Here’s how to get your newborn to sleep without all the drama and fluff. If you are in the early phases… check out my Ultimate Newborn Sleep Schedule: Week by Week for all you need to know.
Some newborn babies sleep all day and night.
Some newborn babies sleep all day and are awake all night.
And some newborn babies are awake nearly all day and all night.
I’m prayin’ for those mamas.
There are a few habits you can start in the newborn phase that will help ensure your baby continues to sleep well long past the time they are super duper sleepy.
I’ve found that the first month or two it is hard to keep the newborn baby awake.
This phase can be deceiving as you sit there, drinking the coffee you may have deprived yourself of during pregnancy, and think you are destined for a quiet life with a child who sleeps well.
Then, what happens, but at 3 or 4 moths your baby starts to “wake up” and you find they aren’t sleeping so well anymore.
This is because this is the point at which the training you’ve done – or not done – starts bearing fruit.
If you’ve trained the baby to sleep well then by 3 months they generally sleep hours a day, go down without a fight, nap well and are well on their way to (if not already) sleeping through the night.
If the motto has been “live and let sleep” then at this point you’ll begin looking for ways to get your baby to sleep because their extreme drowsiness will begin to be a thing of the past.
Here are some things you can do from birth when you put your baby to sleep that’ll help your newborn sleep well in the beginning and keep doing so as they grow older.
- Ultimate Newborn Sleep Schedule: Week By Week
- Printable Newborn Feeding Chart
- A Newborn Feeding Schedule You (And Your Baby) Can Follow!
Here’s how to get your newborn to sleep well ASAP
While you’re working on this, use our daily baby logs to help you keep track of what’s happening. It’ll get it out of your head and onto paper so you can look at trends.
Note: I’ve done these habits and strategies with all 5 children and had the same results so, trust me, they work.
1. Swaddle from the beginning
I swaddled from the first day in the hospital until I weaned them months later. I never gave them an option to “like it” or “not like it”
Basically, I just did it.
All five of mine liked being swaddled of which I was happy about.
Swaddling serves a few purposes.
First, it helps guard against their reflex to jerk their arms up towards their face which, inevitably, wakes them. This is called the startle reflex.
They’ll rarely sleep long periods unswaddled and definitely not after the first month or two. Swaddling also helps signal that it’s time to go to sleep. This called a positive sleep association.
If you unswaddle them during their wake time and swaddle them to sleep they’ll understand what’s happening and it’s a great way to get some routine and consistency in early. The more we can do regularly, the better.
The above swaddle allows you to unzip from the bottom so you can keep baby swaddled at night while changing diapers.
The swaddle (a bestselling woombie) helps keep baby drowsy and not wake fully at night.
2. Feed unswaddled during the day and swaddled at night
This helps communicate the difference between night and day.
During the day, I unswaddle the baby to feed and cuddle and play. Then I swaddle and put them back to bed. During the evening, I keep them swaddled to feed them and this works miracles.
First, it keeps them drowsy enough that they barely wake to feed and then are basically comatose by the time the feed is over and you put them back in their crib to sleep.
By leaving them swaddled you are communicating that it is not the time to wake up, but time to keep sleeping. This is particularly helpful for the 5:00 am feeds. If you are not careful your baby may think this feed means wake up.
Don’t give up, mama, you can do this and you won’t be a tired mom forever.
If you keep the baby swaddled, lights low and feed them put back into the crib they will understand that is still too early (unless you also wake then and like the day to start early).
3. Change diaper after a feed during the day
Whether or not you change your baby’s diaper before you feed them, be sure to change them after you feed them.
This helps wake baby up so they can have some awake time. Then, you will put them in their crib awake but drowsy, and this helps teach them to sleep on their own.
I had a hard time getting all mine to wake up for the first month or two and so changing the diaper helped. Cold air. You get the picture.
- If you find baby sleeping through feedings and napping all day, then being awake at night, they are likely day night confused.
- If you want to get your newborn to sleep at night, then you’ll have to do the hard work of sleep training during the day.
- The habits baby learns during the day pay dividends at night.
4. Change diaper before a feed at night
I swaddle using the Woombie and absolutely love it. The woombie zips from both the bottom and the top enabling you to change diapers at night without breaking the swaddle of the upper body.
This also communicates that it’s nighttime, and you want your newborn to sleep.
If the baby rouses enough to make some noises and you know they want to feed, change them quickly from the bottom up and leave them swaddled. Then, with the swaddled baby, feed them a full feed.
➡️ All five of mine fed peacefully like this and were back to sleep at the end of the feed.
You can gently put them back to bed and that’s it.
If your little one is having a difficult time settling down, offer him this pacifier (it’s the absolute best!).
The American Academy of Pediatrics goes so far as to say that pacifiers will help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and it’s a good sleep association, to boot.
Anything that lowers the risk of SIDS and helps baby get more hours of sleep at night is a win win.
