Getting a baby to sleep through the night is a dream of sleepy new parents everywhere, although it may not be as hard as you think. By understanding the basics about sleeping, and utilizing the right infant sleeping strategies, a full-nights rest is just a yawn away.

Why Do Humans Need Sleep?

Sleeping is a natural phenomenon and a need for human beings. We don’t know why we need to sleep, but it has to do with a restoration of energy and recharge time for all the cells in our body. We simply can’t go without sleep, and sleep deprivation constitutes a form of torture. No wonder it is so important to create a rhythm for the newborn to follow, that synchronizes with the day-and-night circadian rhythm of the rest of the population.

Now as for the cause of our sleeping habits, much of it has to do with the presence of sunlight during the day and the absence of sunlight during the night. Our body produces certain hormones that keep us awake and active during the hours when the sun is out in the sky and different hormones at sunset, which prepare the body for a night of rest. This reliance on sunlight is one of the major reasons behind infant sleep issues, as it takes time for newborns to learn the difference between day and night. So how can parents help to speed up the learning process?

Tip #1: Expose your newborn to plenty of sunlight during the day, and plenty of darkness at night

It is important to create a noticeable difference between day and night from day 1 of life. It usually takes about 6 weeks for the newborn to show some consistent behavior, and there’s a few ways to help achieve that:

  • Keep your newborn in a room with plenty of sunlight
  • If it’s cloudy outside, turn on a few indoor lights
  • Keep the lights on during daytime naps
  • In the evening after the sun goes down, make sure the baby remains in the dark for the rest of the night, even when being fed or changed

 Tip #2: Train your baby to sleep on its own

Another milestone to accomplish during the first 6 weeks of life is to train the baby to sleep on its own, without holding or rocking. During the first days of life, your baby is used to close contact and having pressure all over its body. For this reason, it’s going to enjoy been held or swaddled for comfort. Eventually babies get used to the new environment and start pushing swaddling blankets away. When you baby is ready, allow it to practice falling asleep without being held.

Tip #3: Stick with the same bedtime routine

According to WebMD, a study of 405 mothers – with infants between 7 months and 36 months old – showed that babies who followed a nightly routine slept better, went to sleep easier, and cried less during the night. In fact, some parents start bedtime routines as early as 6 to 8 weeks of age. A few tips for achieving a solid bedtime routine include:

  • Sticking with the same activities, in the same order, night after night
  • Keeping activities calm and peaceful, especially towards the end of the routine
  • Saving your infant’s favorite activity for last, as this will help it look forward to bedtime

Like many other aspects of life, sleeping is a natural behavior but requires some consistency in creating the right circumstances to make it happen the right way. Keep your consistency and it will pay off with a night of rest for the whole family.

About the Author

Dr. Katalenas

Dr. Katalenas is a pediatrician and owner of The Pediatric Center of Round Rock and the author of the book "The Step Up Diet: From Scratch… The Quality, Quantity, and Timing Solution to Childhood Obesity", a guide to healthy cooking and eating for busy families.