A Mom’s Guide to Sleep Training for Newborns
To all the tired momma’s out there, restful sleep is just around the corner! As a mom myself, I decided to put my therapist skills to the test. By 3 weeks old, my baby was sleeping 7 hours a night. By 4 weeks old, he was sleeping 9-10 hours a night! And by 2 months old, he was sleeping in his crib. Follow these simple behavior modification techniques outlined below and your baby (and you!) will get the sleep you both deserve and need.
First, you must create a morning & night routine. Babies don’t know morning from night, so it’s our responsibility to teach them through our routines. Do the same routine every morning and every night as it will trigger them to know what to expect next and to be able to differentiate morning from night. Here are some helpful tips-
Morning: create a routine you will follow each morning. Once you start this routine, it allows the baby to understand it’s morning and time to start the day.
- Get them dressed in an outfit for the day. Some baby clothing brands market “Sleep n’ Play” pajama’s, which lead the mom to believe it’s okay to keep the baby in their pajama’s throughout the day. Think about how you may feel if you wake up and don’t get dressed for the day.
- Wash their face with a warm wash cloth.
- Comb hair, if any. 😉
- Brush gums (yes, gum health is important!)
- Stimulate the baby by smiling and interacting with them.
Night: create a routine you will follow each night. Once you start this routine, it allows the baby to know it’s nighttime and time for sleep. This was my routine:
- Meditation Mozart Music on in his room while doing his hygiene routine- lotion, nose suction, brushing gums, etc.
- Tummy time
- Read book or do black & white flashcards.
- Dim lights, turn off music, put on white noise and give final bottle.
- Give pacifier after the bottle to aid in falling asleep. Sit upright while rocking to sleep for 30 minutes prior to laying him down.
**I did this routine with the baby every night, regardless of age. While he slept in my room in a bassinet until 2 months old, I always completed the routines in his room to positively associate him to his room.
Swaddling helps the baby feel safe and secure, like they did when they were cooped up inside your womb. Since blankets and swaddles can be dangerous and cause suffocation if the baby gets out of the swaddle, I used the Zen Sack Classic by Nested Bean. It zips up around the baby, let’s their arms be free (which my child just had to have his arms out!), but also has a gentle weighted bean bag on their chest that mimics mom’s hand on their chest. This helps them feel safe and secure throughout the night.
White noise machines are a must! It provides a low rumbling noise which mimics the noises the baby heard while in your womb. This provides feelings of comfort and safety. It’s soothing for the baby, and helps them sleep better. (I also used a portable one I used while the baby napped as well.)
It’s recommended to only change dirty diapers at night. If you’re worried about leaving the baby in wet diapers throughout the night, use an overnight diaper and a natural diaper cream to prevent diaper rash or leaking. If you do need to change a diaper in the night, don’t stimulate or excite the baby by talking, and don’t turn on the lights. Have a very dim night light you can easily turn on in the room if/when you need to go into the room at night.
Next, it’s important to review napping. In order for the baby to sleep throughout the night, he/she cannot sleep throughout the entire day. This means not allowing the baby to nap for more than 2-3 hours at a time. In between naps, make sure you tire the baby out and give he/she a positive energy outlet, i.e. music, flashcards, tummy time, going for a walk, etc. Having excess energy is a common reason babies don’t want to sleep through the night. Also, keeping the blinds open or lights on when napping during the day and allowing noise in the background. This helps train the baby to understand that during the day there is light and noise, and at night when they’re sleeping there isn’t light or noise.
Here are some common reasons babies wake during the night and what I did and suggest to prevent this:
- As mentioned above, having excess energy keeps baby awake. Do activities to help your baby learn, discover, grow.
- Gas. Burp the baby periodically during feedings, e.g. give 1-2 ounces then burp. Sit or hold baby upright for 30 minutes post feeding to help them digest. Use daily probiotic drops to aid in gut health and digestion. To be preventative, use gas drops in each bottle. (I also used special bottles and pacifiers that had “air vents” to help decrease the amount of air babies suck in while feeding or using a pacifier.)
- Hunger. With information at our fingertips, it can be confusing to know what the best amount to feed your baby is. There are charts and recommendations and other peoples’ opinions. These are just guides. No one individual is exactly the same. Your baby is an individual human being. You know him/her best. Feed your baby on an individualized basis. My baby started solid foods “earlier than recommended” due to him not being satisfied with just bottles. Having your baby on a feeding schedule is also encouraged, with the last feeding right before bed.
- Teething. What a painful time for our little ones! I can’t preach preventative measures enough. I aim to be proactive and prevent rather than reacting to a crying baby. I used cold silicone teethers throughout the day and a non-medicated oral gel with chamomile at night right before bed.
Lastly, crib training. It’s recommended the baby sleep in a bassinet in your room until about 2 months old or whenever they can roll to the side. Once they can roll to the side, for safety reasons, it’s best to put them in the crib for sleep. Here are some helpful tips to follow to crib train your baby.
- Only use the crib for overnight sleeping. For naps during the day, use a Pack n’ Play. Reminder, we are associating the baby to learn environmental and behavioral triggers to help them differentiate night from day.
- Allow them to explore in their crib. Before starting the overnight sleeping, you want the baby to positively associate to their crib and to their room. (I would lay the baby in the crib with a toy while I put away his laundry or cleaned his room. I practiced walking in and out of the baby’s room while he was in his crib.)
- Complete their morning and nighttime routines in their room. This helps the baby learn and trust their bedroom environment. (I did this even when he was still sleeping in the bassinet.)
These tips are helpful, but won’t be effective unless you are consistent. Consistency is a must for any type of behavior change. It’s an important parenting skill as well, so why not learn and implement this now. Consistency builds trust and security for your children because they know what to expect, when to expect it, and know that you will follow through by your actions. No matter how tired you are or how long your day was, it will be even more tiring if you aren’t sleeping through the night. The extra time and effort throughout your day completing these above tips will help benefit you and your baby.
Written by: Nicole Delli Paoli