The arrival of a new baby is one of the most exciting events in our lives. All the hope and emotion of nine months of pregnancy culminates in this moment. And now it’s time to take care of him, spoil him, feed him, fuss over him and … put him to sleep! Although it may seem obvious, putting your baby to sleep can be a daunting challenge.
Newborns are fragile and unpredictable. Therefore, we must not only be very attentive to their needs, but also use best practices that help us take better care of our little ones, be it feeding them, cradling them or helping them at bedtime.
If you’re concerned about how difficult it is for you to get your newborn to sleep, you might be surprised to know that your relationship with your baby determines their sleep cycle, according to the Spanish Association of Pediatrics (AEP). It’s important for parents to create the right environment for the child to establish their own sleep rhythm. Trust us: once you achieve this, everything will be easier! Specialists note that we must keep in mind that the baby’s relationship with his parents influences his behavior at bedtime.
Follow these 10 simple and successful tips to help your baby sleep peacefully.
Your Baby's Sleep Needs
The first thing you need to understand is your baby’s needs, so you’ll know what you’re facing and how to handle that situation. When they are born, babies retain a sleep pattern similar to the one they had when they were in the womb. They require about 16 to 20 hours of sleep throughout the day (of course, this does not mean uninterrupted sleep all day long!). Every three or four hours, your baby will wake up for their basic needs, and he will need your help to be fed, changed, and above all, cuddled and fussed over. According to the AEP, your newborn baby needs you to talk, hug and caress them in his waking moments. At this early stage in the life of your little one, it’s important to establish daytime and nighttime routines, while always respecting their sleep rhythm.
Understanding Your Baby's Sleep Cycle
Many parents wonder if their baby is sleeping too much, too little or just enough. It’s perfectly normal to have these doubts, especially if you are first-timers. When asked, “How many hours should my baby sleep?,” the most accurate answer is: as many hours as the child needs. Remember that if you notice something irregular, you should immediately consult a pediatrician, but usually your baby will sleep and wake up as their needs warrant.
The sleep cycle of each newborn is as unique as their fingerprints. Frequently, these cycles do not match what we as parents want for because, as adults, we require between 7 and 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. But motherhood prepares us for this much and more! It’s very important not to force your baby to sleep. By doing so, you will decrease the depth of sleep; on the other hand, if you try to keep him awake, you can alter his sleep cycle.
Sleep and Your Baby's Age
As he grows older, your baby establishes a sleep pattern depending on his age. Newborns will sleep more hours but will wake up more often. At around three to four months, your little one can already differentiate between day and night, so this stage is crucial to strengthen his daytime and night habits.
According to the AEP, after his fourth month, the baby is more aware of his environment and synchronizes his internal biological rhythms with external rhythms (like lunchtime, bath time and walks). With this evolution, if you manage to establish healthy and stable diurnal and nocturnal habits in your baby’s daily routine, you can achieve a regular sleep pattern by the time your baby is five to six months old.
Establish Schedules and Routines
If you want your baby to have a regular sleep pattern, start from Day 1 by putting him to bed at the same time each night. Keep in mind that during the first few weeks he will wake up at dawn; when this happens, it’s important that the baby’s environment remain calm and you avoid giving him any audio or visual stimuli that would keep him awake.
Similarly, in the morning your baby should feel that his environment also “awakens” as he does. He should feel the natural stirring within the home: the voices, movement, and other activities that will associate him with the waking state, even if he takes several naps throughout the day. Remember that these will decrease as your baby gets older.