7 ways to get your baby sleeping more at night
Expert tips to help you build a solid foundation for sleep, especially during those first 4 months.
It’s a fact of life: every parent of a newborn struggles with sleep. Our team of postpartum doulas has helped hundreds of families get more ZZZs, and the tips below are their go-to strategies for getting baby (and you!) more nighttime rest.
If you need more support, click here to find out how you can start working with your very own newborn expert and get personalized guidance on sleep, feeding, newborn care, and postpartum recovery.
Let’s dive into the top 7 ways to get your baby sleeping longer at night!
1. Feed baby every 2.5 - 3 hours during the day
Maximizing daytime feeds means that baby will be less hungry at night. It’s perfectly fine to wake your baby up from naps during the day to feed them...especially if it means more nighttime sleep for everyone! The exception to this recommendation is during the first week for breastfeeding parents when you will need to breastfeed more frequently to help establish your milk supply. Within a few weeks, your baby should be able to go 2.5 - 3 hours between daytime feedings.
2. Create a sleep-friendly environment
This means darkness (use blackout shades if necessary), a sound machine to provide white noise, and a temperature of about 68º-72º.
3. Create a bedtime routine
Your baby will learn to associate this routine with getting ready for sleep, and it helps your baby understand that nighttime is for sleeping. Find a routine that you enjoy and stick with it. One example is bath, feed, diaper, swaddle, sing a song, lights out.
4. Use a swaddle
Swaddling helps prevent baby’s startle reflex and, for many babies, is very soothing. We recommend using a swaddle blanket that zips or velcros so you can get a safe, snug fit. Remember that your baby should always be sleeping on their back, in their own bassinet or crib. You can use a swaddle until your baby is almost able to roll over, typically around 6 months old.
5. Try adding a dream feed
A dream feed is when you wake your baby up for their last feed of the day, typically between 9:00 - 11:00 pm. When it works, it helps you and baby get your longest stretch of nighttime sleep at the same time. The goal is to do the dream feed 2-3 hours after their bedtime feed and right before you go to sleep. Here’s how it works:
- Remove baby from their crib or bassinet and offer a feed at the breast or with a bottle.
- Keep lights dim and sounds to a minimum throughout the dream feed.
- If baby needs to be changed, that’s fine. Go ahead and change their diaper when needed.
- If baby is too sleepy to eat, try unswaddling them or stroking their cheek with your finger.
- Try to burp baby gently. If your baby tends to do okay without this step during a dream feed, you can skip it.
- Return baby to their crib or bassinet. Now it’s time for you to go to bed and get some sleep!
- Try the dream feed every night for 3 - 5 days. Dream feeds work for most babies, but not all. You should start seeing results within a few days.
6. Pay attention to awake windows during the day
Working with baby’s natural awake windows during the day will help them sleep better at night and during naps. During the awake window and after feeding, keep your baby engaged by talking, singing, and playing. Look out for sleepy cues and yawning and then work to get the baby to sleep before the awake window passes.
Approximate awake windows, including the time to feed and burp:
7. Work on putting your baby down drowsy but awake
You may have heard of this before (and maybe you thought it sounded impossible!) but this is one of the best ways to help your baby learn how to get themselves back to sleep on their own. You can start practicing this method as soon as the baby is born, and we recommend doing it at least a couple times per day by the time your baby is 4 weeks old. Your goal is to get to the point at which you’re putting your baby down drowsy but awake for all naps and nighttime sleep. This is how to get started:
- Watch for sleepy cues: quietly staring into the distance, avoiding eye contact or interaction, yawning, pulling of the ears, hiccups, rubbing eyes. Fussiness is usually a sign of being overtired -- we want to catch their cues well before they reach this stage.
- When your baby is showing signs of sleepiness but is still calm, gently place your baby in their bassinet or crib.
- If they wake right away, do your best to soothe them, then place them back in their crib.
- When creating this new habit, results won’t be instant, but try to stay committed. With a little time and patience, your baby will learn that they can fall asleep all on their own.
As you try out these tips with your little one, keep in mind that most babies don't start sleeping 6-8 hour stretches until they are about 3 months old, or until they weigh 12 to 13 pounds. About two-thirds of babies are able to sleep through the night on a regular basis by age 6 months. If you’re struggling with sleep, know that you’re not alone and this challenging phase will pass. You’re doing an amazing job, even if your baby isn’t sleeping as much as you had hoped!
Questions? Need support? New Kind is here to help!
New Kind is an easy way for new parents to get the expert support they need. We offer membership options with unlimited support. Our certified postpartum doulas and newborn sleep experts can help you build personalized sleep and feeding routines, get more sleep for the whole family, and answer all your questions about newborn care. You can chat with our experts on your schedule, over text, phone, and video. Try New Kind today.