A newborn goes back and forth between sleeping and waking during a 24-hour day. Over the first 3 months, the baby gradually sleeps for longer periods. By the third or fourth month, most babies sleep for their longest period (up to 7 to 8 hours) during the night and develop set nap times.
You can help your baby—and yourself—sleep better. The goal is to help your baby learn self-comfort so that he or she can get to sleep, and get back to sleep, with little help from you.
- At night, set up a soothing routine. Give your baby a bath, sing lullabies, read a book, or tell a story. These activities can help your baby relax. They also signal that it is time to sleep. Don't get your baby excited with active play right before sleep.
- When your baby is getting sleepy, put your baby in his or her crib in a quiet, darkened room. This will help your baby learn to go to sleep in his or her crib.
- Don't rock your baby to sleep after about age 4 to 6 months. Rock your baby, but lay the baby down to sleep while he or she is drowsy but still awake.
- Don't add cereal to your baby's bottle. Adding cereal to a bottle won't make a baby sleep through the night. Babies don't need solid foods until they are about 6 months old. Some babies may be ready for solid foods at 4 or 5 months. Ask your doctor when you can start feeding your baby solid foods.
- Put your baby down for a nap as soon as he or she acts sleepy. If your baby gets too tired, it may be hard for him or her to get to sleep.
- Remember to put your baby down to sleep on his or her back. This helps prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Tips for getting baby to go back to sleep
- Try to feed your hungry newborn when he or she starts to wake up and is still calm. Hungry cries often start with a whimper and become louder and longer. If you respond before your newborn gets upset, he or she will feed and go back to sleep easier.
- Keep the light off during nighttime feedings, and use a soft voice.
- Settle your baby down to sleep as quickly as possible if he or she is not acting hungry during a nighttime feeding.
- If your baby does not settle down, check to see if he or she is hungry or needs a diaper change. Feed or change your baby quietly. Keep the light low. Don't play with or sing to your baby. Put him or her back in the crib as soon as you can.
- Try to stay calm. Young children are very sensitive to a parent's feelings of frustration.
- Be consistent. If you change your plan for how to handle nighttime crying, make sure that you and your partner agree on it before you go to bed.
Current as of: August 21, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
John Pope MD - Pediatrics