Newborn babies are unable to distinguish between night and day, so most parents can find the first few months overwhelming, emotional and full of sleep deprivation. Babies wake frequently due to the small size of their stomachs and the need to feed every few hours, regardless of whether it is day or night.
Each baby is different and requires an individualized approach to sleep. By following a few basic guidelines, your baby will soon identify with and settle into a regular sleep pattern.
At this stage, the need to feed outweighs the need to sleep. Many pediatricians recommend feeding every three to four hours, bearing in mind that breastfed infants tend to feed more frequently than those who are formula fed.
A newborn may sleep up to sixteen hours per day, in stretches of three to four hours at a time. Remember to always sleep baby on his back and if he begins to show signs of discomfort, sweating profusely, crying uncontrollably or breathing problems, see your pediatrician immediately.
For the first few weeks of life, some parents place their baby’s crib or bassinet in their bedroom for ease of feeding, while others choose to have baby sleep in his/her own room. Research has suggested that having baby sleep in his crib or bassinet in the same room as his parents can help to reduce the risk of crib death. Remember, never place a baby to sleep in an adult bed alone.
It is imperative that all baby cribs and bassinets comply with national safety standards. Make sure headboards and footboards don’t have openings that could trap baby’s head, and remove all pillows, comforters and other accessories that could pose a suffocation risk.
Swaddling baby in the first months of life help to keep them warm and secure.
The occurrence of SIDS has dropped by more than 50% since the recommendation to place baby to sleep on his back was made in 1992.
Babies are born with soft, pliable skulls, and when laid in the same position over time their heads can become flat. As baby continues to grow and develop, encourage him to play on his stomach and engage in tummy time, which will help to take pressure off the flattened areas. Also try to alternate the side of the crib baby sleeps in. By doing so, you will be encouraging him to tilt his head in various directions and preventing flat spots from developing on the back of his head.
Although many cultures endorse co-sleeping, there is a risk that the baby could suffocate or become smothered. Studies have shown that a higher incidence of SIDS occurs in households where baby has slept in his parent’s bed.
Establishing a routine at an early age can help to introduce structure and healthy sleep habits for your baby. Behaviors such as always putting baby to sleep in his crib and a nighttime bath routine can help create sleep associations and consistency. Although newborns may be too young to immediately pick up on the signals, setting up a nightly routine has been shown to pay off in the long run.
Babies are easily stimulated, so during nightly feeds be sure to keep the lights low and resist playing or talking to baby. By doing so, you will reinforce the message that nighttime is for sleeping.
Sleep promotes sleep. Make sure baby gets an adequate amount of sleep during the day and he will have a more restful nighttime sleep.
Ensure baby is winded, has a clean diaper and the room is at a comfortable temperature before placing him down to sleep.
Always check that baby has a fresh diaper and does not have wind before exploring other causes.
Remember, it is impossible to spoil baby during the first months of his life, so rocking, cuddling, and singing are all acceptable methods of settling baby.
Issues such as irritability, disinterest in feeding, difficulty rousing and inability to soothe baby should all be discussed with your doctor.