They tell you to anticipate few sleepless nights once you have the baby. But it is only when you actually have a newborn in your arms, do you realize what a “night shift” actually means. If you were used to getting eight hours of uninterrupted sleep before the baby, the first few weeks of parenthood can turn even the best of us into cranky, baggy-eyed zombies.
Everyone wants the magic spell to get their babies to sleep through the night. While every infant has his own slumber patterns, there are certain ways to ease a baby into a sleep schedule giving you some much-needed rest.
Why the statement, ‘sleep like a baby’ is a myth
For the first few months, your baby will fall asleep and wake up at any hours of the day or night. Newborn babies can have quite a range in total slumber time (10-18 hours per day), with sleep times usually equally spaced throughout the day. There is no real difference between day and nighttime sleep for these guys. Newborns may sleep 2 to 5 hours at a time. So baby sleep is anything but peaceful.
Your newborn most often wakes up because he is hungry or needs to be changed. This pattern will gradually change as he grows. Be aware of sudden changes in your baby’s sleep patterns — it may signal illness or a hunger-inducing growth spurt.
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When does a baby finally sleep through the night?
Though there’s no definite answer to this one, you can surely sleep train your baby. Sleep rhythms begin to develop at around 6 weeks, and most babies are developmentally capable of regular sleep-wake cycles by 3 to 6 months. As your baby begins to understand the difference between night and day, it’s the right time to help improve his sleep-time routine.
How do I get my little one to sleep?
You can start a routine with your baby once he’s three months old. The key is to be consistent, persistent and as patient as possible.
● Teach your newborn difference between night and day
Try not to darken the room when the baby sleeps during the day. Keep lights and sounds at normal levels. On the other hand at night, keep it dark or dimly lit. Keep your volume and interaction with the baby to a minimum. Limit yourself to holding and rocking him gently. Feed and change as calmly as possible.
● Create a night-time routine
Start a ritual before bedtime so that the baby knows that it’s time to sleep. You could give your baby a gentle massage and bath, followed by a lullaby and plenty of cuddles.
● Teach your baby to self-soothe
The most important aspect of getting your baby to sleep through the night is to have your baby learn to soothe himself to sleep. Try to put your baby down to sleep when he is drowsy but awake. Babies need to be able to fall asleep independently, so that they can self soothe when they wake in the middle of the night.
● Avoid over stimulation
You may be told to keep your baby awake through the day to encourage longer night-time sleep. This may just end up overtiring the baby and he may end up getting up more often at night. Your baby needs 2-4 naps during the day, just avoid naps close to bedtime.
Also, do not over stimulate your baby with bright lights, loud noises or sugary foods (for older babies) before bedtime. It will disrupt his natural sleep cycle.
Interestingly, your baby’s growth milestones can alter sleep patterns. Many developmental achievements, such as rolling over and pulling up to stand, can temporarily upset your baby’s sleep. Don’t be discouraged if your baby, who once slept through the night, temporarily wakes up in the middle of the night. Stick to your routine to help your baby get back to a regular sleep pattern.
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