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How to Establish a Sleep Routine for New Parents (that Works)

If you’ve recently had a baby, you’re probably no stranger to sleepless nights and tired days. There are plenty of old stereotypes surrounding the lack of sleep you usually get when you’re a new parent.

But, it doesn’t have to be as awful as some of the old horror stories might want you to believe. You can establish a sleep routine for yourself (and your baby!) that can work for you and help you get the rest you deserve.

Getting sleep with a newborn baby isn’t always easy. In fact, the average hours of sleep for a new mom are usually around two hours less each night until the baby is around 5 month’s old. It’s hard to get them into a routine right away.

Many times, a baby can’t tell the difference between night and day, so when you want to get several hours of rest at night, they aren’t aware that it isn’t daytime. Newborns also frequently get hungry and need feedings throughout the night.

So, if your baby needs your attention through the night, how can you ever get some rest? There are things you can do to start a sleep routine for your baby and get some more shut-eye for yourself in the process.

Keep in mind that it may take several weeks to settle into a routine. What works for one new mom or dad may not work the same way for you. So, this guide offers different suggestions and tools you can use to get more sleep with a new baby in the home.

How to Cope with a Lack of Sleep after Baby Arrives

This guide will cover the importance of developing a sleep routine with your baby. The sooner you’re able to establish the routine, the easier it can be to transition your baby into several hours of solid sleeping per night.

There are tips and tricks you can use to help your baby adjust from daytime to nighttime. On top of that, you can use some resources to lull yourself into sleep as well. It’s important that new parents get enough rest so they are able to properly take care of the baby during the day.

A little exhaustion might be normal when you’re bringing a newborn into the house. But, you should pay attention to your health and the amount of sleep you’re getting for everyone’s sake.

How Long Will My Newborn Sleep?

Because newborns frequently get hungry and can’t tell the difference between night and day, don’t expect them to sleep for long stretches right away. Most newborn babies can sleep around 17 hours per day. But, it’s usually not in the long stretches that you might hope for.

If your baby is being breastfed, you may end up feeding them anywhere from 8-12 times a day. That’s a lot of waking up for a hungry baby. But, after the first few months, the frequent night feedings should start to lessen.

Sleep When the Baby Sleeps

Perhaps the most common piece of advice new moms get after a baby is born is to sleep when the baby sleeps. Since your baby will likely nap frequently during the day, you may not be able to get several hours of sleep at one time.

But, if you can catch a half hour nap here and there when your baby sleeps, it can give you the boost of energy you need. This old piece of advice still stands the test of time because it helps out many new moms and dads who might otherwise feel exhausted.

But, it’s understandable that you might be scared to sleep when the baby sleeps. This can make it difficult to take naps when they do or fall soundly asleep after putting them in their crib at night. That’s why developing a nighttime routine isn’t just important for your baby, it’s important for your peace of mind.

One thing many new parents do to help remedy their fears is to try co-sleeping. There are many different opinions about how to sleep with a newborn at night. Unfortunately, many doctors frown on the idea because it could be a health risk to the baby.

Accidents can happen easily whether one person is sleeping with the baby, or both parents are sleeping with the baby. You may roll over, the baby could fall from the bed or off your chest, or they may suffocate from a blanket or pillow.

Obviously, these aren’t things new parents like to think about, but they are the risks involved when it comes to sharing a bed with your newborn. According to Kids Health, bed-sharing with your baby greatly increases the chance of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

Room-Sharing with a Newborn Baby

It’s a much healthier option to develop a routine for your baby in his/her own space. Room-sharing is a safe practice for newborns, but not bed-sharing. Room-sharing involves placing your baby’s sleeping space in your bedroom.

This can include:

  • Cribs
  • Bassinets
  • Play yards
  • Portable cribs

As long as you have a designated safe sleeping space for your baby, room-sharing is a great way for you to feel more comfortable sleeping when your baby does. If they start to cry or fuss, you’re mere feet away, instead of in a different room.

What are the Safest Sleep Practices for a Baby?

To ease your mind so you can get some sleep, it’s important to follow strict safety guidelines when putting your baby to bed. A safe sleep environment will make it easier for you to fall asleep and will ensure your baby isn’t at risk throughout the night.

Keep these safety tips in mind for the ideal sleeping environment for your newborn:

  • Always lay baby down to sleep on their back, never their side or stomach
  • Make sure the surface of the sleeping area is firm
  • Don’t put any toys, pillows, or blankets in the crib or sleeping area
  • Dress your infant for the temperature of the room, making sure they aren’t too hot

Some studies have suggested that putting your baby to sleep with a pacifier can also help to reduce the chances of SIDS. Putting your baby to bed with a pacifier in their mouth is safe. But, you should never force it. If an infant keeps pushing the pacifier out, they will be fine without it.

