Newborns are unable to distinguish between day and night. They also have tiny tummies, due to which they become hungry every few hours. So, sleepless nights are an inevitable experience for new parents, at least during the first few weeks after the birth of your baby.
Fortunately, the situation will improve as your child grows older, and you can get your baby to sleep for longer intervals. Many babies even settle into a good sleeping routine on their own.
However, if your child isn't inclined to do this on his own, you may like to try the following tips to help him develop good sleeping habits and catch up on some sleep yourself.
1. Swaddle your baby
Newborns have involuntary startle reflexes that cause them to extend their arms and legs and jerk awake. This disturbs their sleep and causes them to wake up suddenly. Use the ancient swaddling technique to settle your baby by snugly wrapping him in a blanket with his hands and legs close to his body. When swaddled, your baby feels comfortable and will tend to sleep longer. More details on how to swaddle your baby are available in this post, "Swaddling: what are the risks and benefits?".
2. Create a bedtime routine
Help your child settle down easily and fall asleep quickly, with the same bedtime routine every day. This helps your child associate sleep time with the activities that precede it.
Your baby's bedtime routine can include a bath followed by a massage and then a calm activity like reading or singing a lullaby. Follow the same sequence of steps every day, so he realizes it is bedtime every time you begin the series of steps.
3. Keep external disturbances to a minimum
It is difficult for babies to settle down when they are over-stimulated. So, keep the activities calm at bedtime. Play quiet games, read books and sing soft songs that do not excite baby too much.
Dim the lights and close the blinds in his room so the environment feels relaxed and conducive to sleeping. Even during his feeding intervals at night, keep the noises and lights down, so he finishes his feed in a quiet setting with no distractions.
4. Have a fixed bedtime
Establish specific times for his naps and bedtime, as this is just as important as having a bedtime routine. Encourage your baby to sleep at the same hour every day, so his body automatically adapts to this schedule.
Make sure his last nap in the evening is not too close to bedtime hour; if not, your baby will have trouble falling asleep.
Avoid waiting until he is too tired to start his bedtime routine, as it is difficult to get an overly tired baby to sleep.
5. Give him a massage
Improved sleep is only one of the many benefits of massaging your baby. Regular massages will also improve digestion and help your child relax. This activity promotes bonding, and it also contributes to better growth and development. Massage your baby closer to bedtime, and it will help him settle down and fall asleep quickly.
For more details on how to massage your baby correctly, check out this post, "Can Massage Help Your Baby Sleep?" where you can find few tips from a sleep consultant who's trained in infant massage.
6. Plan diaper changes wisely
A wet diaper is uncomfortable, and it will disrupt your baby's sleep. However, changing a diaper when he is awake for his night feed can also excite him and make it difficult for him to fall asleep again.
The better option is to change his diaper before the night feed so he doesn't become fully awake during or after the feed. You can also use super-absorbent nighttime diapers to skip his diaper changes for as long as possible.
7. Set up a cozy sleeping area
Designate a specific spot for your baby to sleep. Always have him sleep in this specific area, so he begins to consider it as his sleeping space. A defined place for a baby will ensure that he gets the quality sleep he needs and wakes up well-rested and alert. If you use a crib, keep the surface uncluttered and free from distractions impeding his sleep.