Improve your Newborn Baby's Sleep
Every baby is different and will have different preferences when it comes to sleeping, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach to successfully getting your baby to sleep through the night every night. However, there are some things you can do to aid your baby in falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer.
We have created this guide to help you get into a routine that works for you and your baby. This guide contains our 5 top tips on how to increase your baby’s sleep and a number of FAQs which feature at the end of this guide to answer any questions that you might have.
The Biology of Newborn Sleep
During the early months of your baby’s life, he sleeps when he is tired, it’s that simple. You can do little to force a new baby to sleep when he doesn’t want to sleep, and conversely, you can do little to wake him up when he is sleeping soundly.
Newborn babies have very tiny tummies. They grow rapidly, their diet is liquid, and it digests quickly. Although it would be nice to lay your little bundle down at bedtime and not hear from him until morning, this is not a realistic goal for a tiny baby.
Falling Asleep at the Breast or Bottle
It is natural for a newborn to fall asleep while sucking at the breast, a bottle, or a pacifier. When a baby always falls asleep this way, he learns to associate sucking with falling asleep; over time, he cannot fall asleep any other way. This is probably the most natural, pleasant sleep association a baby can have. However, a large percentage of parents who are struggling with older babies who cannot fall asleep or stay asleep are fighting this powerful association.
Therefore, if you want your baby to be able to fall asleep without your help, it is essential that you sometimes let your newborn baby suck until he is sleepy, but not totally asleep. When you can, remove the breast, bottle, or pacifier from his mouth, and let him finish falling asleep without it. If you do this often enough, he will learn how to fall asleep without sucking.
Waking for Night Feedings
Many pediatricians recommend that parents shouldn’t let a newborn sleep longer than four hours without feeding, and the majority of babies wake far more frequently than that. No matter what, your baby will wake up during the night. The key is to learn when you should pick her up for a feeding and when you can let her go back to sleep on her own.
Here’s a tip that is important for you to know. Babies make many sleeping sounds, from grunts to whimpers to outright cries, and these noises don’t always signal awakening. Learn to differentiate between sleeping sounds and awake sounds. If she is awake and hungry, you’ll want to feed her as quickly as possible so she’ll go back to sleep easily. But if she’s asleep, let her sleep!
6 Tips For Increasing Your Baby’s Sleep:
<h4>1. Swaddle your baby to make them feel safe and secure</h4>
Swaddling is the age-old practice of wrapping babies tightly, mimicking conditions in the womb to make babies feel secure and encouraging longer sleep. Mums have swaddled their babies since time immemorial, and anyone who has watched a newborn wave their arms uncontrollably will know that to do so makes intuitive sense.
Swaddled babies feel held and warm, they feel at home, some might argue that leaving a small baby unswaddled is like shining a bright light in their eyes; way too much stimulation, way too soon. Swaddled infants generally sleep for longer as well, a fact born out by scientific studies.
How to swaddle your baby:
- Lay a blanket down on the floor or changing table in a diamond shape.
- Fold the top corner down several inches, so that it’s near the middle of the blanket.
- Lay the baby’s neck on that fold. Bring the bottom or opposite point of the blanket up to cover the baby’s legs and body. The blanket should not cover the baby’s face.
- Next take one side of the blanket and bring it across the baby’s body, tucking it under the baby snugly and making sure his arms are down at his sides.
- To finish, bring the last corner of the blanket over the baby pulling it tightly over his body and tucking it in the corner under him. Make sure this is secure because you don’t want the baby’s arms to come loose. Swaddling mimics the tight quarters the baby experienced in the womb, and many babies find it comforting and will often fall asleep very quickly after being swaddled.
Do’s and don’ts of swaddling
- Parents should be aware of the potential risks of swaddling their infant, particularly of the use of heavy materials for swaddling. Use breathable natural fibres such as fine merino, cotton or bamboo. Be mindful of the season and temperature of your house and chose appropriate swaddling material.
- Only swaddle after being shown the correct method by a professional. (eg. A midwife or nurse)
- Only use thin materials and DO NOT cover baby’s head.
- Infants must NEVER be placed prone (on their stomach) when swaddled or not.
- Current research suggests that it is safest to swaddle infants from birth and not to change infant care practices by beginning to swaddle their infant at 3 months of age when SIDS risk is greatest.
- Secondary caregivers should be made aware of their infant’s usual sleeping environment and practices.
