How to Get a Newborn to Sleep at Night

By Barbie Carpenter
Marc Debnam/Digital Vision/Getty Images

You long for the peaceful, uninterrupted sleep of your pre-baby life. However, you have a needy newborn who requires your attention around the clock. While your newborn might sleep a lot -- up to 16 hours a day, according to KidsHealth -- her sleep comes in short stretches. Around-the-clock feedings are essential during the first few weeks of life for your newborn to thrive. However, you can encourage sound sleep in between those middle-of-the-night feedings in a number of ways.

Step 1

Respond to his hunger cues. You can expect your newborn to eat every two to four hours around the clock. Breastfed babies often feed more frequently -- every two to three hours -- than formula-fed babies, who eat every three to four hours. When your baby wakes at night and cries, nourish him and fill his stomach, which can satisfy and soothe him, thereby encouraging sleep.

Step 2

Create a soothing pre-sleep ritual. As your newborn approaches bedtime, give her a warm bath, dim the lights, play soft music and rock her. This routine can soothe and relax your baby, preparing her for a successful stretch of sleep.

Step 3

Have your newborn room in with you. A bassinet or cosleeper beside your bed allows you to monitor your newborn's movements and soothe her before she fully wakes. If you hear your newborn stirring or fussing, you can quickly attend to her, place a hand on her and encourage her back to sleep.

Step 4

Avoid stimulation during middle-of-the-night wakings. While you do have to get up and feed your newborn at night, you do not need to fully wake him. Keep the lights dim and the room quiet. Avoid playing with or talking to your baby during feedings or diaper changes, instead silently and gently rubbing his back or rocking him.

Step 5

Wait for a deep sleep to transfer your baby. If your newborn falls asleep in your arms, move her only when she shows signs of being in a deep sleep -- relaxed muscles, dangling arms and legs, open hands and regular breathing. Your baby will be less likely to wake when you transition her during this deep sleep.

Step 6

Help your newborn get back to sleep. Many babies, newborns in particular, rely on their parents' help to get back to sleep. If you do not have a self-soother, rock him, sing to him or nurse him back to sleep to avoid having a wide-awake baby in the middle of the night.

About the Author

Barbie Carpenter worked as a technical writer and editor in the defense industry for six years. She also served as a newspaper feature page editor and nationally syndicated columnist for the Hearst Corp. Carpenter holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Florida and a graduate certificate in professional writing from the University of Central Florida.