I am part of a group on Baby Center called Babywise Babies. One of the moms on there had a question about her newborn and how to get her to sleep better. Made me go through a couple of posts that I have written and revisit the newborn stage so I thought I would share some of my experience and thoughts on how to help your newborn sleep better.
1. You need to find the right sleep window for your baby. This it a short window of time that allows your baby to fall asleep faster and easier. If you put your baby down to early he or she might be not tired enough. If you put your baby down too late, your baby might have hit a second wind and have some nervous energy and not be able to relax enough to sleep well.
2. The length of wake time is very important. Most newborns can only handle 30-45 minutes of wake time. Wake time includes the time it takes to feed them as well. So if you wake your baby and nurse for 30 minutes, then you only have about 15 minutes left of wake time at the most.
- My personal experience: My twin girls had a waketime length of about 40 minutes when they were newborns. It consisted of the following: Nurse, Diaper Change, Immediately Swaddle, Put in Swing or Bouncers, Watch for their eyes to get heavy, Pick up and put them in their crib, AHHH Napping! To a list of schedules I kept with my twins click here.
3. Remember that Newborns can become very overstimulate quickly. It does not take much. They just spent the last 9 months in a quiet, dark environment. All the new lights and sounds can be a bit much for newborns. Try to keep the environment quieter, calmer, not as bright.
- My personal experience: When my twins where born, my son was only 18 months old. He was full of energy and loud. He was a very good boy, but 18 month old toddlers have a hard time understanding what peaceful and quiet are. In order to keep the babies from getting too over stimulated I kept their bouncers and swings in my master bedroom (which was on the first floor). I kept my blinds shut, but there was still natural light in the room, just not overly bright. I sometimes had quiet classical music playing if Cooper was making a little too much noise and other times I just kept no music on. The babies would hang out in their bouncers or swings swaddled up tight in there. That kept Cooper from messing with them and it also allowed me to sneak in and “peek-in” on them. Once I noticed their eyes getting really heavy, I would carefully pick them up and place them in their cribs. The girls were sleeping in my walk-in closet at the time because I did not want to go up and down the stairs for middle of the night feedings. So I did not have long to walk between their swings and bouncers to my walk-in closet where they slept. I also allowed my girls a pacifier, which I think helped them sleep too.
3. Swaddling is so important for newborns. I cannot stress this enough! The startle reflex that newborns make causes them to jolt themselves awake. They just spent 9 months all balled up tight in your womb and now they are no boundaries and it scares them. Learn how to swaddle good and tight and I promise you that your baby will sleep well.
- My personal experience: I found the best method for swaddling was to use a modified miracle blanket wrap. See my utube video of how to do this here (I need to upload the video still, I will do this later, so check back soon). I also found that if I finished diaper changing and put the twins in their swings or bouncers without a swaddle, when it came time to place them in their crib for their nap, they would get very fussy and wake up totally as I was trying to swaddle them. Then I had to start the whole nap routine all over again. In order to avoid that this was our waketime routine:
2. Diaper Change
3. Swaddle Tight
4. Place in swing or bouncer
5. Watch for heavy eyes or eyes shutting
6. Pick up once heavy eyed and place in crib for nap
I could not reverse #3 and 4 or they would fully wake up.
4. White Noise works. I know that a lot of people don’t want their baby or infant to get use to white noise to sleep because they will become dependent on it. But let me say, white noise does help. It gives the baby some background noise to hear. They just spent 9 months hearing fluid, heart beating, and other things going on inside of you. It was not quiet in there. The white noise is actually calming to babies. The other benefit of white noise is that you don’t have to tip toe and whisper around your house. If you have older children, white noise is essential if you ask me. I did not want to keep telling my toddler to be quiet, he is just being a toddler. With the while noise, I did not worry so much about my toddler’s noise level.
- My Personal Experience: All 3 of my children sleep with white noise. We have a portable white noise machine in their rooms. It is easy to travel with too. I wrote a review on the two white noise machines I have used here. You can also use a stand up fan or a humidifier to give off white noise. Music can also be used to help drown out the sound by placing some soft quiet music.
5. Room Dimming helps too. You don’t have to go out and by dark out blinds, but make sure the room that you baby sleeps in is dim and not overly bright. I have found with all of my kids that they sleep better in dimmer rooms. Babies go though sleep cycles every 45-50 minutes. At the 45-50 mark, if the baby is semi-aroused and sees light in his or her room, she might wake up and not want to continue sleeping. More on sleep cycles read this post.
- My Personal Experience: My son Cooper is a very sensitive sleeper. The smallest sound or crack of light could wake him. As a new mom, I did not realize the power of making the room dimmer until one day I tough I would give it a try. He took such better naps from that point on. Cooper was the chronic 45 minute napper and the room dimming really helped. My twins defendant benefited from room dimming too. But now Cooper is 2.5 and my twins are 1 and I find they don’t need it quiet as dark anymore to sleep so I have started to make their rooms a little brighter.
6. Sometimes Babies will fuss in their sleep around 45-50 minutes into their nap. This does not necessarily mean they are hungry and are ready to wake up. Like I mentioned before, babies go through a sleep cycles every 45-50 minutes. At the end of the sleep cycle they are in light sleep and might wake up. Most newborns do not know how to self-sooth at this point and they start to fuss, fidget, and cry. My advice is to leave them alone for a few minutes to see if they can work it out on their own and return to sleep. If you see their fussing, crying, fidgeting getting worse, then you might want to go in your child’s room and help. I offered some advice on my post about the 45 Minute Intruder that you might find helpful.
- My Personal Experience: With my son I wrote a lot about it on the 45 minute intruder post. With my twins, I learned to go in and put their pacifiers back in their mouths. That seemed to do the trick most of the time. If that did not work, I often would then pat their bellies and rub their heads and that helped to calm them back to sleep. I would do a very slow rhythmic pat. If after several pacifier attempts and patting and they were still not going back to sleep, I would get them up and feed them because I assumed it was a growth spurt.