Simple solutions for tricky newborn sleep problems
Author: Heidi Holvoet, PhD
Waking up frequently at
sleeping short stretches are the most typical newborn
Crying (excessively) also troubles many new babies at
bedtime. This can be because of colic, gas or more serious discomforts
such as reflux, apnea or a structural bone or vertebra issue.
Let's have a look at why newborn sleep problems happen, how you can
prevent the worse and cure when necessary.
And also ... you may not think it's possible, but good sleep for
yourself is really important right now so let's also find out how to
sleep for you.
frequently and sleeping 30-60 minutes only
Your newborn's natural
patterns are nowhere near our own. Entirely governed by the
survival necessity to feed/hydrate regularly and to arouse lightly in
of health risks, sleep is naturally fragmented. It takes both physical
and brain development to evolve from this in the next weeks, and for
sleep to settle.
Adapting to the difference between day and night is also part of
newborn development. We are not born with that earthly rhythm all set. It usually
takes about 12 weeks before it actually sets in. Helping
your newborn baby get a feel of this day and night rhythm will
actually be one of your main tasks right now.
In any case waking up frequently is absolutely normal for a newborn -
and necessary to keep hydrated and
But when it's extreme and your new baby rarely sleeps for longer than
30-60 minutes, that is tough for both of you. It usually has to do with
short sleep cycles at this young age, and you can work to improve:
What to do
- Both carrying in a wrap sling for extending naps and my Catch Her Before Waking Up
technique are good to teach her to sleep through the in-between sleep cycle
awakenings. With the latter technique, you sneak in just before
the usual awake moment, and use touch and your presence to keep your
little one asleep.
- Solve newborn sleep
before they get worse ... or even before they appear
The Complete Newborn Sleep Guide
- FREE e-book download - gives you hands-on techniques to optimize your baby's sleep
environment, solve the most typical newborn sleep problems, know what
to do, what never to do and how to avoid and treat more serious issues
like acid reflux and apnea.
- General safety advice: when putting your newborn to sleep,
to always put her on her back, the only
recommended safe sleeping position at this age. You may have heard that
lying on the tummy may help her sleep for longer but it is simply not
safe right now.
- Consider swaddling: it can help reduce frequent wakings due to the Moro startle reflex.
Crying is your new baby's first and only way to talk to you.
"Can you please hold me?"
"I can't sleep"
"I'm in pain"
... all kinds of messages that sound nearly the same: a simple cry.
will learn to understand different types of cries but sometimes it's
just not possible to tell what's going on. And sometimes there's
nothing wrong and then all you need to do be there and comfort gently.
What to do
- Read the newborn
crying tips to learn what to do when your baby is crying, recognize
excessive crying, colic and spot serious disorders early on.
- As a rule of thumb remember that it's OK to hold, touch,
rock, sing, ... to soothe your newborn baby as much as necessary. We're
far from spoiling age so do offer the comfort and reassurance your
little one asks for.
Even better, rather than spoil
her by holding, you help her build the confidence she needs to develop
healthy independence later on.
You may find a carrier
handy because you can keep your hands free while comforting and
soothing, see the baby wearing
benefits pages for more about this.
- Priscilla Dunstan has done an amazing job translating baby's
basic sounds. She shows us which cries and gestures mean what ...
taking the guessing out of trying to understand what baby is saying.
Have a look at the Dunstan
Baby Language DVD set or book if you want to try it out.
- How about a gentle bath, the "Sonia Rochel" way? Learn more about Sonia's uniquely soothing Thalasso baby bathing technique.
Tiny as she is, your little treasure can suffer from a number of
physical issues that all too often keep her from sleeping.
Gas, colic and the harmless form of reflux are the most common
But also GERD (severe reflux) and sleep apnea can occur. Your priority
will be to relieve her as much as possible. Usually simple remedies
will be all you need.
What to do
- Read the gas
pages for tips and ideas to relieve your little one as much as possible.
acid reflux can keep your new baby from sleeping well but is not
necessarily serious. Simple good habits can prevent most of the trouble.
- All newborns have breathing pauses during sleep (up to
15-20 seconds) which are normal. When the pauses are longer, the may
mean central sleep apnea. Sleep
apnea in young babies is a potentially life threatening condition
that needs medical attention. Make sure you know how to recognize it so
you can seek treatment in time.
in newborns is a very common yellow skin coloring that is usually
harmless but may need treatment. More dangerous but luckily rarer is kernicterus,
the severe form of jaundice.