Sure, you expected sleepless nights with your new little one. But you may be shocked at how little sleep you really do get when you first bring your bundle of joy home. Christian Canzoniero, MD, FAAP, of Wellness Pediatrics in Sparta and on staff at Atlantic Health System’s Goryeb Children’s Hospital and Newton Medical Center (and a dad of 3!), offers tips for helping baby sleep through the night:
NJF: How often will my baby wake up at night?
Dr. Christian Canzoniero: Babies sleep when they are content and full, typically at two-hour stretches. They have no set sleep cycle yet. I tell parents that for the first 6 to 8 weeks, it’s about survival. But this time won’t last forever. Usually, around two months, babies can go for longer stretches of time between wakeups, maybe 4, 5, or 6 hours so you’ll get more sleep, too. Now you feel human again!
NJF: Why does it seem like my baby has his or her days and nights confused?
CC: I hear this a lot from parents. That’s because babies are neurologically immature, and there’s so much stimulation they’re trying to process. During the day, with all the lights and noise, they tune out the excess. But with the silence at night, now all of a sudden baby is wide awake.
If your baby sleeps during the day, she’ll be awake at night. During the day, play with and stimulate your baby to help her stay awake for longer periods of time. This will help her sleep longer during the night.
NJF: How can I get my baby back to sleep?
CC: When baby wakes up, go through your bag of tricks. Did you feed her? Does your baby need to be changed or burped? Is he hot or cold or just need to be soothed? Your job is to decide what to do with this awake time. You cannot spoil them for those first two months. Sometimes they just need you for reassurance because they cannot self-soothe.
In time, you’ll learn your baby’s cries so you know what he needs right away. But some babies are just fussy and cannot get contented, and you may go through this a lot during the first 8 weeks. It’s okay to walk away for 5 minutes; your child isn’t going to be scarred for life. Don’t be afraid to tag out. One person doesn’t have to be responsible for the nighttime wakeups, even if you’re breastfeeding. Take turns and lean on your support or partner.
NJF: When should I call my pediatrician if I think my baby is having sleep issues?
CC: If your baby is not eating or wetting diapers, these are signs that there may be an underlying cause, such as a digestive issue that needs to be checked out. But it’s never, ever wrong to call or see your doctor or to schedule a peace of mind visit. As pediatricians, we’ve been through this many times, and we’re here to partner with and empower parents.
Christian Canzoniero, MD, FAAP, of Wellness Pediatrics in Sparta is on staff at Atlantic Health System’s Goryeb Children’s Hospital and Newton Medical Center and a father of three.