We have a range of swaddles that are made from natural fabric which are designed to promote correct swaddling.
<h4>2. Put on some white noise in the room</h4>
<p>Turning on white noise in the nursery is comforting to the baby because these monotonous sounds remind her of the womb, and there are many different options for creating white noise. Turn on a fan, taking care not to position it directly facing the crib otherwise it could make her too cold. Playing recordings of a vacuum or a lullaby CD will also work, and you can even purchase white noise machines. These are available in many sizes, including a travel size, making it convenient for any trips you may need to take with your newborn.</p>
<h4>3. Watch for Signs of Tiredness</h4>
Get familiar with your baby’s sleepy signals and put her down to sleep as soon as she seems tired. A baby who is encouraged to stay awake when her body is craving sleep is an unhappy baby. Over time, this pattern develops into sleep deprivation, which complicates developing sleep maturity. Learn to read your baby’s sleepy signs, such as quieting down, losing interest in people and toys, and fussing and put her to bed when that window of opportunity presents itself.
<h4>4. Help Your Baby Distinguish Day from Night</h4>
A newborn sleeps sixteen to eighteen hours per day, and this sleep is distributed evenly over six to seven sleep periods. You can help your baby distinguish between night sleep and day sleep, and thus help him sleep longer periods at night.
Have your baby take his daytime naps in a lit room where he can hear the noises of the day. Make nighttime sleep dark and quiet, except for white noise (a background hum). You can also help your baby differentiate day from night by using a nightly bath and a change into pyjamas to signal the difference between the two.
By making the bedroom dark you are conditioning the baby to sleep through the night which is the ultimate goal for most families. Hang room darkening shades at the window so the room can be made dark any time during the day. This also can prevent him from waking up with the sun in the morning. Sleeping in a completely dark room has also been found to be better for your baby’s eyes. According to a study completed at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine, night time light before the age of 2 has been linked to myopia later in life. Myopia is the technical name for near-sightedness.
<h4>5. Control the Temperature of the Room</h4>
While there seems to be varying opinions on what the ideal temperature is for a baby’s room, one thing remains consistent. The room should feel comfortable to you when you are in it according to the AAP, (American Academy of Pediatrics). Ideally the temperature of the room should be between 67 and 70 degrees. A room that is too warm can lead to a baby that is too warm and this has been linked to SIDS, (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Keep an eye on her temperature when you come in for feedings. Does she feel very warm to the touch; is she sweating or breathing quickly? These could be signs that she is too warm and needs to cool down. Circulating air in the room with some type of fan is also suggested as a way to avoid having the room feel too warm or stale. Moving air will eliminate the chances of her rebreathing air which has also been linked to SIDS.
<h4>6. Have a Consistent Bedtime Routine</h4>
Babies are all about routine. Even though he is unable to say anything yet, his brain is growing by leaps and bounds. His body registers all routines and creating a bedtime routine will help him know when it’s time to sleep. This routine does not have to be a long one. Many parents opt for a warm bath to relax him. Followed by feeding him either by breast or by bottle. Turn on some sort of white noise in the room and lay him down in a dark room. If he is still awake at this point you can finish up with a gentle massage to sooth his tense muscles. Beware, some babies are stimulated by massage instead of relaxed.
<h3>Safe Sleep for Babies: FAQs</h3>
Where should I put my baby’s cot?
<p>The safest place for your baby to sleep for the first six months is in a cot in your bedroom. Babies should never sleep next to a radiator, heater or in direct sunlight. Keep an eye on the temperature by buying a simple room thermometer. Make sure your baby cannot reach cords on curtains or window blinds.</p>
Can I use a duvet, quilt or pillow for my baby?
If your baby is under one year, do not use a duvets, quilt or pillow. Don’t use electric blankets or hot water bottles. Instead, use one or more layers of light blankets and clothing.
What kind of mattress should I use?
It is very important that your baby’s mattress is kept clean and dry. Ideally you should buy a new mattress for each new baby (Natural mattresses, from coir, latex or lambswool are the ideal because they breath preventing baby from overheating) If you are not able to do this, use the one you have as long as it was made with a completely waterproof cover (e.g. PVC) and has no tears, cracks or holes. Clean it thoroughly and dry it. Check that the mattress is in good condition; is firm, not soft; fits the cot without any gaps; and doesn’t sag. Ventilated’ mattresses (with holes) are not recommended as it is not possible to keep the inside clean. Never sleep your baby on a pillow, cushion, bean bag or waterbed. Never sleep together with your baby on a sofa.
