Newborn Sleep Tips

Baby Sleep Targets By Age

0-4 months: 15-18 hours (in a 24 hour period)

4-6 months: 11-12 hours nighttime sleep + 3-4 hours daytime sleep (in three naps)

6-12 months: 11-12 hours nighttime sleep + 2-3.5 hours daytime sleep (in two naps)

12-18 months: 11-12 hours nighttime sleep + 1.5-3 hours daytime sleep (in one or two naps)

18-36 months: 11-12 hours nighttime sleep + 1.5-3 hours daytime sleep (in one nap)

How To Create A Sleep Friendly Nursery

Every baby is different, but there are definitely some ways to maximize your chances of catching some z’s. Give yourself and baby some much-needed snoozetime with these easy tips.

Clear the Clutter
Make sure the nursery is designated as a room for sleep. Keep the area around the crib free of toys and other fun knickknacks. “Crib distractions confuse your baby,” says Conner Herman, our sleep expert. “They’ll make him wonder, ‘Is this a playpen, or is it time to sleep?'” Clearing the space will help your baby mentally associate the bedroom with sleeping and other rooms with playing. “Babies can’t understand you verbally,” reminds Herman. “You need to figure out how to give them other cues.”

Start Separating
Though it may go against your natural instinct, Kira Ryan, another sleep expert of ours, recommends putting baby in her own room for at least one nap a day from the start. “This gets her acclimated to her room, so when it’s time to move in there, it’s not a total change.” A daily solo nap also helps baby and you get used to being apart — these little breaks may be tough, but they’re healthy and necessary. Even if baby sleeps in your room, Herman recommends putting up a screen or partition for a little separation. “If baby wakes up during the night and sees you, it’s easy for him to rely on you to fall back asleep.” And you’ll all be happy later if baby’s able to put himself back to bed.

Stay Cool
Baby sleeps best when the temperature is consistent and cool. “Most moms actually keep the nursery too warm,” says Ryan. Try to keep the room temperature between 68 and 72 degrees. Putting your crib in the right spot is also essential. “Pick a location that isn’t in the direct pathway of your air conditioning or heating vents,” says Herman. Sudden temperature changes will startle and disturb baby. Also, keep the crib away from windows to protect baby from drafts and outside noise.

Dim the Lights
Forget the nightlights — babies aren’t likely to fear the dark until at least 18 months. In fact, cut out all the extra light you can. “On a scale of one to five, five being pitch black, your baby’s room should be a four,” says Herman. Get yourself an extra hour of sleep by putting vinyl blackout curtains behind decorative drapes. Light signals daytime to baby, so blocking out the sun will help keep her snoozin’. Also, scan the room for anything shiny. A CD player, baby monitor, or flashing toy could catch baby’s eye and wake him up, so cover these objects or turn them around. If baby’s a nighttime nurser, attach a dimmer switch to a lamp and turn it on and off slowly for nighttime feedings.

Soothe with Sound
What baby hears (or doesn’t) is just as important as what she does or doesn’t see. Pick up a white noise machine to cancel out house noise, cars, and other distracting sounds; leave it on all night. Baby will begin to associate the constant and consistent sound with sleep. Some noise machines have lullaby, ocean, or other sound options, but simple white noise is fine — it’ll bring baby back to being in the womb, and really, what’s more soothing than memories of mommy’s belly? Look for a portable machine so you’ll be able to recreate the sounds of the nursery while you’re away from home.

When To Stop Swaddling?

(Excerpted from The Dream Sleeper with permission from Jossey-Bass.)

The optimal time to stop swaddling is between two months and four months of age. At this point the Moro reflex (newborns’ instinctive startle) has started to wane. Keeping a child swaddled much beyond this age can be uncomfortable and may affect physical development.

When parents stop swaddling their children, they’re often astonished to see how much they travel around their crib while they sleep. They move and flop from one end to the other several times a night. Babies may look peaceful when they sleep, but don’t be fooled: they’re actually doing important exercise while they slumber.

By the time babies reach four months, they will benefit from the freedom to move at night. It may not be something they immediately embrace, but all that nighttime movement helps their gross motor development. This is crucial for upcoming milestones like crawling, standing, and walking.

Never try to teach your baby to sleep while swaddled. It inhibits their self-soothing ability and makes it harder for a baby to learn.