Getting babies to sleep for longer is a common quest for most parents! Helping babies to sleep isn’t an exact science, but there are some things you can do to help your baby to sleep for longer. Give these tips and tricks a try and take some of the guesswork out of nap time.
If your baby frequently wakes up crying, grizzling, or screaming after 45 minutes of napping, it’s likely they’re still tired and need more sleep.
Many babies grizzle or cry for a few minutes as they stir and wake, before resettling themselves back to sleep. This is quite normal and doesn't mean your baby is upset or ready to get up. How long you give your baby to resettle is completely up to you, depending on how hard your baby is crying and how old they are, a good rule of thumb is about 10 minutes.
You can also observe your baby and check for the following signs. If your baby is tired and probably needs more sleep they might be:
- Have jerky leg movements
- Have a fixed stare
- Facial grimacing
Swaddling is also an effective way to increase the length of day sleeps. If your baby uses his hands or fingers to soothe himself, then wrap with one arm out. One arm out is also good if you want to introduce a comforter.
With newborns, white noise reminds them of the swooshing and gurgling noises they heard inside the womb for nine months. It was never quiet inside you, so it makes sense that babies find it hard to settle in a quiet room! Alternatively you can try playing soothing lullabies on repeat.
With babies over four months old, white noise can be very effective for helping with settling and encouraging longer sleeps. Using white noise can also mask distracting or loud sounds and provide a strong cue that it’s (still!) sleep time.
As babies get older, they’re generally more alert prior to sleep time, so white noise can help them wind down. Play the white noise or lullabies when you put your baby down to nap and keep it on repeat through the sleep.
Make sure baby’s room nice and dark even during the daytime (special blackout curtains are a great investment). Bright light can be stimulating and may remind them of all the other fun things there are to do instead of sleeping!
The dreamfeed is the feeding given to the baby right before you (mom or dad) go to bed, and it helps prevent the baby from waking up just after you finally drift off to sleep.
Isn’t this the pinnacle of sleep deprivation?
You just fall asleep and the baby wakes up.
The dreamfeed can help your newborn baby sleep for longer while you sleep. We used it until about age 4 months. After than time, it can start to disrupt sleep and create more nighttime waking.
Here’s an example of a newborn sleep schedule that we loosely used during the first 3-12 weeks.
- 7 am – Wake up, eat, play
- 8 am – Nap
- 9:30 am – Wake up, eat, play
- 10:30 am – Nap
- 12:00 – Wake up, eat, play
- 1:00 pm – Nap
- 2:30 pm – Wake up, eat, play
- 3:30 pm – Nap
- 4:30 pm – Wake up, eat, play
- 5:30 – Cat nap
- 6:00 pm – Wake up, eat, play
- 7:30 – Eat again (cluster feed), then down for the night.
- 9:30 pm – Dreamfeed.
- 9:30 pm – 7 am – night feeds as needed.
Generally if you can get a newborn to go 3-4 hour stretches during the night from birth to 6 weeks that is pretty good! From 6-12 weeks if you can get a 4-6 hour stretch that’s great. Some babies will go 8-9 hour stretches with the dream feed.
When most author’s taut “getting baby to sleep through the night” they are referring to a 6 hour stretch of sleep. A newborn’s stomach is very small and I typically like to feed at least 2.5 hours during the day, cluster feed in the evenings AND dreamfeed. The more calories you’re able to feed during the day, the less they may need at night.
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