Sleep is a precious commodity for parents of a newborn. After a few months, most babies start to sleep for longer stretches of time. Others may continue to wake up several times a night for many more years to come. While newborns aren't yet ready for sleep training, parents can help their babies develop healthy sleep habits, even in their first year, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
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Ensure Good Naps During the Day
Though it may seem that a baby who has not slept much during the day would sleep more soundly at night, the opposite is actually true. Parents.com notes that babies who don't get enough sleep during the day are likely to be harder to calm at night and to have fitful, interrupted sleep. Ensuring that your baby gets uninterrupted naps can help to create a more sound sleeper at night. Though newborns do not have a set nap schedule yet, parents should encourage them to get plenty of naps during the day to ensure they meet their overall sleep needs. Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford says that, altogether, newborns should sleep a total of about eight or nine hours during the day and about eight hours at night. WebMD says babies typically have about three naps per day at 4 months, which drops down to two at 6 months, and then to one around 1.
Meet Energy Demands
Allow your baby to be active during the day, but encourage her to calm down toward bedtime. WebMD says that parents should play active games with their babies during the day to help them burn off energy. At night, all activities should be calm and peaceful to encourage sleep. Dr. Sears says that a warm bath followed by a soothing massage can relax muscles and calm your baby so that she has more peaceful sleep.
Create a Soothing Environment
When a baby's sleeping environment is cozy and comfortable, he is more likely to go to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. Dr. Sears recommends dressing your baby in comfortable clothes that are neither too cold nor too warm, making the room dark by putting up blackout curtains, and playing soft music or white noise in the room. Babies who have trouble separating from their mothers may benefit from having a personal item such as a sweater or blanket with mom's scent in the crib with them, but never place items in the crib of an infant. Doing so presents a suffocation danger. HealthyChildren.org, provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics, says there is no research that shows when it is 100 percent safe to put blankets in the crib, but most experts agree that it is safe to do so at 12 months.
Establish a Bedtime Routine
A consistent bedtime routine can help babies learn when it is time to sleep and give them the tools to put themselves back to sleep if they wake in the night. WebMD says that babies who have a bedtime routine go to sleep faster, sleep better and cry out in the night less frequently. A bedtime routine should include the same activities at the same time each night. Some activities may include reading stories, having a bath, putting on pajamas, nursing and cuddling. Activities should be quiet and calming to help babies wind down from the day. Newborns likely won't respond to a routine since they are not yet on a schedule, but HealthyChildren.org says that parents can help them prepare for bedtime by keeping them calm and quiet during feedings and diaper changes and putting them in their cribs when they are drowsy but still awake.