Newborns and teenage boys have one big thing in common: they both want to eat round-the-clock. For new parents the every-four-hours (or less) feeding schedule means nights of little sleep. However, imposing a sleep schedule on a newborn isn't safe, as he or she needs to feed every few hours and it is normal and healthy for a newborn to sleep for just a few hours at a time. The good news is, once you receive the all clear from your baby's pediatrician, your can begin working towards having your baby sleep through the night... and as long as there aren't any hungry teens around, you may get a full night's slumber too!
Help your baby relax and prepare for sleep with a bedtime routine. Babies that follow a nightly routine go to sleep easier, sleep better and cry out during the night less. Go through the same motions each evening before bed and your baby will begin to recognize the soothing routine as a precursor to bedtime. Try giving your baby a bath, followed by some cuddling, soft singing or book-reading, and nursing or a bottle.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends putting your baby to sleep on her back, rather than on her side or her tummy, as this sleep position helps reduce the possibility of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.
Good Sleep Habits
Encourage a full night's sleep with proper sleep habits. Play with your baby while she is awake during the daytime, since stimulation during the day can promote better sleep at night. While it is difficult to stick to a schedule, since young babies cannot wait to eat until dinnertime and have no concept of alarm clocks, try to start your bedtime routine roughly around the same time of night each evening. Another approach that some find helpful is to swaddle your baby to keep her from startling herself awake.
Time to Settle
Some experts, such as T. Berry Brazelton and William Sammons, pediatricians and authors of "The Self-Calmed Baby," advocate putting your baby to bed while she is drowsy but not yet asleep, to encourage her to soothe herself to sleep. According to the authors, your baby may fuss or cry after you've put her to bed, but giving her a few minutes to settle herself will help her create regular sleep patterns in the long run. Pat her back or softly console her, but don't pick her up. Newborns stir often during the night, but may not be fully awake, and can fall back to sleep on their own, so if you hear your newborn cry out during the evening, the same recommendation applies: Give her a few minutes to settle before checking in on her.
Your baby will likely still need to feed during the night, depending on his age and the appropriate feeding schedule set up by your pediatrician. If you have to do a nighttime feeding, try to keep the lights dim and the atmosphere quiet and peaceful. Keeping your newborn swaddled will also help ease him back to sleep after the feeding is over.