Tips To Get a Newborn to Sleep
Why Won't My Baby Sleep?!
Within the days after birth you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. Your baby is sleeping as soon as you put them down and hardly crying. It can take anywhere from days to weeks for your baby to have their first 'episode', you know, where they're screaming the house down and just won't sleep. Once this happens it can be incredibly stressful and tiring.
So why do newborns refuse sleep?
It could be as simple as your baby wants feeding, changing or a cuddle. If your baby has recently had vaccines they may be a little under the weather or warm which can make them grumpy. Babies are born with about a quarter brain capacity so aren't able to keep up with high levels of activity. At this early stage they're not able to understand that they're a separate person from you which is why they often won't sleep unless you're holding them. They quite literally NEED you. It's important to understand this is normal behaviour and in a couple of months your child will start to realise they're a separate person and grow out of this.
1. Give your Baby a Soother
Dummy, Soother, Pacifier, whatever you want to call it- try it. Some parents are dead set against them, however, they can offer some great health benefits to your child if used only for the first 6-8 months. Soothers are cheap and most can be sterilised in boiling water, a microwave steriliser or a full sterilising unit (make sure you do this after every use). They won't affect your child's teeth if just used for sleeping and for only a few months.
If a baby isn't hungry sometimes a sucking action can help soothe them to sleep. If your baby spits it out then don't worry and don't try to force one into their mouth if they're refusing it.
The major factor that encouraged me to try them is they can help prevent cot death. They work by preventing the baby from falling into a deep sleep and being unable to regulate their breathing. These are not 100% protective but studies have shown they can help.
2. Use a Moses Basket or Suitable Carry Cot
After being confined in your cosy hot tub of a womb, your baby may feel a little vulnerable or overwhelmed outside- especially whilst sleeping. While many newborns do sleep on cots or cot beds, some will scream relentlessly and others can be very hard to get to sleep in them.
A Moses Basket is a more cosy and confined space suitable for babies 0-3 months only. After this your child should graduate to a proper cot bed.
The carry cot of your baby's pram is also a suitable bed for the first 3 months provided you check with the manufacturer it is safe for long sleeps. Some carrycots are not safe for babies to be in for more than a couple of hours at most and are not ventilated enough or safe enough to make suitable beds. They work in the same way a Moses basket does.
3. Wake your Baby for Feeds
Try not to allow your baby to wake up starving and screaming after a 4 hour sleep. It's best to wake your baby every 2-3 hours at most if they have not woken themselves. Typically a breastfed baby will want food every 1.5-3 hours, a formula or mixed fed baby may prefer to sleep for 2-4 hours between feeds. While these longer sleeps may be relaxing for you, they can also leave you with a very hungry and agitated baby that may be more difficult to get down for their next sleep.
Gently waking your baby and feeding them before you go to bed will also allow you a couple of hours sleep. It then becomes your choice whether you wake in 2 hours to get your baby up or allow them to wake you up. Whatever you choose make sure your baby is having a minimum of 8 feeds per day! Ensure you burp your baby and offer more breast or bottle even if they seem sleepy- you want them to have a full feed every time.
4. Check your Baby's Body Temperature
Touch your fingers under their clothing to their chest or stomach. It's important to never allow a baby to become overheated as it puts them at serious risk of health complications. A baby that is too hot or cold may become agitated and refuse to sleep. If your baby is too hot try not to cuddle them against your warmth. After the first 24 hours a baby doesn't need a hat indoors.
To prevent them becoming too cold or hot keep the room temperature between 16-20 degrees Celsius. A room thermometer will help you keep track. It's best to heat a room with your central heating and never cover your baby with a blanket until post 6+ months of age. Avoid stuffed toys, piles of clothing or other things in the cot or basket to prevent suffocation.
5. Go for a Walk
Taking your child out in their pram can seem daunting but often fresh air and the rocking will set them to sleep (plus it's cheaper than driving them around in the car for half an hour). An afternoon walk can soothe your baby and encourage them to sleep. Just be careful to avoid hot days, harsh sun or snow for a new baby and dress them appropriately. Seriously I can't encourage this enough.
Eat Activity Sleep Yourself - EASY!
Feed your baby, give baby some activity such as making facial expressions (babies can learn to copy sticking their tongue out at you from as early as about 2-3weeks). Newborn babies aren't capable of holding attention for long and they become tired quickly. Showing them bright colours or reading to them and giving them cuddles or lying them down on their tummy for 1-2 minutes (turning the face to the side so they can breathe) also gives them physical activity and strengthens core muscles.
Once you get your baby down (ideally before they're fully asleep) spend some time doing something fun for yourself.
1. Baby should always sleep on their back, never on their side or stomach as it increases the risk of cot death and breathing difficulties. This rule includes nap time!
2. Never fall asleep while breastfeeding or cuddling your baby. They can easily be dropped, overheat or suffocate- you can't monitor their safety when you're asleep!
3. Avoid filling the cot or basket. A newborn should have no covers or pillows or toys or bumpers in their bed.
4. Never give your baby sleep supplements, herbs or dip anything in alcohol as these drastically increase the risk of cot death. This also goes for breastfeeding, avoid alcohol as the same rules apply.
5. Check your baby regularly and never leave them unattended for long periods.
6. Sleep with your baby in the same room as you for the first 6-12 months. This is better for baby's health and reduces their risk of complications, plus it's easier for you to wake and sort them out.
7. Never smoke or allow anyone to smoke around your baby. Smoking puts your child at serious risk- that includes second hand smoke!