Infant sleep – doesn’t that sound like an oxymoron!? The first few days, weeks, months of life with a new baby are beautiful, exciting, and totally exhausting. A new baby can be both the greatest gift and the biggest challenge. My hope for all new families is that they develop a strong support system that can help them during this transition.
Sleep is complicated – but it doesn’t always have to be. Part of our job as pediatricians is to help empower you and give you the confidence that you are made for this job. Over the first few weeks and months, I encourage parents to try to learn as much as they can about their baby.
- Recognize sleepy cues: when babies start to get tired they show subtle clues that they are ready for sleep. These include staring off, blinking slowly, holding ears or rubbing their head. It is important to try to pickup on these sometimes subtle cues before babies get overtired. It is much more challenging to get an overtired infant to sleep.
- Learn to swaddle safely. Swaddling is comforting for most babies – it helps them feel secure. Be sure to swaddle tightly just below the shoulders and have the hips/legs loose. There are so many pre-made swaddles on the market that help make this sometime-daunting sleep aid just a little easier!
- Initiate a bedtime routine early on – even if it’s just for practice. Bedtime could start with a bath followed by moisturizing, reading a book and/or feeding. Aiming for 6pm and 8pm works for most infants older than a few months of age.
Create a successful sleep environment. This is important regardless of age! It can include black out curtains, a sound machine, or just a quiet room. Experiment so you can figure out what works best for your family and your baby.
It is important to say that some babies actually are easier sleepers than others. Please be kind to yourself through the process of sleep training. At the end of the day, a good night sleep goes a long way.
Ariana Raufi M.D.
East Bay Pediatrics
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