When I first had my daughter, I was given a single piece of advice from my mom friends; do whatever you need to do in the first three months just to keep your head above water. Sounds so desperate right? That’s because I was! I did whatever I needed to do in order to stay sane and in order to keep my daughter happy. But this meant rocking her to sleep for hours, breastfeeding her all day and acting as a human bed for her to rest her little body. However, from the knowledge I’ve gained from becoming a sleep consultant, I know that it doesn’t have to be this way, even at this age. There are ways to encourage healthy and fuss-free sleeping habits in your baby from day one!
1. Don’t let your baby stay awake for too long
Newborn babies cannot handle a lot of time awake because they get overtired very quickly. Typically, your newborn can only be awake for 45 minutes before she is ready to sleep again. In this window, you have time to feed her, change her, have a quick playtime session and then put her back to sleep. If your baby is crying, chances are she is simply just tired!
2. Establish a bedtime routine
In the first couple months of your baby’s life, it’s almost impossible to get her on a firm schedule. But it’s never too early to get into the habit of a bedtime routine. It’s a great way to cue her and let her know that it’s time for her to sleep. As she gets older, her routine will change and will become her favorite part of the day.
3. Let them fall asleep on their own
This is always a scary concept but it’s completely possible, even with a newborn! You want to put your baby down in her crib while she’s still awake and let her try to fall asleep on her own. Try to avoid rocking, bouncing or feeding her to sleep. As it might not be 100% successful right off the bat, allow her to practice and little by little, she’ll get the hang of it!
4. Block out the light
We’ve all heard that newborns don’t know the difference between day and night. But keeping her in a very dark room will help her circadian rhythm (also known as your sleep/wake cycle) into effect and minimize confusion as to when she should be sleeping. When she is awake, make sure to surround her with natural light.
5. Get outdoors
On the contrary, when a baby gets sunlight during her awake time, it also helps establish her circadian rhythm. When she is then out of the sun, her body will produce melatonin, which helps her get to sleep and stay asleep.
If you’ve successfully gotten your newborn asleep in her crib, congratulations! You will have to expect several nighttime wakeups in which you will absolutely need to feed and snuggle her. There will be many times when you’re too exhausted and in order to get the rest you both need, some rocking and feeding to sleep is necessary. But starting some healthy habits from the beginning will allow your baby to develop her sleep skills naturally. When she is physically able to sleep through the night, she will be a much skilled sleeper that you may never need to worry about sleep training her. Talk about keeping your head above water!