As any new parent knows, infants sleep and wake at random hours and aren’t cued for day and night. That’s because they haven’t had a chance to develop a mature circadian rhythm, the body’s internal clock that regulates sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day and night. This can make life difficult on active parents — you might have friends over for dinner one night, but your sweet little one just won’t have it. She will not go to sleep. Here are three tried-and-true methods to help your baby get to sleep, even in not-so-quiet environments:
Newborn babies tend to sleep better in general when swaddled and placed on their back (supine swaddling). This wrapping technique gives them the warm and cozy feeling of being in the womb. Newborns are often susceptible to their own Moro reflex, which can suddenly jolt them awake. There is less chance baby will startle in the night when swaddled. Wrap her with legs and hips flexed in a large, breathable blanket and place baby on her back. Not only does it help control the Moro reflex, but it curbs colic and fussiness and reduces the chances of SIDS.
Practice the art of swaddling so you get the perfect wrap to keep baby snug enough but not too tight. Your hand should fit between the blanket and her chest. Choose swaddles that are large, square, lightweight and breathable to reduce the risk of overheating. SwaddleDesigns swaddles have directions sewn into the blanket, which makes it easy for anyone wrapping the baby to get it right. Look for them online or at Target stores.
Play White Noise
White noise is a static sound, like the constant running of a hair dryer. It’s soothing to babies and covers up any sudden fluctuating levels of sound. Loudness in the womb is a continual presence, and it’s louder than you might think. A National Institutes of Health study found that the sound decibel can match anywhere between a baby’s cry and a lawn mower. Dr. Harvey Karp, pediatrician and “Happiest Baby on the Block” author, told CNN that white noise is like a newborn’s teddy bear. It provides comfort.
Play low-pitched, rumbly white noise sounds in loud, short spurts. Start loud and reduce the volume once baby is deep asleep, Karp advises. Try any of these sleep apps recommended by Parents magazine.
Establish a Nightly Routine
Adapting to life out of the womb is hard. Your baby never had to worry about when to eat or sleep. It’s important to form your child’s sleep routine during the first few months and continuing that routine thereafter. Specifically, caregiving routines like singing to baby when she is getting sleepy and giving her a warm bath before you lay her down for the night. Establish the groundwork now, and you will find more success in the future.
Because every baby is different, so is every routine. Don’t let others influence your schedule because it’s not like theirs. Do what’s best for you and your baby.