Saying Goodnight To Sleepless Nights: 3 Ways To Set Your Newborn Up For Successful Sleep Habits

As you approach the end of your pregnancy, you're probably starting to hear newborn care advice from veteran parents.  Most of that advice probably revolves around sleep. Some of it will seem completely ridiculous (like putting bourbon on a baby's gums), while some will contradict other advise you've heard (like letting the baby sleep on his or her stomach).  So, what advice do you actually need?  Follow these dos and don'ts for your baby's first few weeks of sleep to create habits that will help through all of infancy.

Do Start a Routine Early

Newborns typically wake up every few hours.  As exhausting as this might be for you, it's essential for their weight gain and physical development.  Still, it's important that you help them establish a daytime and a nighttime so you can set them up for longer stretches of sleep at night as they get older.  

A bedtime routine will differ for each family and each infant.  However, your goal should be to create a relaxing environment in the evening that's clearly meant for bedtime.  

  • Use your smartphone, tablet, or sound machine to play white noise as the newborn is falling asleep to drown out other noises in the house. 
  • Keep the lights low when the baby is awake in the evenings. 
  • Avoid making eye contact, cooing noises, or playful gestures.  Your baby's body is tuned into these behaviors, resulting in a faster heart rate for him or her and less sleep for you. 

Don't Let a Newborn "Cry It Out"

The baby is fed, in a dry diaper, and sufficiently sleepy.  Why is he or she still crying?  It seems like it would make sense to let a newborn "cry it out"  since everything's seemingly fine. 

Don't let yourself fall into this logic in the baby's first three months or so.  Newborns do not yet have the emotional or physical capacity to self-soothe.  They're dependent on their parents and environment to soothe them back to sleep.  Rather than letting the newborn cry it out, teach him or her soothing techniques through white noise, swaddling, a pacifier (or breast), rocking.  

Do Set up the Room for Sleep Success

The nurseries you see in magazines aren't necessarily set up for hours of sleep.  You can design a cute nursery with a more utilitarian purpose.  There are a few things you'll need if you want long periods of sleep:

  • A Sound Machine: White noise helps newborns ignore other sounds while also creating an environment that sounds like the inside of the uterus. 
  • A Cool Mist Humidifier: A dry room can lead to dry nasal passages, which are already sensitive to dust and other debris new to the newborn.  The cool mist humidifier is recommended for quality sleep and SIDS prevention. 
  • A Wearable Swaddling Blanket: You don't need quilts, loose sheets, or even bumpers in a newborn's crib.  Instead of spending your money on these things, invest in wearable swaddling blankets that will keep your newborn warm without overheating and prevent the startle reflex from waking him or her. 

Don't Worry

The newborn phase is exhausting.  There's no way around it, and you'll find it difficult to get more than a few hours of sleep at a time. However, you can rest assured knowing that it won't last forever, and you're not breaking your baby if he or she isn't sleeping.  Try to focus on the sleep you are getting and the middle-of-the-night snuggles that won't last forever.