Mama, I know the newborn days are long and foggy. I know you are dying to get a good chunk of sleep or some time in the day without a baby attached to you. You’re here for the newborn sleep tips, and I’m here to deliver on how to get your newborn to sleep!
At the end of the day (literally!) there are tricks to get a newborn to sleep that can make all the difference in the world.
Here I’ve compiled some of the best newborn sleep tips I’ve heard (and used!) as well as info related to newborn sleep in general to set you up for success.
Keep in mind, mama, every baby is different and you’ll have to experiment a little to find out what works for YOU.
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14 Newborn sleep tips you can use TODAY!
Let’s start this article right off with the goods you’re looking for – newborn sleep tips! Keep reading for more in depth info related to newborn sleep and specific scenarios.
But this right here. These are my top 14 tips I wish I’d known the first time around. – Newborn sleep tips you maybe haven’t heard yet and can start implementing stat.
1. No unecessary nighttime diaper changes
Don’t do nighttime diaper changes unless baby poops (or they have a rash)! Modern-day disposable diapers will keep baby dry. No need to disturb them unnecessarily.
In fact, keep the lights dim during nighttime feedings (a nightlight with a dimmer switch is perfect!) and try not to interact with baby at all. This will help them sort out their days and nights faster!
2. Don’t let baby get overtired
Don’t let your newborn stay up for too long between day time sleeps. This can start a viscous cycle of sleeplessness. Most newborns only stay up for 60 min MAX.
3. Warm up baby’s sleep space
Try warming up your baby’s sleep space with a hot water bottle or heating pad before putting them down. It can make that arm to sleep-space transition a lot smoother! Just be sure to remove the heating pad or hot water bottle before putting baby in
4. Create an optimal sleep environment for baby
Ideally, it’s one you can implement at every sleep time (or most anyways) to help them cue in for sleep. Some must-haves are blackout curtains, a white noise machine, and a sleep sack or swaddle (<– I LOVE Nested Bean for these)
5. Don’t wake a sleeping baby
I know advice on this is divided, but I’m solidly team if baby is sleeping, let them sleep. (And try to sleep yourself!). The one caveat here is if your pediatrician has advised waking for more frequent feedings due to low weight gain
6. Sleep begets sleep
Your newborn CANNOT sleep too much. And as they get a bit older, this still rings true. Keeping your baby awake longer will not get you a longer stretch of sleep. In fact, the opposite is often true! Babies who get developmentally appropriate amounts of sleep, throughout the day, sleep better in general
7. Learn about awake times
When your baby is born, they may often only be awake for an hour at a time. For the first six months, babies on average spend only 2 hours awake at a time before they need a nap. Yes, THAT’S IT!
8. Swaddles work!
There’s a reason mamas have been swaddling their babies since (seemingly) the beginning of time. Because it works! Babies love to be tight and cozy, and the tightness of a swaddle help deter their startle reflex from waking them up unexpectedly.
If you think your baby doesn’t like to be swaddled, I’m going to challenge you to keep trying it a bit longer. They may fuss getting swaddled up, but more often than not you will get longer stretches of sleep (or have an easier time with the arms to sleep space transition) if baby is swaddled.
A velcro swaddle or lightly weighted swaddle that’s super easy and fast to put on might make this easier on everyone. You can also learn how to master a basic swaddle over on YouTube ?<– that’s what I did when I was a new L&D nurse!
9. Start a simple bedtime routine as soon as you feel ready
Simply dimming the lights, changing to PJs, swaddling, feeding and rocking can be the routine. If you’re intentional about doing things in the same order every time, it will start to cue sleep for your little one
10. Nurse that baby to sleep
If you’re breastfeeding, don’t feel guilty or worried about nursing your baby to sleep. Research shows that breastmilk helps little ones sort out their days and nights and get on a circadian rhythm faster.
This is because newborns do not produce their own melatonin, but breastmilk in the evening has higher detectable levels of melatonin—so cool! (source)
Eventually you will want to break the nursing to sleep association, but early on use it to your advantage!
11. Sway or bounce baby to sleep if they don’t fall asleep eating
If your baby doesn’t nurse to sleep or fall asleep with a bottle, swaying your baby can help them fall asleep faster. I also LOVE to use a yoga ball to bounce my babies to sleep because it works so well
12. Newborns typically cat nap
I feel like no one told me that, and I just thought babies were born taking 2 hour naps. Those babies are the exception.
