By Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Newborns
Of all the new baby things you’re looking forward to, sleepless nights aren’t one of them! You’ve heard your friends’ horror stories of being woken up ten times a night, and just the thought of it makes you yawn. I have good news for you! There are many things that you can do to help your newborn sleep well, and five important tasks to put on your to-do list before your bundle even arrives.
1. Learn about newborn sleep
Everyone, including your pediatrician, is going to ask, “How’s your baby sleeping?” and you can’t answer that if you don’t know what normal infant sleep looks like. Newborns sleep a lot, but their fifteen to eighteen hours of daily sleep are distributed over four to seven (or more!) brief periods—day and night. These sleep periods can be as short as twenty minutes or as long as five hours. And that’s all perfectly normal.
2. Set up a sleep-inducing bedroom
Matching bedding and a cute wall-hanging are fun–but they won’t improve your baby’s sleep, although there are many things that can. It’s recommended that your newborn sleep in your bedroom, but simply adding a cradle near your bed won’t ensure good sleep. Get some window shades (babies sleep better in the dark), buy a white noise machine (a deep, rumbly sound puts a baby to sleep), get a rocking cradle (movement soothes an infant), and purchase soft flannel or fleece sheets for the bed (they make Baby’s bed cozy).
3. Create a safe family bed–even if you don’t plan to use it
No matter what your plan is in advance of baby’s arrival, that seven-pound bundle often has a bigger vote about where to sleep than you do! In addition, newborns need to be fed often through the night, and falling asleep with a baby while on a sofa, rocking chair, or recliner is incredibly dangerous. Sleep-deprived new parents can easily fall asleep while feeding their baby, a situation that is far more dangerous than purposefully setting up a safe bed-sharing environment. Do your homework now!
Read more: What every new mom should know about co-sleeping
4. Learn how to swaddle
After nine months of living in a snug, body-hugging, pretzel-folded space, many newborns sleep better and longer when parents create a womb-like experience for sleep by wrapping them in a receiving blanket—swaddling. The art of swaddling takes time to master, so it’s easier to learn this skill before those bewildering first days arrive. I suggest that you purchase a muslin swaddling blanket now and practice on a doll, a stuffed animal, or a friend’s baby. If your baby enjoys being swaddled, it can help him from the very first day of birth, and it can be a tremendous burst of confidence if you already know how to wrap your baby up.
5. Remember this fact–and apply it from day one
Brand new babies can only stay happily awake for forty-five minutes to an hour at a time. Any longer than that and their overtired state can prevent them from falling asleep. So keep your newborn’s awake periods short–and you can become your baby’s personal, magical sandman.
Trang Nguyen says
I love it. Great information. So helpful. Thank you Elizabeth xx
Jill Harold says
Elizabeth Pantley’s advice,
guidance, and encouragement truly sets new babies and families up for optimal sleeping success. She offers realistic suggestions that everyone can implement. She’s the best and her book is definitely worth reading!
Becky Van Heukelom says
This article is so spot on! This is why I love Elizabeth’s advice. Don’t have unrealistic expectations of what your baby is going to do. The more you educate yourself on newborn sleep the better. Thanks for showing this article! It was and is extremely helpful to mamas like me.
Great advice! We have learned a great deal through reading Elizabeth’s books. Our three children are all very different sleepers but in each case, we benefited from Elizabeth’s advice for helping to improve sleep without crying it out. Elizabeth recognizes how exhausted parents of little ones can be and reminds you how precious and fleeting this time is as well.
AMie Hankinson says
Some wonderful tips here! I can’t wait to try them and be armed with lots of knowledge for baby #2!! I’ve just purchased your newborn book and it is amazing!
natacha sarkis says
I wish i read this article before having my first baby, now i am expecting the second and this article is so helpful. Thank you Elizabeth
Lili Heide says
Wonderful advice! As a mother of two, I have learned that the more you prepare yourself, the easier you can handle it. Thanks Elizabeth for sharing some great tips here! I have benefited so much from your books to survive the newborn, baby, and toodlerhood’s phase of my kids.
Patti Hughes says
Amazing advice!! I have been reading Elizabeth Pantley’s books for years. I am a mother of 3 and she really helped me with getting my all 3 of my children to sleep without a huge battle. This book should be in every new moms home!!
Evi Megaliou says
Since I first met Elizabeth through her book “The No-Cry Sleep Solution” I have become a fan of her. That book was proven a valuable companion for me at the period where, as a sleep deprived mother, I mostly needed some piece of advice and encouragement. I really admire her friendly and encouraging way of writing and her gentle approach. She gives practical advice and simple but useful tips, always with love and respect for both, babies and parents. I definitely recommend Elizabeth’s books to all the parents who want a friend and a supporter in their journey of growing happy children in a loving environment.
Elizabeth’s advice is so good and solid. I wish I would have had just one if her books years ago when my first child was born. Wonderful article and great tips!