It’s 2:00 am, your newborn is crying again and you’re tiredly asking yourself, “But why won’t he just sleep awhile longer?” Getting a newborn on any kind of a sleeping schedule just isn’t going to happen, and for one very good reason — babies less than three months old are frequently waking for feeds and sleeping up to 17 hours a day. For the first three months, new parents must remind themselves that, for the time being, you’re in survival mode.
Also, if your pediatrician says your infant is gaining enough weight, there’s no need to wake your baby to feed, as this will occur naturally. “Feed on demand” is what we advocate today. This allows your newborn to regulate when they want to eat and sleep, and for how long.
Sleep Safety Tips for Babies
How your baby sleeps is important. Each year about 3,500 sleep-related deaths occur among American babies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Every caregiver should know these safety protocols for infants and sleep:
Always place your baby on their back to sleep.
Babies should be given their own sleeping surface, apart from the parents.
Use a firm mattress that does not include any pillows, blankets or stuffed toys.
Any blanket used to swaddle or cover your baby must be thin and breathable.
Avoid using thick blankets, as they can put your infant at a higher risk of suffocation if they accidentally cover the infant’s face.
If you are breastfeeding your infant at night, use a side-lying position in case you accidentally fall asleep.
Use extra caution if you’re breastfeeding in an armchair, as falling asleep in one while holding your infant poses the greatest risk of suffocation.
Further recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment are available from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Is Your Baby Getting Too Little Sleep?
Newborns can get too little sleep for many reasons, whether it is overstimulation, gassiness or reflux. If your baby isn’t getting at least 14 hours a day of sleep and it is difficult for them to calm down or they remain fussy, these are signs of a problem. If these behaviors persist, you should reach out to discuss this with your pediatrician since there may be an underlying medical cause that needs to be addressed.
On the other hand, if your infant is not having periods of wakefulness in between sleeping or has slept through multiple feedings, this would be considered abnormal behavior, and you should immediately call your pediatrician.
When It’s Time to Establish Routines
Once your baby is around three months old, you can — and should — begin setting a feeding, sleeping and activity routine. Encourage your baby to have activity time during the day instead of waking, eating and returning to sleep, as this has the added bonus of making your child more tired for the nighttime hours. Naps take place during the day.
Be sure to start a nighttime routine as well: a calm, quiet environment, no media interruptions and possibly a bath. Aim to put your baby to sleep when they begin to get sleepy between 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm. Allowing naps after 6:00 pm often leads to overstimulation and exhaustion. This can make putting your baby to bed later in the evening much more difficult. Instead of a late nap, place your baby to bed in the early evening.
As infants get closer to three or four months old, they may begin to consistently sleep eight hours at night. Around six months, this extends to 12 hours, much to the relief of parents and siblings.
The first few months can be rough, but have patience. Those restless nights don’t last forever!
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