10 Tips to Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep

When you bring your baby home no one tells you that “sleep like a baby” only lasts a short time. This article will give you 10 tips to help your newborn sleep better.

Disclaimer: Before I get to the 10 tips to help your newborn sleep, I thought I should note that it can be dangerous for a new newborn baby (just a few weeks old) to sleep all night. They really do need to eat at least every 3 hours in those early days so they can grow well and thrive.

It is also safest to place baby on his back to sleep, to guard against SIDS. You may be interested in other ways to lower SIDS risks.

There, now that I got that out of the way.

Newborn Baby Sleep

1. Short Wake-time

The first week or so, your newborn baby will most likely hardly be awake, but after the first week or two, the #1 key with your newborn is to keep wake times very short, at first. You should soothe your baby for sleep after just 1-2 hours of wake time TOPS. You should look for signs that she is getting sleepy and start soothing her. If you wait until she is fussy, cranky or crying, you are actually too late!

An overtired baby will have more trouble settling down and going to sleep and staying asleep. My boys always fell asleep easiest when I caught them before they started to fuss and cry. Some babies are much more sensitive to being overtired than others, so while others will barely notice their child get sleepy before she drifts off to sleep, others will begin to realize just how in tune with their baby they need to be!

By wake time, I mean to include feedings and diaper changes and disregard how long her last nap was. For example, little Suzie starts to nap at 8am and sleeps for 3 hours. She eats at 11am and you change her diaper. Now, it’s 11:30 and you decide to give her a bath. At 11:45, she is fussy. She is already overtired and she needs a nap! In the beginning, they can’t go long before getting tired and overstimulated.

2. Swaddle

To help mimic the feeling of the womb, it helps to swaddle your newborn baby. This basically means to wrap him up in a blanket like a little burrito. You may have seen them do it at the hospital. This helps him feel safe and secure and also helps him stay asleep during any moro reflex or startle reflex moments. It is said that those reflexes are similar to how we have the feeling we are falling while falling asleep. It can take up to 4 or 5 months for your baby to stop the startling.

I recommend The Miracle Blanket for swaddling. It is a little pricey, but so easy to use and so hard for your baby to break out of! So worth it, to me! If you can’t or don’t want to spend that much, try this SwaddleMe Wrap.

We encourage you to read these tips for safe swaddling.

3. Days bright / Nights dark

Although you might be tempted to keep things quiet and darker for your newborn to nap well, it might prolong the day/night confusion that almost all newborns will have. Day/Night confusion can last up to 6 weeks. When she was in mom’s belly, mom’s movements lulled her to sleep and when mom was resting, she’d have a party. When she comes out, she doesn’t know she should act in the complete opposite fashion.

So, keep days bright and upbeat and nights, dark and boring, and it will help your newborn sort out her days and nights faster. This might be more than you want to know, but light is what cues our eyes to tell us to stay awake or whether it’s time to sleep.

4. Limit naps

If he is taking longer to sort out days and nights (or you are having a very rough time keeping up with him being up all night), you can further speed up the process by limiting naps to no longer than 3-4 hours during the day. Read more here about newborn sleep patterns and schedules.

5. Post-feeding routine

To help your newborn baby sort out day and night sleeping even more, you may want to develop a play routine after she eats during the day. Keep her awake 30 minutes after feeding by playing, singing, bathing, etc. Again, the light stimulating her eyes will help her sort out that daylight is for being awake at least a little bit. Many people recommend the eat-play-sleep routine for newborns. This is the primary message of the popular book, On Becoming Baby Wise. You might want to read why Babywise may not be right for your baby, though.

6. Co-sleeping

Sometimes it helps to have your newborn in the room with you for quick access for middle-of-the-night feedings and diaper changes. This also can help give him more comfort being close by as he will be able to hear and smell you. For safety reasons, you should use a Co-Sleeper , sleep positioner, or bassinette, rather than have baby in bed with you. I used the second one with my second son and then I moved it into his crib for a seamless transition to his crib. We were able to remove it a few weeks later.

This article includes some tips for safe bed-sharing. You can also read more about the differences between co-sleeping and bed sharing.

