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Best Sleep Tips for Babies -- And For New Parents

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baby sleeping
Sally Ibrahim, MD

Whoever coined the phrase “sleep like a baby” probably wasn’t a parent. But when it comes to your baby’s sleep, you don’t have to feel like your baby is always running the show. In fact, there’s a lot you can do from the very start to set a foundation for healthy sleep habits.

Helpful Sleep Tips For Your Baby

Newborns sleep a lot – as much as 17 hours per day. However, their sleep can be unpredictable, and even occur in spurts of only one or two hours at a time.

“Try putting your baby in the crib or bassinet when he or she is drowsy, but not fully asleep,” says Sally Ibrahim, MD, FAAP, Medical Director of the Rainbow Sleep Laboratory. “This will help your little one learn how to fall asleep on their own without getting used to someone holding/rocking/assisting them to fall asleep.”

Here are more helpful tips from Dr. Ibrahim:

  • Have a calm nighttime ritual and bedtime routine: Babies learn the cues for sleep quickly, and reinforcing these early on helps them understand how to sleep. The behaviors prior to going to sleep prepare a child for a successful night. These rituals become habits that help reinforce healthy sleep down the road.
  • When feeding or changing your baby during the night, try to keep the room dark and quiet so that your baby can learn about nighttime cues for sleep and more easily return to sleep afterward. Try to avoid playful time at night and keep nighttime awakenings for regular feeding only.
  • Engage with your baby during the day. When they are newborns, slowly and gently introduce stimulating wakeful behaviors. Talk and sing to them, turn on lights, go outside, read to them and play with them. This can help extend their awake times during the day and hopefully help them sleep longer at night.
  • Always practice safe sleep habits. This means putting your baby to sleep in his or her own crib or bassinet. The sleep space should have a firm mattress and only a fitted sheet – no blankets, toys or pillows. Place babies on their backs to sleep.

If you have a newborn and sleep feels like a struggle, rest assured that it gets better. Most babies develop regular sleep cycles when they’re about 6 months old.

Sleep Tips for Parents

While much of your focus may be on your baby’s sleep, it’s important to help yourself sleep soundly, too. Here are a few steps from Dr. Ibrahim that you can take to maximize your precious resting hours:

  • Sync sleep schedules. Try to rest or sleep when your baby is sleeping, during the day and at night.
  • Ask for help. Reach out to family and friends for help with your baby or around your house so you can take care of yourself or nap.
  • Get outside. When you’re ready, try spending a little time outdoors every day to help you sleep better at night.

If you are having more difficulty, there are ways the medical community can help. "If you have any concerns about your baby’s sleep or your own, speak with your child’s pediatrician or your health care provider to guide any further age-appropriate help,” Dr. Ibrahim says.

Related Links

Restful sleep is critical for infants, children and teenagers for strong growth and development. The sleep medicine team at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s provides the care your child may need for a wide range of sleep disorders. Call 216-877-8983 for an appointment with a UH Rainbow sleep medicine specialist.

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