5. Turn no lights on at night
This can be a bit tricky, but is golden.
Use a flashlight on your phone if you need some light, but keep it dark.
➡️ Humans were created with the innate need to sleep, and babies are tiny humans. They will learn to settle and wind down at night, but turning on the light sends mixed signals.
After their days and nights are straight you don’t want to do anything that will unnecessarily awaken them in the evenings.
If you can help the latch on or find their mouths with the bottle then that’s light enough. This will also help you go back to sleep after the feed.
6. Natural light during wake times, darken the room for naps
When you wake the baby up for a feed (or if they wake up on their own) then open the blinds, turn on the lights, unswaddle and feed.
This signals very clearly “daytime” and will help your newborn wake up.
Then, as you want them to go for a nap, close the blinds and the curtains and dim it enough that you’ve created a distinction between day and night.
Sure, babies will sleep in the daylight, but that’s not the point. The point of dimming the lights is to, again, signal that it’s time for them to nap. You decide the time, then you give the signals, then you let them get at it.
7. Encourage your newborn to take a full feed
If you’ve opted to breastfeed then you will run into the baby wanting to snack.
Snacking should be avoided for a number of reasons, but as we’re talking about sleeping, snacking is a good nap’s worst enemy.
- When a newborn feeds for less than 15 minutes at a time, this is usually snacking.
- When baby sleeps through a feed and thus doesn’t get enough milk, they will wake up early to snack again.
First off, snacking means newborns aren’t full enough to stay asleep because when they transition from active to passive sleep (typical baby sleep pattern) they will wake up.
If your baby falls asleep during a feed, then wake them up. A cold rag, rub their feet, strip them naked, do what it takes.
Newborns need to eat a lot to nap well and if they haven’t had enough milk during the day you can bet they’ll wake up a few extra times in the night to make up for it.
➡️ If you want baby to sleep for hours at a time at night, give full feeds during the day.
- What To Do When Baby Is Feeding Every Hour (& Not Sleeping!)
- The Ultimate Newborn Sleep Schedule: Week By Week
- A Newborn Feeding Schedule You Can Follow
8. Avoid having an overtired baby
With all my newborns, from the time I feed them until I put them down for a nap was never longer than 50 minutes. Including feeding time.
If I fed at 1 pm then by 1:50 pm at the latest, they were swaddled snuggled and down for a nap.
With my third son, at just shy of 3 months, he still went down around 35 minutes after I started feeding him. As in, 1 pm I feed him and by 1:35 pm or 1:40 pm he is down for a nap.
It seems crazy, but it’s true.
A general rule of thumb is this: put your newborn down to sleep no later than an hour and 20 minutes after you started feeding her.
9. Establish a pre-nap and bedtime routine
A great wind down routine follows.
Swaddle baby, hold your newborn upright for a few minutes, sing, turn on a night light and your white noise machine. Put your baby down in their crib gently, then leave the room quietly.
At bedtime, it may be different and even include reading (yes, even for a newborn), but the basic baby schedule should remain the same.
Whether it’s bath, a story, diffusing essential oils in the room or singing a song, keep it simple.
Routine before sleep signals the baby what you expect of them. They will quickly, quicker than you realize, understand that sleeping follows the ritual.
10. Shelter your newborn infant’s sleep
This might be unpopular.
In fact, it might be unnecessary.
Unless your baby is overtired and fighting sleep.
➡️ If the baby is asleep in their crib, swaddled and snoozing away, for heaven’s sake, don’t wake them up just so someone can hold them.
Once in a blue moon, of course. Special occasions, yes. Done regularly, however, this is a very counter-productive baby sleep habit.
If someone comes over without calling first and expects to get to hold the baby smack dab in the middle of a nap… they might just be disappointed.
Sheltering also means having them far enough away (not every nap, but most) from other loud siblings so they are not likely to be disturbed.
If someone is running around their crib screaming, baby may sleep through it for a month or two but not at 4 months or 6 months and definitely not at a year. Defend their sleep as a favor to them.
11. Choose an awake time and regular feed times
From the start, you need to choose a time you’d like your baby to wake up in the morning, and when you’ve done it, always feed him at that time.
With my five kids – based on my own personality and our family culture – I chose 7:30.
From birth each morning, I made sure to feed them within that 7:30-8:00 am period. Their body metabolizes to that time and they begin to awaken naturally at that time. Here’s how to encourage sleeping in.
Sometimes the baby will wake hungry and need to eat early, which is fine. It goes without saying, but always always feed a hungry baby.
However, I highly recommend choosing a window of time each morning and always feeding them then because that will create a “wake time” that their metabolism will remember.
Whether you choose to do a routine or not your baby will likely fall into one on its own.
➡️ It’s good to create a routine and stick to it when possible.
Grab Your Newborn Sleep Checklist Here!
Download, print, and check off these new habits so baby will start sleeping longer tonight!