Published June 16, 2011
New parents are obsessed with sleep—the lack of it and how to get more of it. If you’re a new mom or dad searching for a way to put your newborn on a nap schedule, here are some tips you can try.
- All babies are different. What works for one mom may not work for you. So, take any advice you get from well-meaning friends and relatives with that in mind.
- You know your baby best. Is she waking up because she’s hungry? Plan to feed her just before nap time, but know that baby’s tiny stomach can only hold so much formula, so she’s going to wake again next time she’s hungry. As she grows over the next weeks, her stomach capacity is growing too, so she’ll be able to sleep for longer periods at a stretch.
- It stands to reason that if you want baby to sleep through the night, keep her up more during the day. This works to a point. A very young newborn will sleep more than she’s awake. Slowly, this will even out and she will stay up more during daylight hours. For now, though, she doesn’t know the difference between day and night. She just wakes up when she’s hungry or wet or uncomfortable.
- Try to plan to put your baby down for naps at the same time each day. You’ll start to help her set a rhythm for sleeping and waking. While it’s not always going to be foolproof, you will get some satisfaction in knowing that you are creating a routine. Plan to feed and then freshly diaper your baby before her nap time. She’ll come to think of feeding time as a happy time right before she gets to drift off to sleep. Of course, as she grows older, she won’t need to sleep right after eating, but since babies eat every four hours or so, she’s going to need to sleep after many of her feedings.
- Baby’s room should be a comfortable temperature—not too hot or too cold. The lighting should be minimal so that her eyes don’t have to strain against a glaring lamp. Keep shades down if you can or close curtains. During the night, a nightlight is enough light for you to see in and baby will calm down with less distractions from lights. Try not to put an overhead fixture right over baby’s crib. Remember, baby will be lying on her back looking up, and you don’t want her staring into a light bulb.
- Always, always, always put your baby on her back to sleep. The SIDS Foundation (informing parents about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) recommends always putting your baby “Back to Sleep.” Unless your baby has a medical condition that you need to check with your pediatrician about or if she is a preemie, it’s generally agreed that face up is the way to place baby down for a nap.
- Remove all distractions and safety hazards from baby’s crib. Her crib should be a safe haven. No baby blankets or pillows should be used in a crib as they can cause suffocation. Baby doesn’t need them anyway. Dress baby in comfortable clothing that will not pinch or bind her so she can get a good rest.
- If baby is happily fed, diapered and dressed, and has a well-prepared crib to sleep in, there’s no reason you can’t start a nap schedule. Gradually, by putting her down to sleep at the same time every day (say 10am, 1pm, 4pm and so on) she’ll eventually get the hang of this sleeping thing.
- Recognize that baby is still going to get up during the night even if she has been awake during much of the day. Babies wake when they are hungry, wet, or uncomfortable. It’s not uncommon for a baby to wake several times during the night even if she’s had a few naps during the day.
- Each baby will determine her own sleeping schedule. Take comfort in the fact that eventually babies do sleep through the night, and you will once again know what a full night’s sleep feels like.