Once you know that you’re following all the right safety precautions for your newborn, you should be able to sleep more soundly yourself.

But, having everything safely in place doesn’t mean your baby will be getting more sleep right away. In order for that to happen, a routine needs to develop.

how to sleep with a newborn at night

How Can I Help My Baby Get More Sleep?

It’s important to keep in mind that newborns will always follow their own routine. It can take several weeks or even months for them to understand the routine you’re trying to develop for them. But, there are things you can introduce right away that will eventually start to click for them that it’s ‘bedtime.’

Some of these practices will even help them to feel relaxed after waking:

  • Keep things quiet during the middle of the night if your baby gets up to eat. Try to keep lighting low and make as little noise as possible. This isn’t the time to stimulate your baby. Feed them quietly and put them back to bed. It’s okay to rock them gently or sing softly to them if that helps them fall asleep but don’t make much noise. This will eventually help them realize that nighttime is also sleeping time.
  • Let your baby fall asleep in their crib or bassinet if possible. If you can establish the ‘location’ for sleep, it will help them associate that spot with bedtime, and they may have an easier time falling asleep.
  • Don’t be afraid of spoiling your newborn by holding them or rocking them too much. It’s nearly impossible to do at such a young age.
  • Don’t try to force your baby to stay awake during the day. This is an old myth that simply isn’t true. Newborns and infants need a lot of sleep and keeping them awake during the day won’t help them sleep more at night. In fact, it may have the opposite effect. If a baby becomes over-tired, they’ll have a harder time falling asleep and are likely to cry more at night because they are so exhausted.

What Are the Best Bedtime Routines for a Newborn?

There is no one routine you need to follow to get your baby to go to sleep. For many new parents, it’s a lot of trial-and-error to determine what works for them and their baby.

A lot of it will depend on your baby’s personality, your needs, and circumstances, etc. Eventually, though, you’ll find something that works for both of you.

If you’re not sure what to include in a sleep routine, some of the more common habits new parents try to use include:

  • A goodnight kiss
  • A quiet game
  • Lullabies
  • Reading a story
  • Giving a bath/massage
  • Changing into pajamas

There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to which of these habits you need to include. It’s totally up to you how you want to arrange your baby’s bedtime routine. But, there are some general ideas you should keep in mind.

Whatever you decide to include in this routine should be calming and relaxing. Your baby needs to learn that nighttime is for sleeping, not stimulation. Loud games, toys that light up or make noises, or loud music probably won’t help your child to fall asleep quickly.

Try to end your routine in the room where your baby will sleep. You can start by giving him a bath in the bathroom. Or, try quietly playing in another room. But, the last step of your routine should either be in their room or yours, if you’re room-sharing.

Finally, don’t get upset if your routine doesn’t go to plan or doesn’t work right away. Feeling stressed about it is normal, but it can also hinder your progress. It’s easy for your baby to pick up on your emotions.

If they sense that you’re stressed out or tense around bedtime, they might start to feel that way too. That can make it even harder for them to fall asleep.

How Can a New Mom Get More Sleep?

Many new mothers will admit that they aren’t getting as much sleep as they probably need. If your baby just isn’t sleeping a lot or you’re not sleeping when they do, it’s important that you find a solution.

If you’re tired, you’re not going to be able to give your child the care they need. You’re doing a disservice to yourself and your baby.

Also, this is an important time to take care of yourself. Going through pregnancy and labor is no easy task. Your body needs time to heal and recover. One of the best ways to speed up that process is to get enough rest. Even with a newborn, it’s not impossible to get the sleep you need to stay alert and healthy.

sleep deprivation coping strategies

Use these tips to help you deal with sleep deprivation and finally get some rest:

  1. Talk with your partner: Remember, you don’t have to be in this alone. Talking about sleep deprivation with your partner before you give birth is important. That way, you can create a schedule that works for both of you. Don’t feel as though you have to be the only one sacrificing your precious sleep. If you’re raising your baby alone, you may want to invest in a nighttime nurse or babysitter if it’s possible.
  2. Don’t do it all: If you have other children at home, you might start to feel guilty that you’re neglecting them or not giving them the attention they need. This can cause you to overdo it. You might want to go on an ice cream date with your oldest son or to the movies with your daughter. Talk with your kids ahead of time about what you need after the new baby is born. This is your time to rest and recuperate after giving birth. Everyone in the family needs to be on board with that.
  3. Accept help: Don’t let your pride or stubborn nature get in the way. There’s a good chance people will offer to help you in different ways. Accept that help whenever possible. Whether someone wants to cook you a meal, do your laundry, or sit with the baby while you take a nap, you should always take help where you can get it. Your support system will be your biggest asset after your baby is born.
  4. Understand this is temporary: In the midst of night-feedings and sleep deprivation, it can feel as though this will never end and you’ll never get a full night’s rest again. It’s important to keep in mind that that isn’t true. Some babies sleep through the night after just a few months. For others, it may take up to a year. But, at some point, your child will sleep more. You’ll be able to get into more of a routine, and these sleepless nights will be a distant memory. If you can keep encouraging yourself with those thoughts, it can make the lack of sleep easier to deal with.
  5. Don’t ignore your feelings: The ‘baby blues’ and postpartum depression are real things. They don’t affect every woman, but they do impact many. If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, don’t ignore them. Instead, talk to your doctor right away. Sleep deprivation can even make these feelings worse.

Getting More Sleep When My Baby Sleeps

For some parents, getting more sleep even when their infant is sound asleep can be difficult. Whether you’re worried about your baby or you just find yourself restless, there are some things you can do to get some shut-eye while your child is sleeping:

  • White noise machines: Infant white noise machines can be beneficial for both you and your newborn! Many newborns respond well to the soft sounds given off by these machines since they can mimic sounds from the womb.
  • Sleep blindfolds: If you want to nap during the day while your baby does, invest in some quality sleep masks. Creating a dark or peaceful environment can help you fall asleep even in the middle of the day.
  • Earplugs: The best earplugs can also help you at night if your partner’s snoring keeps you up. Just make sure you can still hear your baby if they start crying.
  • Establishing your own routine: Just as you’re trying to establish a new routine for your baby, try making one for yourself. Your life may be different now, so you should adjust your bedtime ritual, too. Doing so can get you in the mood for sleeping when your baby does.

how much sleep do parents lose

Newborn Baby Sleep Tips

Whether your baby sleeps through the night in a few weeks or a few months, there are a few tried-and-tested tips that generally work for most parents.

Using these tips before bed or even in the middle of the night if your baby wakes up can be a big help. They can help you to stay calm and allow your baby to fall back asleep as quickly as possible.

  • Swaddle your baby: Babies are born with a natural startle reflex that they’ll have until about 4 or 5 months old. Swaddling them snugly in a blanket or sleep sack can help them feel more secure at night. They will be less likely to startle themselves awake.
  • Follow an eat, wake, sleep cycle. This encourages your baby to take a full feeding after they wake up. It also helps to prevent your baby from associating food with sleep. If they start to do this, they might use it as a crutch to fall asleep, which can be difficult for nap times, etc.
  • Change your baby’s diaper in the night before you feed them. Changing the diaper will probably wake them up a bit. Feeding will help them fall asleep again.
  • Don’t immediately rush in when your baby starts crying. It can be tempting, but you could be creating a bad sleep habit. Sometimes, cries aren’t what we think they are. Your baby could just be babbling in the night. When they do that, they’ll usually end up going back to sleep on their own. You’ll eventually be able to tell the difference between a cry of need and other noises.
  • Try ‘dreamfeeding.’ A dreamfeed is one last feeding session right before your baby goes to sleep for the night. It can be stacked on top of their previous feed, just a couple of hours later. The idea here is that your baby’s full tummy will help them to sleep longer throughout the night. They won’t wake up just when you’re ready to fall asleep.

I'm scared to sleep when baby sleeps

What is the Perfect Nighttime Routine for a Baby?

The answer you’ve been looking for is finally here: What’s the best nighttime routine for a baby? Well, it may not be the answer you expected. The truth is, there is no ‘perfect’ bedtime routine for a newborn or an infant. Don’t feel as though you have to follow another parent’s routine just because it worked for them. Every baby is different and will respond differently.

Your routine might include a bath, massage, reading, a bottle, and bed. Another mom might include a song or two and cuddling before bed. The important thing is to find a routine that works for you and your child and to stick with it.

If you’re a new parent and you’ve been feeling sleep deprived, we hope this guide has given you some helpful tips. It’s not always easy to adjust to the sleep schedule of a newborn or put a sleep routine in place right away. But, with consistency and finding what works for you, your baby will be sleeping through the night before you know it.