Can my baby share my bed?
Bedsharing can be safe as long as you make it a safe environment to do so. If your baby does come into your bed make sure any gaps between the mattress and bedframe and the mattress and wall are blocked, remove duvets and pillows from the bed and use lightweight blankets hooked under the mother’s arm and keep the baby’s head uncovered. Babies should only sleep next to their breastfeeding mum (bedsharing and bottle feeding is not recommended) not in between mum and dad. Dr Sears’ site is a good resource for information on safe bedsharing.
Can I use a sheepskin for my baby?
Research has shown that sheepskins are not risky if your baby sleeps on their back. As your baby starts trying to roll over onto their front, do not use the sheepskin.
My baby won’t settle on the back. What shall I do?
Babies settle easier on their backs if they have been placed to sleep that way from the beginning. If your baby won’t settle, take them out for a cuddle and try again.
My baby keeps rolling onto the front. What should I do?
If your baby is less than six months old and you find him sleeping on his tummy, gently turn him onto his back. Don’t feel you need to keep getting up all night to check on this. After six months, babies can usually roll onto their backs themselves, so leave him to find his own position. Whatever your babies age, always place them to sleep on the back.
Can I use a cot bumper for my baby?
In the past, there were concerns that bumpers might make babies too hot, increasing the risk of cot death. However, recent research has shown that they have neither good nor bad effects. Take it out when your baby can get up on hands and knees so they can’t climb out.
Can my baby use a sleeping bag/sack?
If you use a sleeping bag, it needs to be without a hood, very lightweight and the right size around the neck so your baby won’t slip down inside the bag. Never use with a duvet. To make sure your baby doesn’t become too hot choose a lightweight bag.
Can I use a Moses Basket?
There is no research evidence on Moses Baskets. If using a Moses Basket, it should have only a thin lining.
How can I prevent my baby’s head from getting covered?
It can be dangerous if your baby’s head gets covered when she sleeps. Place her with her feet to the foot of the cot, with bedclothes firmly touched in and no higher than the shoulders, so she can’t wriggle down under the covers. If she wriggles up and gets uncovered, don’t worry.
Do movement (breathing) monitors prevent cot death?
Despite their widespread use there is no research evidence that monitors, also known as apnoea or breathing monitors, prevent cot death. Babies can and do die whilst on a monitor. They are designed to sound an alarm after 20 seconds if they can’t detect a baby’s breathing movement. They may use sensor pads on the tummy, an elastic belt, a pressure pad under the baby or an ultrasound beam. They do not monitor air flow and therefore cannot detect a blocked airway until breathing movements stop.
Is it safe for my baby to play on their front?
Babies should have plenty of opportunity to play on their front, so their muscles develop properly and to avoid misshapen heads. Keep an eye on them at all times.
Should I breastfeed my baby?
Yes, if possible. It’s natural and best way to feed your baby and increases resistance to infection.
Is it okay to take my baby on an aeroplane?
There is no evidence that flying is unsafe for healthy babies. If you fly with your baby on either long or short flights, you should follow these guidelines: place your baby on the back to sleep, keep your baby cool, sit away from the smoking area on the plane and in the airport terminal, and make sure your baby takes appropriate feeds and doesn’t become dehydrated. If you have specific questions about your baby, e.g. if your baby is unwell or has a cold, speak to your doctor before traveling.
Is there anything I can do to reduce the risk of cot death?
- Cut smoking in pregnancy – fathers too!
- Do not let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby
- Place your baby on the back to sleep
- Do not let your baby get too hot
- Keep baby’s head uncovered – place your baby with their feet to the foot of the cot, to prevent wriggling down under the covers
- If your baby is unwell, seek medical advice
- It is dangerous for your baby to sleep in your bed if:
- you or your partner are smokers (even if you never smoke in bed or
- in the home)
- have been drinking alcohol
- take medication or drugs that make you drowsy
- have had little sleep
- if your baby was born premature (born before 37 weeks)
- low weight (less than 2.5kg or 51/2lb)
- It’s very dangerous to sleep together with a baby on a sofa, armchair or settee, and it is also risky to sleep a baby alone in an adult bed.