Most 0-6-month-old babies only nap for 30-40 minutes at a time (unless they are cozy on mama) because that’s how long the baby sleep cycle is. I think having this as a realistic expectation is really helpful
13. Pay attention to wake times and sleep cues
Getting baby down for regular snoozes every 1-2 hours is KEY to getting longer chunks of nighttime sleep (I know I’ve already touched on this already in the other tips).
14. Don’t stress about a newborn sleep schedule
Don’t get caught up on the idea of a nap schedule or daily schedule until much further down the road. Instead think of it as a daily rhythm. A rhythm that follows wake times and sleep cues.
This is because your newborn will likely get up at different times for the day and nap for different lengths of time which then affects the next sleep period.
How to get your newborn to sleep?
Alright now let’s get a little more into the specifics of getting your newborn to sleep. Kind of building on those 14 tips outlined above. Because I know as a new mama you’re probably, literally, obsessed with your baby’s sleep.
It happens to the best of us.
As with anything girl, the first thing to getting your newborn to sleep with minimal fuss is understanding infant sleep.
Baby sleep in the first month
The first month of newborn sleep will be about finding your groove and not worrying about sleep associations. Use the tips outlined above, pay attention to sleep cues and wake time, and figure out what works for your baby!
You can begin to focus on independent napping during this time. Just be ready for some days where it feels like all you do is put baby down for a nap.
Sleeping in an independent sleep space during the day (instead of napping on you) is going to take some practice, but it will click!
Newborn sleep cues
- Baby starts zoning out and startling back to attention randomly
- Yawning (obvious, you’d think? Nothing is obvious when you haven’t slept in the last week)
- Baby’s arms and legs seem to have a mind of their own, jerking and waving around wildly
- Baby rubs her eyes or ears–this one’s a huge cue–you’ll see it
- Baby starts sighing or grunting with exhaustion noises (trust me, you’ll recognize this)
- Crying fretfully (it’s a little like a worried sound, and probably the only time you’ll hear this at newbie’s age)
- Pulling random faces that aren’t accompanied by a smell or ::coughs:: bodily noise
- Baby begins balling her fists into a white-knuckled grip
- Baby breaks eye contact or disengages
Related Reading: Newborn Checkup Schedule: Months 0-4
An in-depth look at newborn sleep tips
Now let’s take a look at how to THRIVE with getting your newborn to sleep.
Remember that sleep is pretty natural, so your instincts will serve you really well here. The real tricks to get your newborn to sleep are more about removing barriers and accessing your little one’s needs in a way that encourages and supports CONSISTENCY.
Figure out what works for your baby
Every baby is different, which is why some of you are reading this article with your second or third or ELEVENTH child! These kiddos throw a crazy curveball sometimes.
How we survive as a race is sometimes a mystery, even to a Labor and Delivery nurse.
The most important thing you can do for yourself and your baby is to get to know them and let THEM get to know you. Don’t be a rigid warm body that secretes milk and intermittent humming noises that are strangely comforting. Talk sweetly to them. Be mindful in those moments.
Beyond that, KEEP TRACK. If you just nailed the bassinet landing and escaped without a sound, FIGURE OUT WHAT HAPPENED! Write it in a journal or keep it on a sleep tracker. Anything to help you puzzle through what’s working and what isn’t.
How to get a newborn to sleep at night
If you’re one of those mamas that find yourself wanting to scream “My baby doesn’t sleep at night!” every time someone glances at your hair, don’t worry honey! You’re NOT alone.
Regardless, there’s hope!
1. Establish a safe, soothing and consistent sleep zone
Making a good space for your baby to sleep can be really critical to setting the littles up for great sleep. It’s best if you have the baby right beside your own bed or at least in your bedroom.
They should have a comfortable but firm sleeping surface that is flat, following the recommended standards of the National Institute of Health.
IMPORTANT: loose blankets, stuffed animals, or anything placed in your baby’s sleep space puts them at a higher risk of SIDS. Learn more about safe baby sleep in this official statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
2. Minimize distractions so baby can sleep
Minimize distractions in the area where you’ll be putting baby down.
