Newborn Sleep: The Complete Guide For Parents
For the first few weeks of life, babies sleep a lot! On average, newborns will sleep between 14 and 18 hours a day. When they aren’t sleeping, they’ll feed, have their diaper changed, and maybe take a bath, but then it’s right back to dreamland.
Unfortunately, the 14 to 18 hours your little one is asleep may not feel like much. This is due to most newborns' natural tendency to sleep for only a few hours at a time. While this intermittent sleep schedule may work for your baby, it likely doesn’t work for you or your partner.
To help you through the first few months of your newborn’s life, the experts at Mustela are here to show you the 11 best tips to help your little one sleep better so you can too.
Newborn Sleep Patterns
Newborns will sleep during most of their first few months of life, however, that sleep usually comes in short bursts. This happens because newborn babies need to eat at least every three hours, often resulting in an ongoing cycle similar to the following:
- Your baby wakes up after a three-hour nap and wants to eat.
- After eating, your baby may stay awake for a little while.
- Soon, it’s right back to sleep for another two to three hours.
If, for some reason, your baby doesn’t sleep well at any time during the cycle, they can become fussy and cranky. Inadequate sleep can affect how your little one eats, interacts, and even sleeps during other parts of the day or night. And that can have far-reaching effects on your newborn’s development and growth.
The Importance Of Sleep For Your Baby
Good, quality sleep is absolutely critical to your baby’s health and well-being. Your newborn’s tiny body is still adjusting to life outside the womb while also working hard to develop and grow. Their endocrine system is working on overdrive to replace the hormones that were once supplied by mommy while their immune system is working hard to fight off brand new germs. The bulk of that activity happens while your little one is fast asleep. That’s why it’s essential to do what you can to help your newborn sleep better.
11 Tips To Help Your Newborn Sleep Better
1) Keep Daytime Naps Short
Limit the length of your baby’s naps to two or three hours at a time. Anything longer could affect their nighttime sleep. If a nap is approaching the two-and-a-half hour mark, wake your baby, feed them, play with them for a few minutes, and then put them back down for another nap. By waking your baby every few hours, you are encouraging regular feeding habits, which will help your little one sleep better during the day and night.
2) Feed Your Baby Right Before You Go To Bed
Moms need sleep too, however, your baby’s many needs will likely make this difficult. If you’re breastfeeding, it’s going to be even harder. To ensure that you get at least a few hours of quality sleep, we suggest feeding your baby right before you go to bed. This will help calm your baby and hopefully give you a few hours of precious uninterrupted sleep.
3) Swaddle Your Baby At Night
Your newborn spent nine months wrapped up tight in your womb, a feeling that most newborns continue to enjoy even after birth. You can help your baby feel more comfortable by swaddling them in a blanket or sleep sack. Wrapping your little one up in a small blanket will also help keep them warm at night.
4) Gently Massage Your Baby Before Bed
While feeding your newborn right before you go to bed will help calm your baby, sometimes it just isn’t enough. When your newborn isn’t in the mood to settle down, try giving them a gentle massage immediately following feeding time to help your baby relax and fall asleep.
We recommend using Mustela’s Baby Oil as you massage your newborn’s shoulders, arms, chest, back, legs, and feet. The soothing scent will comfort, calm, and relax your baby so that they can fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
5) Moisturize Your Newborn’s Skin
When your little one’s skin feels soft and smooth—and doesn’t itch from dry spots or eczema—they’ll sleep better and wake up less often. We recommend applying lotion daily for long-lasting protection against itchy, dry skin.
6) Add Some White Noise
Even the slightest noise can disturb your newborn’s sleep. Unfortunately, noises happen even if you’re super careful. The phone might ring. A floorboard might creak. The neighbor’s dog might bark.
Thankfully, you can cover up disruptive sounds by adding some white noise to your baby’s environment. Place a fan in your baby’s room and set it to run on medium for just the right amount of white noise. Be sure to point the fan away from your baby’s crib so they don’t get chilled by the breeze.
7) Change Your Baby’s Diaper Correctly
At night, your baby will most likely wake, feed, and then go right back to sleep (often while still feeding). You don’t want to disturb that pattern by changing your newborn’s diaper at the wrong time. We recommend changing your little one’s diaper before you settle down to feed so that once your newborn has fed, you can put them to sleep right away without waking them.
When your baby wakes up to feed, first take care of the diaper by following these steps:
- Remove the dirty diaper.
- Clean the diaper area with wipes.
- Apply a bit of Mustela’s Diaper Rash Cream 1 2 3.
- Put on a clean diaper.
- Re-swaddle your newborn.
Once the above steps are done and your little one is wrapped snugly in a soft blanket, proceed with your feeding and sleeping routine.
8) Bathe Your Baby Before Bed
Another tip for helping your newborn sleep better is to bathe your little one before bed. When your baby wakes from a late-evening nap, bathe them using baby safe products like Mustela’s Gentle Cleansing Gel, Foam Shampoo For Newborns, and Bath Oil. After the bath, put a clean diaper on your baby, give them a gentle massage, feed them, and then put your little one down to sleep.
9) Let Your Baby Fuss Around For A Little Bit
As concerned parents, we have a tendency to rush into our baby’s nursery at the slightest noise from the crib. This can be a mistake. Babies will often wake up and coo, babble, or fuss a bit, and then go right back to sleep. Sometimes babies even cry while they’re still asleep. If you hear your baby fussing, wait a few minutes before picking them up to avoid disturbing their natural sleep pattern.
10) Keep Your Baby’s Room Dark
To help your baby sleep better at night, keep your little one’s room as dark as possible. Draw the curtains or close the blinds at night. To be extra safe, remove all sources of light, including digital clocks and glow-in-the-dark toys and decorations.
11) Try A Baby Swing To Help Your Newborn Sleep Better
When your baby was in the womb, rhythmic movements lulled them to sleep. The same movements can be used to help your baby sleep better outside the womb. An easy way to recreate the back-and-forth movements your baby felt in the womb is with a baby swing.
Find a speed that calms your baby, and then place your little one in the swing for daytime naps. At night, however, make sure you put your newborn down in their crib to avoid sleep dependency.
Find The Tips That Work Best For Your Newborn
Every baby is unique. What works for some won’t work for others. That being said, not all of the tips on this list will help every newborn sleep better. But with a little experimentation, you can find the tips and tricks that work best for you and your little one.
Soon, your baby will be sleeping quietly through the night and taking naps during the day. When your baby sleeps well, you’ll sleep well too.