Sleep Training Baby: Tips for Getting Your Newborn to Sleep

Sleep training a baby is hard work. As a pediatrician, there is one thing I see from all my newborn patients: their parents are tired.  Although some are more tired than others, the truth is, if there is a newborn in the house, there probably isn’t a lot of uninterrupted sleep happening for any family members, especially during the first two weeks.

Here’s the good news: the reason your newborn is not sleeping well is probably temporary because your baby—just like you—is still adjusting to a regular schedule and sleep pattern.  Newborns typically sleep about 14 to 17 hours a day and wake up frequently for feedings.  As they get a few months older, the amount of sleep they get is the same, but they can usually break it into longer sleeping cycles—giving you some much-needed rest, especially at night.

When Sleep Training Baby, Three Issues Usually Arise:

1. They don’t like sleeping on their backs.

Although babies feel more secure when sleeping on their tummies, that position is linked to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which is why experts recommend putting the baby to sleep on her back.  Suppose your baby resists sleeping on her back. In that case, I suggest swaddling your baby, using a pacifier at bedtime, or waiting until she falls asleep in your arms and then gently placing her on her back in her bed—easing her into this new position. If you continue to struggle, reach out to your pediatrician to ensure there isn’t anything physical preventing your baby from sleeping on her back.

2. They mix up their days and nights.

This is a very common issue with newborns and great frustration for new parents.  Newborns usually grow out of their nocturnal tendencies once they adapt to life outside of the womb, but if your little one continues to sleep all day and be up all night, there are a few things I recommend.  Try limiting daytime naps to three hours, keeping the baby’s room dark, and avoiding turning on the TV (or scrolling through your phone) during nighttime feedings. You want to help your baby make the distinction between day and night, so they get into a regular sleep routine.

3. They have frequent night feedings.

Some newborns, especially those who are breastfed, still feel the need to be fed once or twice a night, but it’s not always necessary for their growth and development.  Talk with your pediatrician, and if she thinks you can do away with night feedings, make sure your baby is eating enough during the day (try feeding every two to three hours) and slowly begin to stretch the time between your night feedings.

As your baby gets older, and even after she has been blissfully sleeping through the night for months, you still might have the occasional sleep snafu—usually caused by illness, teething, or changes in your routine.  Here are some general tips I have for helping your baby get the best sleep (read below the video for more details):

Baby Sleeping Tips when Sleep Training Baby:

  • Create the perfect sleep environment.
    Make sure your baby’s room is a haven for good sleep by investing in blackout shades, keeping the thermostat between 68 and 72 degrees, and keeping lights low.  I also recommend using a white-noise machine to help drown out the noise happening outside of the baby’s room.
  • Be prepared for quick changes.
    A crib sheet that is soaked from a leaky diaper, swaddling blankets that are wet because of spit-up…there are so many things that can happen to disrupt your little one’s sleep.  While you can’t control what happens, you can control how quickly and efficiently you respond.  Keep extra crib sheets, swaddling blankets, and even clothing close by the crib so you can make changes quickly without turning on lights or making much noise.
  • Create a bedtime routine
    A consistent routine is the best possible way to get your baby’s sleep cycle in order.  Give her a soothing bath, read her a book, turn out the lights—all of these little things you do will signal that it is bedtime, and her body will know it is time to sleep.  As a mom, I found the bedtime routine to be one of my favorite parenting moments—it was a great bonding time for my babies and me and relaxed me for a good night’s sleep.

As I mentioned above, most of your baby’s sleep issues are temporary. Sleep training baby can be exhausting, but this is normal. But if at any time you feel concerned or anxious about how much—or how little—your baby is sleeping, call your pediatrician.  Every baby is different, and you, as a new mom, will instinctively know what works best for your little one—or when something doesn’t feel right.

Happy Sleeping!

Disclaimer: This blog provides general information and discussions about health and medical issues and is provided as an entertainment and informational resource only. It is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. This blog is opinion based and these opinions do not reflect the ideas, ideologies, or points of view of any potentially affiliated organization. The information on this blog may be revised and/or otherwise managed.