7. Angle the mattress

For babies who spit up a lot or have reflux, it helps to angle the mattress when he sleeps, so baby is not flat on his back. You’ll want to angle the mattress so his feet are lower than his head, so his stomach contents can stay put. To angle the mattress, you can simply change the support platform level on one side on most cribs. If that is not feasible, you can put blankets and pillow under the mattress. Please note that the mattress should still remain flat at all times, just at an incline. You must make sure that you do not tilt the mattress so much that your baby slides down the bed, either. I strongly recommend that you first check with a knowledgeable health care provider to make sure that what you do is best and safest for your child. I only wanted to highlight the idea.

8. White Noise

White noise is made up of the sounds like a fan whirring, vacuum cleaner, hair-dryer, etc. It helps a newborn sleep because inside mom’s womb was all white noise. The sound of her blood flow, heart beating, etc. That’s why he finds comfort when you may run the vacuum cleaner. My son used to love when I turned on the blow-dryer. Of course, you can’t run the vacuum all day, so I recommend getting a White Noise machine, sound machine or a White Noise CD. I have two of the second one in each boy’s room so they don’t wake each other and they work like a dream! Read more about How White Noise Can Help Your Baby Sleep here.

Read here about some smartphone White Noise apps that can help your baby sleep.

9. Wear baby

For particularly fussy babies or just for parent’s convenience and snuggling, it helps to “wear” baby using a sling. They get very folded up in a sling, but again, it mimics the womb and babies love it! I didn’t use a sling with my first, but used a BabyBjorn Baby Carrier and loved it! It really helped me walk off the baby weight, which was a bonus. But, with my second, I did use this sling (there are many others!) and my son would fall asleep in less than 5 minutes until he grew out of it. This helped tremendously when I needed to cook dinner and do stuff with my toddler, at the time. I have also heard good things about the Moby Wrap and the Maya Wrap.

Here are ten reasons to wear your baby.

10. Swing

As I said earlier, mom’s movements lulled baby to sleep while in the womb, so I also recommend trying a swing, but don’t be surprised if your newborn only likes it at high speeds. Our family teased us we were making our first son “drunk”, but he just loved it going FAST and it was the only way he’d fall asleep in it! We used something like this swingto help him sleep (I don’t see the exact one I used anymore — guess I’m officially old now). My friend has the Fisher-Price Ocean Wonders Aquarium Cradle Swing and loves it. They didn’t have that when I was shopping for one!

Important Note: Some say it might not be safe for a newborn to sleep in a car seat, so be cautious about that. Some say it’s just fine.

Unfortunately, some of these tips do create sleep associations, but during the first weeks, you really do what you can to survive. Obviously, it never hurts to try to put your baby down to sleep without any of these “tricks”, but as I’ve probably said a billion times already on this site, it just doesn’t work for all of us.

You CAN Help Your Newborn Sleep Better – And We Can Help!

There are many gentle, newborn-friendly ways that you can help your baby sleep longer stretches, and sleep more regularly – and our expert sleep consultants are well-versed in all of them! Reach out to one of our consultants today, and she will craft a newborn-specific Personalized Sleep Plan™ with recommendations that are designed specifically for your unique baby.
Browse our list of consultation package options here.

Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to login and start your Family Sleep History form right away – it’s that simple!

Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers. You can also take a tour of the Helpdesk.

Have questions about how to help your newborn sleep? Ask, and we’ll answer!

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Essential Keys to Newborn SleepNewborns really can sleep long stretches during the day and at night – you simply have to use appropriate, gentle techniques to get there! Our newborn e-book, Essential Keys to Your Newborn’s Sleep, outlines a number of gentle, baby-centered ways you can encourage better sleep from your newborn. Learn how to create sleep-inducing routines and schedules, how to bond and communicate with your newborn, ad more!

bss_ebook_3stepsystem_leftPersistent nighttime struggles demand a more intensive approach. Check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.

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  1. Alisha DePreste says

    I have an EXTREMELY fussy infant and all I can find on the web are these same tips! I know that rabble that the doctors and baby websites preach and am doing everything that I can 24/7 for my, now, 3 1/2 week old. This isn’t a new thing, either, this has been going on for a couple weeks now where she is up for, say right now, has been up for 8 hours crying no matter what happens. Swing, bouncy chair, carseat, sling, bassinet, crib. I have all of those..white noise, check! binkie, check! I put her to bed before she was fussy, she ate her fill and didn’t throw up, she has a clean diaper, I’ve swaddled and un-swaddled her and I’ve tried using more blankets and less of them. I’ve burped her, read to her, bathed her, and in between I’m consistently putting her back to bed just to hear her scream again. I also have just tried letting her “cry it out” and it has not helped her. Light, dark, in between doesn’t matter. If I hold her to get to sleep I am unable to put her back down without getting a mouth full at the instant I do so or if I make the slightest move.

