Baby’s sleep: Answers to your 8 most-asked questions
For many new parents a good night’s sleep has become an elusive dream. If you are like most new moms, you have lots of questions about nighttime parenting. We hope this answers your most pressing questions, but, if we’ve missed something, we hope you’ll find everything you’re looking for in our baby sleep archive. Still need help? Get great ideas and support right now from other sleepless moms on our Sleep message board. Wishing you peaceful nights!
1. Does my baby really need to sleep on her back?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all newborns be placed on their backs or sides when put to sleep. Once your little one is older and can roll over, both from back-to-stomach and stomach-to-back, she will most likely shift around to a different position while asleep. Once she gets to this age, the best sleeping position is the one in which she is most comfortable.
2. How can I encourage my baby to sleep through the night?
Nighttime waking is one of the most common dilemmas for new parents. There are some things you can do to get a bit more uninterrupted sleep. Keeping to a routine, increasing daytime feeds and putting your baby down to nap in a well-lit area can help your baby begin to sleep more solidly throughout the night.
3. Is it possible to change my baby’s sleep cycle?
Babies aren’t always on our schedule. If your baby is a night owl, there are some strategies to help get your baby back on your family’s schedule. Begin by gradually increasing the time that she is awake. One way to do this is by carrying her more during the day. Frequent feeds during the day, and cluster feeding in the evening, can help your baby get the nutrition she needs to begin sleeping for longer periods through the night.
4. My baby is sleepy: How can I wake her for a good feed?
When a newborn is very sleepy she can get into a cycle of not being fed as often as she needs to be. The less she is fed, the sleepier she becomes. It can become a vicious cycle. In those early weeks especially, it’s important to watch for your baby’s hunger cues. Allow her to rest where you can see and hear her. When your baby starts moving around a little, making soft sounds, and bringing her fingers or fist to her mouth, it is a good time to feed, first undressing her, except for her diaper. Lying skin-to-skin is stimulating for babies and helps them to stay awake for a good feed.
5. Is it true that nursing babies are often night owls?
Some studies have shown that breastfed babies do wake more frequently than their formula-fed counterparts. One reason babies wake at night is to be fed. Babies consume up to one-third of their calories at nighttime feeds. A newborn’s stomach is very small — about the size of his closed fist — and cannot hold a large volume of milk. Because breast milk promotes rapid digestion babies do need to be fed more frequently. Frequent feeds may have other important benefits, such as decreasing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and controlling maternal fertility, giving her body a chance to rest and heal before the next pregnancy.
6. Sleep training: Is Ferber or another method best for my baby?
Contrary to popular opinion, the method developed by Richard Ferber does not simply advocate “crying it out.” Whether you choose the Ferber method, or try something else, your success is largely be determined by your own comfort and confidence in the chosen approach and its fit with your baby’s temperament. If you are cued into your baby’s needs, she will respond to your calm and confident message that she can fall asleep on her own.
7. Does your baby really need night feedings?
Many babies do get a good portion of their nutrition from nighttime feeds. If your baby is over six weeks of age and is healthy and gaining weight well it’s not necessary to wake your baby for nighttime feeds.
8. I’m thinking of the family bed? How can I be sure it’s right for me?
If you’re considering the family bed, you’re not alone. Surveys show that 25 to 30 percent of American parents sleep with their children for all or part of the night — though many are “closet family bedders.” Sharing sleep with your baby can make nighttimes easier for you and your partner. Many parents feel they get more sleep, breastfeeding is easier for moms and many believe your child benefits from the closeness. The most important thing to remember, is to consider your choices, become as informed as is possible and then, do what works best for you and your family.
Never add a mattress, pillow, comforter or padding to a portable, non full size crib. Use only mattress/pad provided by the manufacturer. Infants can suffocate in gaps between an extra mattress and the meshing of the portable crib.
Never put infants to sleep on fluffy, plush products such as sheepskins, quilts, comforters, and pillows. These products may cause infants to re-breathe exhaled air and suffocate.
Never fasten a pacifier (or any other item) around a baby’s neck. Never tie cords, ribbons, or yarn to a pacifier, even if you do not plan to place it around a child’s neck.
Never hang any stringed object, such as a toy on a string, or a diaper/laundry bag on any part of the crib, or nearby where a child could become caught in it and strangle.
Never leave a child in the crib with the side rail lowered.
Never allow your child to crawl underneath a crib. There may be sharp edges under the mattress support which could puncture and cause severe lacerations.
To help prevent the chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) always put infants to sleep on their backs.
Always keep drapes, ribbons, blind cords, and decorative wall hangings out of child’s reach. It is recommend that no corded window blinds bein a child’s room and, preferably, not in the house. The crib should be at least 3′ from any window.
To prevent deaths from soft bedding, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) recommend the following:
- Place baby on his/her back on a firm, tight-fitting mattress in a crib that meets current safety standards.
- Remove pillows, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, stuffed toys and other soft products from the crib.
- Consider using a sleeper as an alternative to blankets, with no other covering.
- If using a blanket, put baby with its feet at the foot of the crib. Tuck a thin blanket around the crib mattress, only as far as the baby’s chest.
- Make sure your baby’s head remains uncovered during sleep.
- Do not place baby on a waterbed, sofa, soft mattress, pillow or other soft surface to sleep.