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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:
    1. Nurse
    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.

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How can you know if your baby is getting the right about of sleep? Are they getting too much or too little? According to Kim West in her book Good Night, Sleep Tight “children need to get the right amount of sleep and they need to get the right kind of sleep. Quality counts along with quantity. Good Sleep should be largely uninterrupted. If your child is getting up a lot, she isn’t getting all the sound sleep she needs.”

Signs that you baby is not getting enough sleep:

  • Baby falls asleep in the carseat all the time– A well rested child will not fall asleep in the car often, unless it is close to his scheduled nap time.
  • Sleep disruptions– if your baby is overtired you will notice that you baby may have more difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. You child may wake early from a nap or wake several times throughout the night if overtired. Or you child may have difficult falling asleep at night. For more on this see my post about sleep windows.  https://blogginaboutbabies.wordpress.com/2009/04/23/sleep-windows-get-them-to-bed-before-its-too-late/
  • Fussy/ Irritable- You may notice that your baby is waking from a nap or nighttime sleep fussy. Your baby should be waking up happy unless they have not slept enough. Young babies will wake from a nap crying, but that is usually due to hunger. Once they are feed, they are generally content unless they did not get enough sleep. Make sure you don’t rush in when you hear your baby stir during sleep or naps, they might be cycling from one sleep cycle to the next. If you leave them alone they might return to sleep on their own. For more on this see my posts entitled “Baby Wise: Sleep Training” https://blogginaboutbabies.wordpress.com/2009/05/06/baby-wise-sleep-training/ and “Sleep Cycles” https://blogginaboutbabies.wordpress.com/2009/04/13/infant-sleep-cycles/

Quantity?: Check my post about sleep requirements that babies need. For instance a three month old should be getting a total of 15 hours, 10 hours at night and 5 hours during the day (spread over 3 naps). If you are already jotting down the time and length of each of your daily naps in a sleep log, then you should be able to quickly total up the amount of sleep to see if it equals 15 hours. Some babies will sleep slightly less or slightly more than the recommended amount, but usually no more than an hour of deviation. At 3 months old my son slept for about 15.5 hours a day, 9 hours at night and 6.5 during the day. You can see that my son still slept close to 15 hours a day, but his nighttime sleep was a little less and his day time sleep was a little more than the average infant at that age. The important thing is that he was getting at least 15 hours and appeared to be well rested.   https://blogginaboutbabies.wordpress.com/2009/04/08/sleep-requirements-for-infants/

Quality?: Your baby really needs to sleep in his own crib or bassinet for his naps and nighttime sleep. Prior to 6-8 weeks old, your newborn is so sleepy they will sleep in someones arms, in the car, in the swing. When your baby is older than 6-8 weeks old, they really need to sleep in a stationary crib. “Motion lulls us to sleep, bit it also keeps us in a lighter, more fragmented sleep; our brains never reach the level of full restorative sleep if we’re moving.” If your baby falls asleep in the car (and it will happen every now and again), try to move them from the car to the crib as soon as you get home. If you put your baby in a swing before nap time and you notice him drifting off to sleep, quickly remove him and place him in his crib. Now I know that babies are only little for so long and that you might want to hold them a little while they sleep, that is okay. Just try not to make that a habit.  Also, it is important to make sure that your baby’s room is conducive to sleep. You would not want to put your baby down for a nap in a bright room right outside a noisey street. Try to make sure your baby’s room has very little sound and light and is a good temperature. For more on how to create a good sleep enviroment for you baby see my post “Create a Good Sleep Enviroment” https://blogginaboutbabies.wordpress.com/2009/04/27/create-a-good-sleep-environment/

Quotes taken from Good Night, Sleep Tight by Kim West p. 35-36

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