Sleep deprivation is one of the hardest things new parents have to cope with after welcoming home a new baby. After all, newborns need to eat every two to three hours, even at night. While there are those rare babies who sleep for long stretches from the start, most will not for at least a few months.
Despite this reality, many parents hope and expect that their babies will sleep through the night by the time they are a month or so old. But what does "sleep through the night" really mean? Experts say it applies to any baby who sleeps a solid 5-hour stretch at night - not the 10- or 12-hour stretches most new parents dream of. So your baby may already be sleeping through the night, even if it doesn't feel that way to you!
Smart sleep strategies
So, you're ready to settle for the 5-hour stretch? There are ways to help everyone rest easier.
Infants often need help being soothed to sleep. This may involve rocking, nursing, sucking on a pacifier or just being held. Experts agree that you can't spoil an infant by holding him too much at this age. Babies need that closeness to feel secure.
Other tips for sleep-deprived parents:
- Distinguish between day and night. Most babies have their days and nights "confused" at first. They will naturally start to get sleepier at night than during the day after a few weeks. To help this process, expose baby to bright lights, activity and sound during the day and try to keep things quiet and dark in the evening. That means using minimal light and a soft voice during middle-of-the-night diaper changes and feedings.
- Consider waking baby for daytime feedings. If baby is sleeping longer than three hours during the day, you may want to interrupt the nap so she can eat. This way, she might save her longer stretches of sleep for nighttime.
- Swaddle your baby. Studies have shown that babies who are swaddled don't rouse from sleep as easily as babies who aren't wrapped up snugly. If they do startle, they're more likely to put themselves back to sleep. Use a thin blanket or wrap to swaddle your baby, and dress him in lightweight clothes or even just a diaper underneath so he won't get too hot.
- Try to put baby down to sleep (always on her back) while she's drowsy but awake. Then pat her belly or stroke her legs gently to help ease her into slumber.
- Don't supplement with formula if you're breast-feeding. Parents who feed their babies formula actually get less sleep than parents who breast-feed, one study showed. It's a myth that babies will always sleep better if offered formula at night. Also, supplementing can compromise a breast-feeding mother's milk supply.
- Learn to accept a high-needs baby. Some babies just need more attention from parents when it comes to falling asleep. Don't get frustrated if your baby is this way. He'll only be this needy for a short time in the grand scheme of things.
- Get help so you can sleep, too. Try to catch some shuteye whenever baby goes down for a nap. Or swap morning duty with your partner so at least one of you can rest a bit longer. (If you're nursing, hand baby off after a feeding.) Enlisting a relative, friend or sitter to watch the baby for a few hours is another way to sneak in precious sleep.
In desperation, some tired parents turn to a "cry it out" method of sleep training young babies. However, few studies have been done to evaluate this technique on babies younger than a year old. Talk to your child's pediatrician if you have concerns about his sleep habits, or to buy viagra black your own doctor if you feel like lack of sleep is taking a toll on you.