleep. Encouraging the baby to eat more will just make her uncomfortable. If you can’t sleep when you’re overfed, don’t expect your baby to rest comfortably that way either. You’ll want to consider a course in infant and toddler nutrition so you can continue to encourage healthy eating habits her entire life. On that same note, if after two months she’s still gaining weight properly you don’t have to wake her for nighttime feedings if she doesn’t wake you. You’ll know that she’s getting the hang of proper sleep schedules when she starts eating more during the day and less in the middle of the night. If at anytime you’re worried about your baby’s feeding or sleeping habits, contact your pediatrician – she will give you the best possible advice.
Just remember that each baby is different and what worked for your first baby might not work for the second. Be patient, and use what works whether it be changing where your little one sleeps or encouraging more daylight during his day. Don’t forget that if at anytime, his changes seem unsettling call your pediatrician. She will know how to give you the best possible advice.