Every parent hopes and prays their baby will be a good sleeper. But you can play an active role in putting your child on the path to good sleep by establishing healthy sleep habits early. Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most-trusted pediatricians and child development experts, shares his 5 best tips on how to get a baby to sleep well!
Don’t Get Too Excited If Your Baby Sleeps A LOT the First Few Days
Many parents are surprised by how much their newborn sleeps. During the first day of life, most babies are alert for about an hour and then they can fall into deep sleep for 12-18 hours. (Like most of us, they are exhausted by the whole ordeal.) Over the next 1-2 days, your baby will become increasingly awake and hungry and begin the classic pattern—awake for 1-2 hours, then sleeping for 2-4. (Here’s a rough idea of how your baby’s first year sleep schedule will take shape.) Since your little bunny wakes frequently, so will you. But this article covers the things you can do to stack the deck in your favor, which can result in 1-2 more hours of rest a night.
Learn the Basics of Baby-Calming
In med school I was taught some infants could cry 3+ hours a day…for no reason. That’s the medical definition of colic, and doctors say it is one of the great mysteries of science. But it never made sense to me. Later in my career learned about a culture—the !Kung San in Africa—whose parents could calm 95% of their babies’ upsets in under 60 seconds! That inspired me to learn everything I could about colic and crying. I came to develop the 5 S’s, a simple method for calming your baby’s wails in minutes…or less. You’ll also use the techniques as part of your regular bedtime routine, to soothe your infant to sleep.
Give the Right Sleep Cues
Most modern parents sleep their babies in flat, still beds. But studies show that infants sleep better with low, rumbly white noise and little swaying motions—it reminds them of their time in the womb. Happiest Baby used this insight to create SNOO, the world’s first “smart” sleeper and most effective baby bed ever made. SNOO responds to infant crying with increasing sound and motion, and rocks and shushes infants all night long. These are the sleep cues that work the best with young babies; consistently using them go a long way to establishing healthy sleep habits for your little one.
Put Sleep Safety First
Tragically, 3,500 infants die unexpectedly in their sleep each year in the U.S. So, there’s nothing more important than creating a safe sleep environment for your baby. To lower your baby’s risks as much as possible, be sure to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines: Your baby should always sleep on the back, never sleep seated (in a swing, car seat, rock n play) and be unswaddled as soon as the baby starts to roll over. (FYI, SNOO prevents rolling over – even when swaddled – so your baby gets all the benefits of wrapping, without the risks and stays safely on the back – all night long. And it is the only bed that meets the AAP safe sleep recommendations.)
Always Wake Your Baby for Better Sleep…Say what?!
When I tell parents waking their sleeping baby is a key to healthy sleep habits, they look at me like I’m nuts. But if you do wake your baby—a tiny bit—when you place her down to sleep you are actually teaching her the skills to self-soothe. I call this the “wake and sleep” method, and it is actually a very gentle form of sleep training. It may allow you to avoid using the most common—and also the most dreaded— kind of sleep training, called “cry it out.” Parents often turn to “cry it out” when they are face to face with the 3- to 4-month sleep regression…because they’re not aware this gentler, gradual alternative exists!