Baby Sleep Tips to Get Your Newborn to Sleep Better
We all know to expect some level of altered sleep once a new baby arrives, but did you know that there are three simple baby sleep tips you can use to encourage your baby to sleep better?
True sleep training is not appropriate for a baby until they’re at least 3-4 months old, but these baby sleep tips can establish a gentle sleep routine in the first few weeks home to create good sleep habits for a newborn and set yourself up for success later on. These tricks to get your baby to sleep better are part of “sleep shaping” or “sleep conditioning” and when implemented consistently, they are a powerful tool to help your baby become a great sleeper now and in the future!
Quick note – the first 2-3 weeks home are what we call Survival Mode. There is no obvious rhythm, no specific routine. Meet your baby’s needs (and meet your needs) any which way you possibly can. You are getting to know a whole new person, and relationships take time to settle in. Don’t expect perfection right away. But starting with these healthy sleep habits as soon as possible and as consistently as possible will help your baby to sleep through the night faster and easier (we recommend introducing these baby sleep tips between 4-6 weeks).
Baby Sleep Tip 1: Don’t get in the habit of feeding to sleep.
Feeding may be the easiest way to get a baby to sleep, but it can become an association that makes it difficult for your baby to fall asleep independently later on. Instead of an Eat-Sleep-Play rhythm, help your baby develop the EASY routine:
Activity time (playing, singing, tummy time, etc.)
You time (a nap, a shower, those nagging emails….)
When your baby wakes in the night, obviously we’re not encouraging a whole lot of activity time, but a feed should be the first thing you do, not the last before they fall back asleep. Offer them the bottle or breast, and make sure they’re awake enough to eat effectively. If you notice them falling asleep, tickle them or remove a layer of clothing to perk them back up.
Baby Sleep Tip 2: Diaper change after the feed, not before.
Once they’re finished with the feed, give a good burp and change their diaper. This will wake them up a bit again, and it may seem counterintuitive to feed first and change after. But a hungry baby won’t tolerate being changed very well and feeding first (unless there’s a poopsplosion) with a diaper second helps us accomplish step 3, possibly the most important.
Step 3: Lay baby down drowsy but awake every time.
Falling asleep independently is a skill – a really important, life long skill – we can teach our babies, but like any new skill it requires giving them the opportunity to practice. Instead of rocking a baby completely to sleep (creating a dependency that’s hard to break later) we can help them get there on their own by laying them down still slightly awake.
This does a couple great things: It helps the baby associate their crib with sleep, and it also prevents the dreaded awakening that often happens upon trying to transfer a sleepy baby into bed.
Think of it this way: If you fell asleep in your bed and you woke up in your neighbor’s house a few hours later, it would startle you awake and you’d be freaked out. You would need to be soothed and calmed down and you would have to go back to your bed to fall asleep. But if you fell asleep in your bed and woke up in your bed a few hours later, you’d roll over and go back to sleep.
Putting a baby down drowsy but awake takes some practice. First, get them in a snug swaddle and rock, sway, and sing until you notice slow blinks, staring off into space, and/or yawning. Once they’re good and drowsy, but still awake, lay them down in their sleeping space, and leave one hand on their chest until they settle and calm. Then, give them the chance to drift off on their own.
A little movement and noise is normal. If they fuss a little, pat their chest softly and make a steady “shh”ing sound. If they escalate into a full cry, pick up just long enough to soothe them and then return them to bed and continue patting until they fall asleep.
These three simple habits create a sense of predictability at bedtime and naptime and give babies the valuable foundation for the skill of self-soothing to sleep.
Whether you plan to go on to formal sleep training later or just want to create a routine that encourages easier sleep, these habits are simple and can make a huge difference in your baby’s sleep – and as a result, your own.Tags: baby sleep, baby sleep tips, baby to sleep, how to help my baby sleep better, newborn sleep, sleep, sleep conditioning, sleep shaping