Sleep and Your Baby

Having a new baby is wonderful and exciting. When my oldest child was a brand new baby she was sleeping all day and up all night. I was exhausted. I didn’t realize she had her days and night mixed up until the doctor told me at her 6-week check up. He also told me to wake and feed her more in the day and she would begin to sleep more during the night.

After I started feeding her more in the day, she slept through the night within a couple of weeks. When she slept, I slept, and that made me a better mom.

Babies Sweet Dreams
Newborn babies usually sleep just a few hours at a time. The first couple weeks home from the hospital can be tough. This is normal.

Your baby’s tummy is very tiny. He needs to eat often.
Some babies are very tired after childbirth. Your baby needs to eat often during the first few weeks. If your baby is sleeping more than 3 hours at a time during the daytime, wake him for a feeding.

Your baby needs to wake during the night in order to eat enough!
During the night keep the lights low and the room quiet. This helps your baby begin to learn the difference between day and night.

Your life has changed too!

You may need to sleep for short periods of time during the day and night
instead of long blocks of time. Try to nap when your baby is napping.

When will your baby sleep through the night?

"Sleeping through the night" is not what most new parents think it is. Your baby is “sleeping through the night” when he is able to sleep for 5 hours at a time.
Every baby is different. But most babies are able to “sleep through the night” around the age of 3 months. It’s not a good idea to force your baby to sleep. If you can, let your baby sleep when he feels like sleeping.

Breastfeeding a sleepy baby
Most babies will tell you when they are hungry and need to eat. Some babies can be too sleepy during the first few weeks and will not wake up to eat.

Breastfed babies usually breastfeed 10 to 12 times in a 24-hour period during the first month. It may seem like he is eating all the time. He needs to eat often – he’s growing fast! If it has been more than 3 hours since your baby’s last feeding, wake him. If your baby falls asleep after a few minutes of breastfeeding, take your baby off your breast and wake up your baby.Then breastfeed your baby!

10 ways to wake a sleepy baby:
  1. Talk to your baby – sing a funny song, talk in a fast or funny voice.
  2. Look into your baby’s eyes and talk gently to him.
  3. Take your baby’s blanket off.
  4. Change your baby’s diaper.
  5. Undress your baby.
  6. Walk your fingers up and down your baby’s back.
  7. Tickle your baby’s feet and hands.
  8. Rub your baby’s cheek gently.
  9. Wipe your baby’s face with a cool wet cloth.
  10. Give your baby a bath.

Bedtime Rituals
Many parents have bedtime rituals that help their babies follow a sleeping pattern. A ritual is something that you and your baby do just before bedtime. It tells your baby that bedtime is coming.

Have rituals that calm your baby:
  • Give your baby a warm bath.
  • Rock your baby.
  • Have soft sounds – music box, quiet talking, soft singing
  • Softly sing a special song
  • Hugs and kisses
Don’t expect miracles!

It is easier to change an older baby’s schedule after they are 6 months old.

Should I let my baby cry if he wakes during the night?
No, crying doesn’t help. Your baby’s body will create the stress hormone, cortisol if he is left to cry. This can make your baby less able to relax and fall asleep.

Early Head Start
Nutrition News
September 2006
From your nutritionist,