Helping the New Baby Sleep Like a Baby
June 11, 2010
One of the most challenging things about becoming a new parent is easing into a sleep routine that works for baby and parents alike. Newborns sleep 14-18 hours a day but they usually wake up every few minutes or every few hours and require their caregiver's attention. In addition needing lots of sleep, newborns must be fed, changed, and nurtured. For the first few weeks, the new baby will set his or her own sleep schedule. Keeping up can be hard for parents especially if the newborn have their days and nights reversed.
From birth until the baby is several weeks old, the best advice for new parents and caregivers may be to sleep when the baby sleeps and ask friends or family for help so that everyone can get the sleep they need. Naps are important for infants and their parents. Newborns may take between two and four naps a day.
Pay attention to when and how the baby expresses the need to sleep. Some babies fuss, cry, or rub their eyes when they get sleepy. New parents and caregivers will recognize sleep patterns as they get to know their little ones over time. It is best to put babies to bed when they are sleepy, but not asleep. They are more likely to fall asleep quickly and eventually learn how to get themselves to sleep by themselves. The key is to pick a consistent bedtime and allow the baby to fall asleep independently (with as little help as possible). In time, the baby will develop the skills s/he needs to fall asleep and stay asleep without a caregiver's help.
Within the first two to three months, circadian rhythms will develop, and babies begin to have a regular sleep-wake cycle. Sleep is especially important for children because it is vital for mental and physical development. Caregivers and parents can help the new baby differentiate night from day by keeping the baby active and in a light room during the day and the opposite at night. During the first few months, caregivers should realize they will be sleep deprived, so they need to make sleep a priority for everyone.
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