Sleep and Your Baby: Learn to Establish A Good Habit Early On
Newborns typically sleep around 16 hours per day, occurring around-the-clock in short bursts of about 2-3 hours, and usually in between feeds. Some even have their days and nights backward at first, sleeping more in the day and less at night.
Though this stage of parenting can be tough, it is possible for parents to begin helping their baby establish good sleeping habits from as early as 2 weeks old. By 4 to 6 months, many babies will begin sleeping for longer uninterrupted stretches at night, and can even sleep through the night after a feeding.
How To Establish A Good Sleeping Habit Early On
- Teach the Difference Between Day and Night
At 2 weeks, start teaching your little one the difference between day and night. When he wakes and is alert in the morning, change his clothes to signify the start of a new day. Keep your home bright and let him hear everyday noises, like talking, singing, or even the sound of a washing machine. At night dim or turn off lights, and reduce noise. Changing him into pyjamas will also help to signal the end of the day.
- Recognize Signs Your Baby is Sleepy
At 6 weeks, begin to recognize signs your baby is tired. At this age, he will unlikely stay up for longer than 2 hours at a time. If you wait longer to put your baby down, he will feel overtired and unsettled, and won’t nap easily.
Look out for signs indicating he is sleepy, such as rubbing his eyes, flicking his ear with his hand, whining or crying at tiny provocations, staring blankly ahead, losing interest in people or toys, or frequently yawning and stretching. If you spot these, try settling him down to sleep.
- Put Down Your Baby to Sleep
From 6-8 weeks, you can begin to teach your baby to fall asleep on his own by setting up a routine of putting him down when he’s sleepy, but still awake. It’s important to establish a pattern night after night. If you hold and rock him to sleep each night then he will expect it.
- Avoid Waking Your Baby to Feed at Night, But Do Wake Him In the Morning
After 8 weeks, do not wake your baby for a night time feed unless he misses daytime feeds or is not gaining weight properly and a pediatrician advises to do so. Once your baby begins feeding more in daytime, he will be able to sleep through the night. You can, however, wake him up in the morning if he sleeps for longer than 10 hours at night to help reset the body clock.
- Regulate Sleeping Patterns and Routines
As your baby begins to sleep through the night, it’s important to establish consistent times for going to bed and daytime naps. WebMD recommended sometime between 7pm and 8:30pm for bedtime. Also choose specific times of the day for naps.
A bedtime routine involving bathing him, changing him into pyjamas, reading a bedtime story or singing a bedtime song, will help to maintain the schedule.
Common Sleep Problems
It may take some time before your baby learns to sleep through the night. If he or she will not sleep when it’s bedtime, or is crying at night, you may need to make smaller adjustments to gradually shift the timing of sleeps to the night. If your baby is unwell, this can also disrupt sleeping patterns. In this case, don’t worry too much about the timings of bedtime and naps, but do maintain bedtime routines.
The process is different for every parent, so take it one step at a time, and make sure you get to know your baby along the way!
- Agnes Yoon