How to Get Your Baby to Sleep

How to Get Your Baby to Sleep

Find time to sleep as a new parent

One of the most challenging aspects of newborn parents is finding time to rest. Newborns do sleep for the majority of the day, around 16 hours per day. One would think that parents should get a lot of things done including rest during all that time.

But the truth is those very young babies don’t have a defined sleep cycle yet until about 4 to 6 months of age, so they sleep in short bursts. Many young babies only sleep a couple of hours at a time at most. Newborns are NOT expected to sleep through the night! They will wake every two to four hours night or day.

New mothers need a lot of rest after having a baby to recover their strength and energy. With a baby’s sleep, schedule finding time to sleep can seem impossible. It is a good idea for the mother and baby to nap at the same time. New fathers will have their hands full as well with supporting mom during her recovery, and getting to know the baby.

Make sure the sleeping setup is safe for your baby

Sometimes in the spur of the moment, any surface looks like an awesome nap surface. But safety is of the utmost importance when it comes to your baby!

Make sure that you have a safe crib for your baby that meets current Federal safety standards. Check out my post How to Choose the Best Crib for Your Baby. Beforehand, make sure that you have babyproofed your nursery room and every room where your baby might sleep. Read my Baby Nursery Safety Checklist.

Lastly, make sure that you are following the latest information known about preventing sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as “crib death” or “cot death”. I have a complete list of the 11 Best Tips to Reduce the Risk of SIDS that you must read.

How much do babies sleep?

I briefly talked before about the increased sleep requirements for young babies, even if they do get all those hours sleep in short bursts of time.

Sleep requirements for babies decrease as the baby ages. The American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed the recommendations from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine that outline the recommended amount of sleep for pediatric populations. Here’s a table that breaks it down for ages 4 months to 18 years.

Hours of sleep recommended by age, on a regular basis to promote optimal health:

AgeHours of Sleep (per 24 hour period)
4 months to 12 month12 to 16 hours (including naps)
1 to 2 years  11 to 14 hours (including naps)
3 to 5 years 10 to 13 hours (including naps)
6 to 12 years9 to 12 hours
13 to 18 years8 to 10

How to help your baby fall asleep

Keep stimuli to a minimum

This one should not come as a surprise. Keeping a relaxing ambiance with minimal stimuli has better results. Make sure that you are putting your baby to sleep in a room that is comfortable. That includes

  • No loud noises. If you need to speak, speak softly. You may set up a white noise machine.
  • Darken the room. If it is daytime shut the curtains.
  • Make the temperature comfortable, and make sure baby is wearing temperature appropriate clothing.

Keep your baby awake for longer during the day

To ensure longer periods of sleep during the night, try to keep your baby awake for longer periods of time during the day. Make daytime equal playtime. Spend time during the day playing together and talking to your baby.

Put baby down on their crib or bed when they are drowsy

To train your baby to fall asleep on their own, let them fall asleep on their own bed or crib. Putting them down to sleep when they are still drowsy but not yet asleep helps them learn this.

If you hold or rock your baby to sleep, it can become the only way they know how to fall asleep. That means it can be harder for them (and for you!) when they wake up in the middle of the night and cannot fall back asleep unless you go back to holding or rocking them.

Do not rush right in to soothe a crying baby

Rushing to your baby’s room to soothe them every single time they wake up and cry can have a similar effect as described above. Babies can learn how to put themselves back to sleep after a few minutes.

That does not mean that you will neglect a night feeding or changing a soiled diaper. It refers to the case of, let’s say a 6-month-old baby waking up and crying for a minute before falling back asleep again.

This is not a hard written rule, but a recommendation to improve your quality of life that does not negatively affect your baby.

What to do with night sleep reversal

Before the baby sleep cycle is established, some babies can develop day-night reversal. That means that they will increase the number of hours that they sleep through the day, even if gradually, and become more active during the night.

Night activity of a baby with day-night reversal can include needing to be fed, changed, and entertained more throughout the night time. This frustrating (for the parents!) sleep cycle often occurs as the baby is starting to learn to sleep for more prolonged stretches of time but choose to do so during the day.

There is no quick fix for this cycle reversal but there are things that parents can do to help encourage more socially acceptable sleeping habits.

  • Establish a consistent contrast between day and night. During the day, don’t worry too much about creating a super silent home for the baby to sleep. Go about your normal activities when there is daylight. At night when it’s dark, consistently make all interactions calm and quiet.
  • Allow the baby to sleep in active environments during the day. That means that if the baby falls asleep in a room with the music on, or while you are running an errand, it’s ok! Do not rush to make the room quiet or cut your errand short.
  • Keep nighttime activities focused. While the daytime allows for more active interactions such as playing, at night keep interactions to the essentials. Feeding, changing, and gentle soothing. Consistency in these patterns will help your baby learn day and night cues.

I hope this information is useful in helping you or a loved one go through the journey of a baby’s everchanging sleep cycle. Make sure to read my baby nursery safety checklist because safety has to be a priority in a home with a baby.

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How to Get Your Baby to Sleep

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