This doesn’t mean no light, no sound, nothing to hear or see or feel, mama. But if you have a mobile that has blinking Christmas lights that randomly short out or play Jingle Bell Rock all night, that’s probably not going to make for an easy sleep routine.
Instead, think in terms of what shows repetition and consistency while offering SOOTHING qualities. Blank unpatterned sheets (if you’re using fitted sheets that CANNOT come loose) or a spot against a blank wall will help avoid capturing and stimulating the baby’s attention.
3. Engage baby’s every sense with comfort qualities
When you think about it, absolute silence and total darkness can sometimes be more distracting than a gentle, repetitive sound or song and softly glowing lights. There’s a reason we use nightlights, after all.
Consider a white noise machine (like this one!) for sound (this also helps cover up the sounds of the house outside baby’s space).
4. Have baby use the same sleep space for naps and nighttime sleep
If you’re wondering where to put a newborn down during the day, wonder no more! You should put baby down in the same place EVERY time you want them to sleep. Napping them somewhere else during the day is asking for disruption, even if it might be more convenient for you sometimes.
Create a sleep routine
Beyond setting up the space, be sure to develop an ACTUAL routine by reading, singing, and/or cuddling your baby in a manner that is consistent every time baby’s headed to bed.
NOTHING is so important to your baby’s sleep as having a routine. NOTHING.
Well OK, maybe the environment is important too, but in most situations, a good routine can take the cake.
Why? Well, let’s put it this way.
Can you sleep on command? If someone just walked up randomly in the middle of your day and dropped you into a bin from which you can’t escape and said “sleep now”, how well would that work?
No, you need to either spend all your energy and attentional space so you’re totally worn out or get lulled into it. As an adult, you have the benefit of practice and a little education on what to listen for and feel for in order to recognize when it’s time for a nap or a good night’s sleep.
Why are baby sleep routines so important?
Baby’s been in a warm wet closet full of goo for 9 months. She hasn’t the first idea about “night time” or “nap time”.
For this reason, you need to TEACH HER what to watch and listen AND feel for. Is there a particular quality of light that you can associate with sleepy time? Are there specific sounds you can make or words you can use? Do you only ever go to a specific chair when it’s time to start winding down?
An example routine that a friend of mine used was bathtime, jammies, a story, and a song. Every night. Her babies slept great.
These are the things you can do to make a great routine.
When you think about it, you do this for YOURSELF too. Some of us read a book in bed, some of us take the last few minutes to indulge a favorite vice or walk through the house turning lights off in a specific order.
We all have routines we follow when it’s time to go to bed. Part of this is housekeeping, but another part is sending signals to your network of neural transmitters (your brain) that is responsible for knowing when and where it’s time to go to sleep.
Be consistent with using these newborn sleep tips
The most important thing with a sleep routine and all of these newborn sleep tips is that you are consistent. Not only you, but EVERYONE who is EVER going to be in a place to get baby down for nap or night.
Get everyone on the same page by providing clear and specific instructions.
Related Reading: Baby is Screaming In Pain From Gas
More newborn sleep tips for specific situations
How to get a newborn to sleep without being held?
Getting your baby to sleep without holding them and rocking them can be a HUGE STRUGGLE.
I’ll be honest, mama, I think most of us end up caving on this some (or all?) of the time. Not only does it make for great snuggle time, but it’s just easier and blends well with goodnight feeding and/or dream feeding your baby.
When it boils down to it, though, if you’re rocking or holding or feeding your baby to sleep, what you ACTUALLY want to do is rock or hold or feed them until they’re sleepFUL. Sleepy. If they’re falling asleep before you are ready to put them down, you are waiting too long.
- The trick is to pay close attention to breathing
- You will start to notice a definite change in the little one’s breathing rhythms if you pay close attention. If you think she hasn’t got enough milk yet (assuming you’re feeding to sleep), gently rub her body until she snaps back
- Change her position or talk to her until you’re pretty sure it’s time to hand her over to Mr. Sandman
- Once you’ve got her SLEEPY but AWAKE, lay her down gently and keep your hands on her body for a few seconds to see if she stirs awake or cries
- If not, slowly move your hands away and then quickly (but quietly) exit the room
- I’ve found that this is a little like pulling a bandaid. If you go slow to be quiet, you tend to make more noise. If you make a minimum of noise but make it quickly, it’s less disruptive than making almost no noise but making it again and again over several seconds
How to get a newborn to sleep in a bassinet? Mastering the transfer
If you find that putting her down always wakes her up or she always cries once your hands are away, sometimes it’s necessary to sit by and either rock the bassinet or reach your hand in where you can touch her (or help hold her binky in, if that’s the way you’ve gone).
