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You’ve just brought baby home from the hospital, so you know you’ll both be waking up multiple times a night. Here are some tips that may help her sleep a little longer and deeper during those first few weeks.
FOLLOW HER WAKE WINDOW.
Many parents don’t know that newborns should only be awake for a set amount of time throughout the day. Some babies don’t show tired signs and parents assume they’ll just fall asleep when they’re exhausted (which may not be the case). To prevent baby from becoming overtired, keep her awake no longer than 45 to 60 minutes at a time during the day. First thing in the morning when she wakes, keep an eye on the clock (and her tired signs) and try her first nap around 45 minutes later. Once she wakes up from that nap, try for another in 45 to 60 minutes. This may seem too frequent, especially when feeding and changing her diaper takes up most of the awake period, but newborns need a lot of sleep during the day in order to sleep well at night.
REMEMBER TO SWADDLE.
It makes sense that she likes being wrapped up tightly, since newborns have just come from a place where they were in a tight fetal position for nine months. Until about 3 months, babies have a very active Moro reflex. This reflex causes their bodies to jolt, especially in the middle of sleep periods. If your baby isn’t secure and her hands fly up and hit her in the face, it’ll be really hard to sleep.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF SOME WHITE NOISE.
You may think it’s better to have a quiet environment for baby, but he actually got used to hearing sounds before he was born. The womb is loud thanks to mom’s heartbeat, the sound of amniotic fluid and the voices he hears all day. Keeping some noise in the background is something your baby is used to. Making sure there’s white noise while baby sleeps creates constant background sound that can help diffuse loud street traffic or siblings.
It may feel like your newborn needs to meet every member of the family that first weekend, but an overstimulated baby will sleep poorly and wake up more often. If a baby is doing too much, especially in her first few weeks, her body will produce extra cortisol which will make her more wired and disrupt her sleep.
DON’T LET HER NAP TOO LONG.
Newborns often mix up day and night. In order to get them onto a schedule that’s in line with yours, wake them every 2 to 2 1/2 hours during the day. You may only need to wake her to feed and change, but breaking up long nap periods will shift those long sleep periods to nighttime.
Nicole Cannon, The Sleepy Mama, is a certified infant and child sleep consultant in central NJ. A mom of three boys, she combines her knowledge of sleep with the realities of being a parent and has been working with local families for more than five years. For more, go to sleepy-mama.com.