Understanding how to best prepare a newborn for quality and consistent sleep may not be something many of us already know.
When baby arrives, not only will she need to adapt to her new environment, you will also need to learn learn how to recognize her needs. Creating positive sleep associations (any behavior before baby falls asleep) very early on will greatly facilitate the process later.
Keep in mind that if there are older siblings involved, it's probably best to have them sleep in a separate room if possible until baby develops a sleep routine. It is not unusual for siblings to experience some interrupted nights. Quality one-on-one time with sibling during the day and applying a consistent bedtime routine will help resolve this episodic regression.
So how can I create the best sleep habits?
During the Daytime:
-Have baby be part of your daily routine.
-Observe and listen to the different kind of crying of your newborn. Talk to him, learn to understand his needs and what he is expressing through his cries.
-Expose baby to normal light and noises during the day. During naps, keep the room with daylight and normal daily noises this will start teaching your baby about the difference between days and nights.
-Massage baby after a bath.
-Wake her up (gently) after a 3-hour nap.
Bedtime & at Night:
-Start a bedtime routine (bath, massage, dim light, lullaby, calm ambiance).
-Swaddle baby -- it will help with Moro reflex and avoid some undesirable waking up.
-Put baby down when she is drowsy but still awake.
-Don’t talk during night feedings and keep the room dark and quiet. Use a flashlight with minimum light or a dimmer switch.
-Don’t change diapers unless necessary -- use one size up diaper for the night.
-Keep the room temperature between 68 and 72 degrees.
-If breastfeeding, keep feedings short (no longer than 15 minutes). Try to not have baby fall asleep while feeding. Very gently stimulate him by touching his feet.
-Don’t rush to your baby at the first cry -- give her a chance to self-soothe and learn to go back to sleep between sleep cycles. Note that she will make some noise while sleeping, which is very common.
-When baby reaches about 12 to 13 pounds, he is physiologically (but not always emotionally) ready to not be fed at night. He is also ready to develop consistent sleeping patterns. A consistent routine with cues is important.
Newborn Sleep Patterns
-The first stage of sleep is called REM (Rapid Eye Movement), which is an active sleep phase that lasts about 25 minutes). During this stage of sleep, the brain activity is high which explains why Moro reflex (jerky movements) is observed as well as fluttering eyelids.
-Then NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement represents a deep sleep that lasts another 25 min). During this stage, muscles are relaxed and breathing is regular. Energy is restored, and growth and development occur.
-Babies do not differentiate between day and night.
-Babies need 16-18 hours of sleep until 4 weeks old, and then around 14 hours per day.
-Between 3 and 4 months, babies first sleep cycle is going to change to deep sleep followed by active sleep like adults’ sleep.
If your baby develops colic, always consult a doctor first to make sure that there are no other medical conditions. Colic is characterized by long periods of crying that appear on healthy babies around 2 to 3 weeks after birth and can last until 2 to 3 months of age. Late afternoons and evenings are usually when the crying is at its pick and it can last sometimes for a few hours. Keep in mind that colic doesn't last forever and will eventually disappear.
Things to try for colic:
-Warm bath and massage with baby oil.
-Leg cycling (to help release gas).
-White-noises like fan, vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, etc.
-Walking with baby in a sling.
-Hold baby in your hands on his belly and rock him gently.
-Stay relaxed and calm to diffuse calmness to baby.
-Ask for help if nothing works that day.
Patricia lives in Palo Alto with her husband and two teenagers. She is a Pediatric Nurse and Sleep consultant for The Sleeping Infant, she helps families get better nights using a holistic and individualized approach.