Eventually, you’ll be able to withdraw without waking her up.
A great rule to count on is listening to her breath until it sounds like she’s actually out, and then count to 60 five times.
That’s enough time for littles to get into her first sleep cycle, where she’ll be harder to wake.
A weighted swaddle, like this one, can really help babies who like to have a hand on them to fall asleep.
How to get a newborn to sleep in a crib? Mastering the transfer part two
A crib presents some difference in challenges since you can’t typically rock it and the walls tend to have gaps through which your little one can see you and get excited for no stupid reason at all.
Position yourself so that the rascal can’t glance you through the bars (yes, it gets awkward sometimes) and gently pat their belly or place light pressure on their chest. you can do this by propping your arm over the crib rail or squeezing your arm through the bars if possible.
What time to put a newborn to sleep?
Timing is another thing that really takes some practice and tracking.
No two babies go to sleep at exactly the same time. Be sure not to just count the hours and then say “It’s time for sleep, baby!”
We made this mistake and it ended up that OUR schedule was interfering with our BABY’s schedule. She knows what time she feels tired, even if she may not know what to do about it.
You can either be attentive and catch those newborn sleep cues or miss them and wind up with seriously overtired baby.
Your pediatrician will have the best recommendation, but if baby is getting any less than 14 hours of sleep, chances are you’re missing some quiet time, mama, and probably missing your baby’s sleep cues.
Overtired baby: How to get an overtired baby to sleep?
Do you have an overtired baby who won’t stop crying? Newborn sleepy but won’t sleep? Ugh. When baby is overtired it can be super frustrating and tricky to deal with.
This is because an overtired baby won’t sleep as well which can create a vicious cycle of extremely short naps, difficulty falling asleep, and fussiness during wake times.
Remember my first list of tips? Sleep begets sleep. So if baby isn’t getting enough, it’ll be even harder for them to get it! AHH!
Breastfeeding to help an overtired baby
If you are a breastfeeding mama, nursing your baby is going to be the answer to your overtired baby problems! Hands. Down.
There is nothing that can help an overtired baby relax and settle their body (and mind) quite so well as a good, quiet cluster feed.
Don’t worry about independent sleep until you reset your baby with a nice long boob nap or nap on you.
If you’re not breastfeeding, and baby isn’t due for another bottle of formula read on…
Tips to settle an overtired baby
Your goal is to settle them and do what you need to do to get them a solid chunk of sleep. You need to reset them because when baby is overtired it can lead to cycle of crappy sleep and irritability. Here are some tips:
- Use the 5 S’s – swaddle baby, sway (or rock them), hold them on their side or stomach (but put them to sleep on their back!), give them something to suck (boob, pacy), make a shushing sound (or use a sound machine)
- Try sensory deprivation – this is basically the intense way to say, bring them into a dark room with a sound machine on. You want to take away stimulation so that they can settle
- Wear your baby! I love my Baby K-Tan for the newborn days. Put baby tightly on your chest and go for a walk. The fresh air combined with being against you should put them out and hopefully get a nice long sleep in
- Let baby sleep on you if they want to. We want to reset them with a nice long nap, however it has to happen
- Try a warm bath followed by the sensory deprivation tactic. The warm water may help settle them
- Bounce baby on a yoga ball – For some babies the bouncing motion is like some kind of voodoo sleep magic
Newborn sleep tips: recap!
Well, mama, there you have it. A list of newborn sleep tips you can start implementing today!
As a quick recap, here are the top 3 newborn sleep tips I want you to try ASAP:
- Optimize the sleep environment (blackout curtains and sound machine for the win!)
- Don’t keep baby awake for too long (recognize sleep cues and find the rhythm to your day)
- Implement a sleep routine (baby needs some sleep associations)