Newborn Sleeping Q&A: A Pediatrician Shares 5 Tips For New Parents To Relax and Get More Sleep

“Expect colic.”
“Expect feedings every two hours.”
“Expect endless diaper changes.”
“Basically, you’ll never sleep again.”

These are things new parents are told over and over. And while getting a good night’s rest can be tricky, new parents have managed to find ways to conquer the daunting task of sleep. Here are common questions and my simple tricks and safety tips for the best possible sleeping conditions. 

newborn sleeping with parents holding his hand

Tip One: How do I put my baby to sleep?

Try to put baby to bed when drowsy, but still awake. This is an important but difficult concept to perfect. Putting baby to bed drowsy helps them learn to stay asleep in their own crib. During the time leading up to this, soothing is key. Good soothing techniques such as calming, humming or singing, rocking and swaying are all powerful tools to get baby into a drowsy state.  Once in the drowsy state, your baby learns to fall asleep on their own in the crib and self soothe, which is very helpful as baby grows up.

Tip Two: Where should my baby sleep?

Having babies sleep in their own crib is not only helpful for self-soothing, it’s also recommended over co-sleeping (or, sleeping with you). Although it’s tempting to share the bed to expedite feeds, co-sleeping is one of many risk factors for sudden infant death syndrome. The AAP reports that Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the number one cause of death ages 1 month to 1 year. It’s acceptable, and often recommended, to have the crib adjacent to your bed during baby’s first few months of life. 

Tip Three: What is the best sleeping environment?

Your baby’s sleeping environment is crucial for their safety as well as good sleep. One blanket wrapped around your baby in a cocoon or swaddle style (preferably with breathable fabric) is all that’s needed in an empty crib. There’s no need to pile on the blankets, toys, stuffed animals, or  pillows. In fact, these items could be dangerous.. Once you’ve got baby swaddled, always place them on their back, face up. This position is also known as “back to sleep” or “safe to sleep”. The room should be cool and dark. Some parents find that a noise or sound machine can help soothe baby to sleep and keep the ambient noise out. 

Tip Four: How do I keep my baby asleep?

This can be tricky because newborns have different sleep patterns. In fact, they don’t have a concept of day vs night, so they have to be taught. In the first 2 month of life, babies usually sleep between every feed, which happen about 2-3 hours apart. Try to make those precious sleep hours between feeds count!
After 2 months of age, you can try to keep baby active and stimulated a little more during the day so that they sleep for longer periods at night. It will also help to use an overnight diaper, which tends to absorb more and won't need to be changed as often
If baby (older than 2 months) is still having trouble staying asleep for over 1 hour at night, try to avoid picking them up as soon as they move, make, or cry. Give them 3 to 5 minutes to try to soothe themselves back to sleep. This can be very difficult as it requires parents to listen to their child crying without immediately picking them up which is, of course, a parent’s natural instinct. .

Tip Five: Should I use a pacifier? 

A controversial topic as there are known benefits as well as complications! 
The benefits of using a pacifier include pain relief, shorter hospital stays for preterm infants, and a reduction in the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents consider offering pacifiers to infants one month and older at the onset of sleep to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. There are some theories that pacifier use before a baby is 1 month old may interfere with learning to breastfeed (also known as nipple confusion). Be sure to consult your pediatrician for more counseling. 
The potential complications of using a pacifier (particularly with prolonged use) include a negative effects on breastfeeding, dental malocclusion, and otitis media (a.k.a. middle ear infection). Adverse dental effects can be evident after two years. It’s recommended to discontinue pacifier use by 12 months. 

With these tips and tricks, you can be well on your way to helping everyone at home have a more restful and safe sleep.But at the end of the day, remember that every baby and sleep situation is unique. Possibly the most important factor for sleep in infants is maintaining consistency and timing. Whatever sleeping choices you decide on, try to make sure that your sleep routine is as consistent as possible. In my experience, it’s the key to successful sleep training. It may not be realistic every day with our busy lives, but it will pay off in the end. 



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This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The views expressed in this article are the views of the expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Kudos.


About the author

Alaa Shaban is a pediatrician from the central coast of California. She did her undergraduate at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, then moved to Washington DC to attend medical school at George Washington University. She returned to California for residency at Harbor-UCLA before making her way back to her hometown. She finds her career incredibly rewarding working in an FQHC with an under served community.

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