Wondering when your infant will sleep through the night? It’s a common question new parents have.

Child Health | one year ago

A Parent’s Guide to Establishing Healthy Sleep Routines for Newborns

Wondering when your infant will sleep through the night? It’s a common question new parents have. After asking about developmental growth and feeding habits, baby’s sleep is often the next big topic of conversation during pediatric visits. Levine Children’s Dr. Chpryelle Carr shares tips for parents to help their newborn form healthy sleeping habits and fall asleep on their own.

“Children in the first six months of life typically sleep 14 to 18 hours in a 24-hour period,” says Chpryelle Carr, MD, a pediatrician at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Rea Village Pediatrics. While this might sound great in theory, the reality is that infants don’t do all that sleeping in one night-time stretch. It’s usually not until about six months that babies start sleeping for six to seven hours at a time.

In the meantime, there are still things you can do to help your infant become a good sleeper, which means parents get more sleep, too.

Start with a Safe Sleep Environment

Once home from the hospital, Dr. Carr advises following the safe sleep recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which help reduce the risk of sleep-related infant deaths and include:

  • Placing baby on their back to sleep
  • Putting baby in their own crib or bassinet
  • Using a firm mattress
  • Removing all loose blankets, bumpers and toys from baby’s bed

Lay the Groundwork from the Beginning

Newborns often lose weight at first, which can take 10 to 14 days for them to regain. During that time, they’re very tired and may actually sleep longer than they should between feedings, which can keep them from regaining their birth weight. Dr. Carr recommends waking your newborn every two to three hours for a feeding, especially in the first two weeks of life. This ensures baby gets enough to eat and helps establish a milk supply for those moms who are breastfeeding.

When it’s sleep time again, put your baby down when they’re drowsy, but not already asleep. This starts teaching them how to fall asleep on their own. It also helps to recreate the womb’s environment during this period, which some call the fourth trimester because babies actually need another three months of foundational development.

In addition to soothing your newborn, the following womb-mimicking tactics make it easier for your baby to settle back into sleep if they inadvertently wake themselves due to the startle reflex:

  • Swaddling between each feeding until baby starts to roll over
  • Swishing sounds or white noise
  • Swaying or swinging motions while soothing the baby
  • Sucking on a finger or pacifier

Establish a Routine Once Back at Birth Weight

After a newborn regains their birth weight, Dr. Carr recommends creating a routine to help your baby start to recognize the difference between daytime and nighttime.

For example, during the day, feed your baby, change their diaper, play with them and then put them down to sleep when they’re drowsy. Also, keep daytime noises like the TV or conversations at their normal household level. Then at night with a dim light and soft voice, change your baby’s diaper, feed them and put them right back down.

Understand Sleep Training for Older Infants

Once your baby is gaining weight and reaching developmental milestones, they start to sleep for longer stretches. This typically occurs around six months, but can happen as early as four or five months. If interested, this is when Dr. Carr says it’s appropriate for parents to talk to their pediatrician about sleep training, which are techniques for helping your child fall asleep on their own.

Before beginning one of these sleep training methods, make sure that your baby is well fed and taking in enough milk during the day:

  • Crying it out method: You lay your baby in their crib at bedtime and leave the room. If they cry, you let them work it out themselves as long as they’re not in any danger or need of immediate attention.
  • Camping out method: You stay in the room with your baby (preferably out of their sight) after you’ve put them down in their crib to fall asleep, but you still let them settle themselves if they start crying.
  • The Ferber or graduated method: You put baby down for bed, leave the room and give them time to settle down. If needed, you return to console them in their crib and leave again, waiting a little bit longer each time before returning.

With any sleep training method, it can take several nights or weeks before a baby learns to fall asleep on their own. And keep in mind that every child is different and what worked for someone else might not work for you. “Talk with your child’s pediatrician and trust your parental instinct about what’s right for your baby,” advises Dr. Carr. In addition, she recommends the following books for more information about baby’s sleep:

If you have questions about your newborn’s sleeping habits, contact their pediatrician. Looking for a pediatrician? Find one near you.

For additional information and resources on newborn care, visit online.

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