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When you’re a parent, the only thing you can accurately predict is that when you have a newborn, you’re going to lose some sleep. Though some parents will joke that once you have a baby, “you’ll never get a full night’s sleep again,” Dr. Harvey Karp, M.D., creator of the DVD and book, The Happiest Baby on the Block believes that it’s important to have realistic expectations during the first three months.
“It’s a given that babies get up a lot during the first three months,” Karp told Parents Magazine. Even though there are strategies that you can put into play to make those 4 a.m. wake-up calls more bearable, there are a number of lesser-known nighttime survival strategies that you can try to help everyone at home get more shut-eye. Here are some newborn sleep tips for a better night’s rest.
Keep Your Cool.
Most adults can sleep better when the room is a little cooler, and babies are no different. Keep your baby’s room warmer during the day and cooler at night. The optimal temperature for infant sleep is between 65 and 70°F. If you don’t have a thermostat you can control, leave the window slightly open or use a fan at night – just don’t position the baby directly in front of the fan or open window.
Don’t make eye contact.
You probably know to avoid singing, dancing, and playing during late-night or early-morning feedings, as it will overstimulate your baby. Also avoid gazing into your baby’s eyes late at night. Alan Greene, M.D., author of From First Kicks to First Steps, says that eye contact will boost brain development and bonding, which will stimulate the baby and keep her awake. Instead, make plenty of eye contact during the day so she knows it’s time to be awake.
Dim the lights.
Until your baby’s circadian rhythm, or the body’s internal clock, learns to regulate itself, you can help keep your baby on a schedule. Plug your lamps into dimmer units and lower the lights when the sun goes down in the evening. This will help your baby learn that evening and nighttime are time for sleep.
Make some noise.
According to Dr. Karp, babies love and need strong rhythmic noise. Some parents rely on a white-noise machine, a radio tuned to transmit static, or a nature-sounds CD. Others take a more organic approach and let the baby sleep near a running dishwasher or washing machine.
If you swaddle your baby and use gentle noise, but she still wakes up every hour or two, let her sleep buckled in a reclined baby swing. Dr. Karp says that fewer than 5 percent of babies need the swing technique and that parents can gradually stop as the baby learns how to self-soothe.
Beginning in the early evening, decrease the time between your baby’s feedings. If you usually feed her every three hours, do so every two hours as you approach bedtime. Some parents report that it will help your baby feel fuller, without relying on frequent nighttime feedings.
Take a break from diaper duty.
When you wake up with the baby in the middle of the night, you might be able to skip the diaper change, which tends to stimulate your baby and keep them from falling back asleep quickly. If baby’s diaper is not soaked through or soiled, you can skip the change. Use absorbent nighttime diapers and a thick diaper cream to protect the skin until morning.
Hit the bottle.
If you are breastfeeding your newborn and she wakes up often, try to get her used to drinking pumped breast milk from a bottle at night. This allows you and your partner to switch feeding shifts so you can both benefit from more sleep.
Make over your room.
You may already have heavy curtains or blackout shades hanging in your baby’s room, but if you frequently co-sleep – or if nighttime feedings have you sleeping late in the morning or napping throughout the day, you’ll be able to snooze more easily – and longer.
Babies take cues from their parents, so if you want him to relax, you should too. Slow down your breathing to send signals to the baby that it’s time to calm down. To help pace your breathing, listen to music with a rhythm that’s slower than your heart beat and set your breath to it. If you prefer to meditate, that is also a calming practice – both for you and your little one!
Trade in the crib.
Even if you have a large, comfortable crib, your baby might sleep better in a bassinet or co-sleeper during his early days. Because babies feel safer and more enclosed in a smaller space, they might sleep sounder and longer…and so will you.
Make it bright.
As soon as your baby wakes up for the day, brighten your lights or open windows as soon as possible. Exposure to the light will help both of you grow more alert and awake. Sit near a sunny window or take a brief walk outside to help develop your baby’s internal clock