    Oh and to comment on the car seat thing, that’s the ONLY thing that has helped me this far! She hates the bassinet or anything that doesn’t sit her completely up. So I prop her head up with a receiving blanket and do the same for her sides so she doesn’t get all bunched up. Also, it helps to pay attention to what formula you are using, or what you are eating in the case that you are breastfeeding. I found using Similac made her stomach uneasy and she would throw up in a way that is unhealthy. So I tried Enfamil and found out by comparing them that Similac puts an extreme amount of B vitamins in their formula which gives your child energy. A mom I know that was breastfeeding asked me “why do you think my child would be this amped up all the time?” So I asked her looking at her energy drink, “how many of those do you drink a day?” lol, it is wise to cut caffeine out of your diet as well as spicy foods or things like onions and garlic that can irritate an infant (use common sense here!.)

  2. says

    @Alisha I can sense your stress and it sounds like you are doing a lot of the right things. It just sounds like your baby has colic, plain and simple, and unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to soothe colic. :( There might be some products you can search about colic that might help, but mostly she will outgrow it, eventually. My neighbor friend’s son cried 10 hours a day until he was a couple of months old. :( I would not worry it is anything in your diet and if you have to hold her for sleep right now, don’t feel like that will be forever. I had to hold my younger son a lot the first few weeks, too, and he became a decent sleeper fairly quickly (unlike my first). It’s a big adjustment coming out into this world. Hang in there!!! I promise it will get better! I hope you have help around.

  3. Troy says

    6 neices and nephews were raised on baby wise and they are all happy well adjusted kids doing well in school, sports, or whatever. We haven’t read the book now that we have our first child because she’s 4 weeks old but we plan too.

  4. Rose says

    It’s so funny… people have told me to do #4 but come on…really, who can wake up a baby or keep a baby awake when they are newborns? If you truly know how tell me, nothing gets this baby to stop napping in the daytime.

  5. Jackie says

    Would you help me to get ideas on how to overcome cramps in a baby’s stomach

  6. 1busymommy2 says

    We use a schedule and various sleep aids. I was not ok with just letting her cry, but I also know she needed to self sooth. I found a sleep machine helps. At home we use a box fan in her room and when we are away from home, road trip, hotel room, grandmas house we use a sleepy bee. (sleepybees.com) I just feel like puttting her in a quite room to ?cry it out? was crule, but when she was trained to sleep to the ocean waves that the sleepy bee makes or the box fan sound, she seeemd to settle herslef more easily. This is the best way I found to help her know when it’s bed time.

  7. 1busymommy2 says

    We use a schedule and various sleep aids. I was not ok with just letting her cry, but I also know she needed to self sooth. I found a sleep machine helps. At home we use a box fan in her room and when we are away from home, road trip, hotel room, grandmas house we use a sleepy bee. (sleepybees.com) I just feel like puttting her in a quite room to ?cry it out? was crule, but when she was trained to sleep to the ocean waves that the sleepy bee makes or the box fan sound, she seeemd to settle herslef more easily. This is the best way I found to help her know when it’s bed time.

  8. says

    my dear you dont have to be on pressure.thats how they are especially when they are colicky………….but there is some syrup istarted using[bonnisan]thou you would consult apaeditrian about it be4 using it 4 your sake.it helps on their stomach upsets like colic and dios.please put him on aschedule which will give him some sleep in the night,so whenever its bath time he will always awake,if its nap time so be it.those are the tips ave atleast used but dont worry be4 uknow its over that stage.athawise ithank nicole so much she has been help the few weeks iread about this blog cause iused to worry myself so much about the night but now iget the time to do other things cause am home all alone cant trust caretakers with anewborn….

  9. says

    Some babies cry at night when we suspect that he might be having a problem in the stomach; either wants get some milk or got some ache.what is the best medicine or liquid for aching stomach in babies!

  10. Debbye says

    @ Mosonik – Some people find that infant massage can help relieve gas pains, by working out some of the gas. And many use over the counter and homeopathic medicines made specifically for gas and/or colic. Please talk to your doctor if you suspect that your baby is in pain, and before starting any medications or therapy.
    Good luck!

  11. says

    I do not know if best practices now surfaced about items like that, however , I am positive that your job is obviously recognized as a fair game.