All mums are familiar with the zombie stage of having a newborn – your baby is up every few hours in the middle of the night and therefore, so are you. A good night’s sleep becomes more and more of a fond, distant memory as your new baby always seems to cry just as you’re about to doze off. This stage is inevitable (acceptance is always key) BUT there are a few ways to help your baby, and you too, sleep better at night.
First, let’s all get on the same page on what “sleeping through the night” means for a baby. On average, a newborn will sleep in 3-hour stretches with 2 to 3 feedings in between. After a few weeks, an 8 to 12 week old baby may start sleeping in 5-to-6 hour stretches, with at least 1 night feeding. After 16 weeks, or about 4 months, some babies are able to sleep 7 to 8 hours straight a night. Remember, your baby MAY follow these average guidelines but every baby is different.
Here are a few helpful tips that might help your baby sleep better at night:
- Follow a consistent and calm bedtime routine – Being overstimulated is never a good state, especially for babies. In the moments leading up to bedtime, make sure your baby’s environment is calm and soothing. A warm bath, soft music, and dim lights help tell your baby that it’s time to sleep. Babies should ideally go to bed between 6 PM and 8 PM. You might miss that precious window of drowsiness if you wait too long to put your baby to bed.
- Put your baby down when he is drowsy but awake – Yes, we know this is easier said than done but it is still something worth trying over and over again. One additional technique we’ve tried is rocking or nursing the baby until he’s almost asleep, and then slowly putting him down in his crib while still awake but very sleepy. Then you can pat or shush him until he finally falls asleep. This helps disassociate sleep with rocking, nursing, or your arms.
- Try giving your baby a dream feed – A dream feed is an extra feeding that you give your baby without completely waking him up. This is usually done between 10 PM and 12 MN. The idea here is to keep your baby full for the next few hours, removing his need to wake up again at 2 or 3 AM. Again, this might not work for all babies as it may train them to wake up for the dream feed, which is the opposite of what you want. However, experts say that there is no harm in trying this in the newborn days as it might just lead to getting a few more hours of precious sleep for you and your baby.
- Consider giving your baby a pacifier – This might be a sensitive topic for some parents but as we’ve always said, you and your baby’s situation is always specific and unique to your circumstances. Introducing a pacifier just might be the key to having your baby sleep in longer stretches. Studies have shown that a pacifier might also help prevent SIDS.
- Delay feeding him in the middle of the night – When you hear your baby cry, give him a few minutes before you rush into the room with your breast or a bottle. He might be able to go back to sleep on his own (hooray!). If crying persists, try patting or shushing him back to sleep before offering a feeding. This might be an effective way to cut down on nighttime feedings and also teach your baby how to self-soothe. Of course, if your baby continues to cry, please feed him and remember that most babies really do feel hunger at night.
Hopefully, these tips can help you and your baby get a few more precious hours of sleep and rest at night. If they don’t, remember the saying – “The days are long but the years are short.” The newborn stage will be over before you know it and soon you’ll be missing how tiny your baby was. Enjoy this special stage of motherhood!