Newborn Sleep Survival Tips
Sleep Close to Baby Being close to his mother regulates a baby's heart rate, immune system, and stress levels and makes breastfeeding easier, says James McKenna, Ph.D., director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at University of Notre Dame in Indiana. "It also keeps the baby in lighter phases of sleep so he can practice arousing and going back to sleep, which is good in case of any problems, such as sleep apnea."
It may also be linked to a decreased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). A bedside or freestanding (but nearby) bassinet is a good option. Various experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, advise parents not to sleep with their babies because of the danger of suffocation.
Day vs. Night "Encourage him to switch," says Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., associate director of the Sleep Center, Children's Hospital in Philadelphia and author of Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night's Sleep. "At night, keep the lights low and move slowly when you feed him. Be boring. Make sure he gets bright light in the morning, and keep him as busy as you can during the day. Make noise. Play with him." In other words, during the day, be interesting.
Bedtime Rituals "Sleep time should be consistent," Mindell says. "Each family has to develop its own routine, but doing the same activities in the same order every day helps the baby anticipate what will come next." Mindell suggests doing three or four winding-down activities for a total of 20 to 30 minutes; these can include massages, baths, lullabies, prayers, rocking, nursing, and reading.
Rocking baby "If you are doing this and your baby is sleeping all night, don't worry," says Jennifer Waldburger, L.C.S.W., co-owner of Los Angeles-based Sleepy Planet and author of the book and DVD The Sleepeasy Solution. "After about four months, if he is waking up, you probably need to let him do the last little bit of falling asleep on his own. You can still rock him as part of the wind-down process, but put him down drowsy, not asleep.
Baby Naps Look to your baby for his evolving schedule after about three months—before that, anything goes. "You don't have to be rigid," Mindell says, "but some structure helps both parents and baby. By age nine months, most babies naturally move to napping at around 9 a.m. and 2 p.m." But don't try to force a schedule on your baby for your convenience.
Crying it Out Waldburger and other experts suggest that when he's about 5 months old, you can experiment with letting your baby cry a bit at night. (That does not mean letting him scream for hours.) Try starting with five minutes, Waldburger suggests; if that's too hard to take, pick him up after three minutes. "It sounds cruel not to pick up a crying baby," she says, "but we find that teaching babies how to calm themselves is really kinder in the long run.