As a new parent, you are probably bracing yourself for sleepless nights ahead. Oh, they’re there. I can’t get you out of that one. Your baby is not going to sleep through the night on Day 1. Or Day 7. Or Day 64. You may already be thinking about sleep training even if it feels like a long way off.
Having a routine is essential to sleep training at any age but the sooner you can implement it, the easier it will be as children get older.
This sleep training guide will help your newborn baby identify the difference between daytime and night time.
It will lay the foundation for stricter sleep training at a later age.
It will put the control back into your hands by helping you predict what your baby needs and recognizing the reason why they are crying.
* This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust. ** Furthermore, I am not a sleep training expert, just a mother who’s been there and lived to tell the tale.
SLEEP TRAINING IN THE MORNING
Open the curtains
Let as much sunlight into your home as possible or sit by a sunny window. The point is to associate “daytime ” with brightness and noise.
Skin to skin contact
Strip baby down to a diaper and lay them on your bare chest or cuddle next to them in bed.
Another great option for skin to skin contact is to carry them around in a wrap-style baby carrier while shirtless.
Give baby a really good feeding
If you’re breastfeeding, now is the time to work on perfecting that latch. Try out different breastfeeding positions, make lots of eye contact, stroke your baby’s skin and talk to them. Keep them undressed and try not to let them fall asleep during the feed. Check out my post on breast compression for more tips!
Get a good burp
Different methods work for different kids but this is so, SO important. Try gentle bouncing or laying them on their tummy across your arm or leg instead of patting their back. The number one reason why newborn babies cry after a feeding is because of gas. Often, babies will put their hands to their mouths or seem to root around when they need to burp which can be confusing if baby just finished nursing.
Get a good poop
This will usually happen on it’s own, so it’s really just a waiting game. You can try “pumping” their legs or holding them in a “sitting position” to get things moving.
Talk or sing to baby, have tummy time and lots of skin to skin contact – you want the environment to be stimulating and playful but not over stimulating, so watch for cues that baby is done with a certain activity. (This proves more difficult than it sounds because many newborns and young babies spend more time sleeping than anything else!)
Watch for signs of sleepiness
Eyelids will droop, they may stare off in one direction or may start to get fussy.
Put them to sleep in their crib (or wherever you want them to normally sleep).
It may be tempting to hold and rock that baby for the next 2 hours but the sooner you can get them accustomed to sleeping in their own bed, the better (don’t worry, you can get in lots of cuddles during “playtime”).
If they cry when you put them down, you can try feeding or burping them again but you don’t want baby to fall asleep too heavily, the idea is to put baby down when they are sleepy but not actually asleep. This habit is important for sleep training at a later age so it’s a good idea to do this as often as possible with your newborn because they don’t usually object to it at this age.
SLEEP TRAINING DURING NAPTIME
Keep the curtains open
Daytime sleep needs to be different from night time sleep, so keep the room bright.
Play music in the background or open a window to let in street noise. If you have older children, don’t shush them while baby naps. Basically, go about your regular every day activities. This will teach baby to nap despite life happening around them.
Wake baby up after 2 hours
… and start over again. It might sound cruel to wake up a sleeping baby but wouldn’t you rather save that sleepiness for 3 am?
The goal throughout the day is to pump baby full of food and offer stimulation and attention.
SLEEP TRAINING AT BEDTIME
Make sure that baby has been up for at least 1 – 2 hours before bedtime
Even a 10 minute nap in the car can sustain a baby with enough energy to last all night. It will take some work to plan out baby’s nap times but it is much easier to put a sleep baby to bed than it is to wrestle with an energetic one.
You can try using aromatherapy to help calm babies down before bedtime. Although kid safe essential oils are not recommended to use on the skin under 2 years of age, you can use them in a diffuser!
Dim the lights
The wakeful period before bedtime should be focused on quiet and calm – different than the wakeful periods during the day. Close the curtains or install blackout blinds.
You still want to make sure baby gets a really good feed, burp and poop.
*Ahem* this is your life now…
Tone down the playtime
You can bathe and/or massage baby, but talk in soft voices and don’t offer too much stimulation or vigorous play.
The Johnson’s Baby website has some excellent tutorials and tips on baby massage.
Try NOT to feed baby right before bed
Aim for a 1/2 hour before bedtime so that they don’t fall asleep while nursing.
Initiate the “BEDTIME ROUTINE”
You will be performing this routine nearly every night for a long time, so decide now what it will include – a bedtime story or a lullaby? Nightlight? Sound machine?
Over the years the bedtime routine will evolve as your child grows. But it should always include a calming activity and something that is reserved specifically for bedtime so as to give your baby the bedtime signal.
Put baby to bed when you see the early signs of sleepiness
It’s worth repeating here – put baby down when they are sleepy but not actually asleep. The younger the baby, the more they are acting on instincts and as long as all of their needs are met, they shouldn’t protest when you put them down.
If baby cries when you put them down…
Try feeding or burping again until they get drowsy. If baby falls asleep while nursing, just try to get them into bed as soon as possible afterwards. Try your best to remain positive about the process, or baby will sense your anxiety.
Once baby is down for the night – DO NOT WAKE BABY UP TO EAT.
They will wake up on their own (because food > sleep). But hopefully they will sleep for longer than 2 hour intervals at night.
SLEEP TRAINING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT
If and when baby wakes up in the middle of the night…
Do not turn on any lights
Keep the room as dark and quiet as possible. A soft glow nightlight or mood light offers just enough lighting for you to see what you’re doing but the idea is to help baby associate night time with darkness and quiet.
Keep baby dressed
Save the skin to skin contact for the daytime. If you swaddle baby then it’s up to you whether or not to unswaddle them, but the idea is not to disturb or stimulate baby any more than necessary.
Because you’re pumping them full of milk during the day, you don’t need to worry about how much they’re getting in the middle of the night. This is a great time to use the breast compression technique while breastfeeding. Most likely, baby will fall asleep during nursing.
Do not talk to or stimulate baby in any way
If you’re smooth enough – you might be able to convince baby that this is just a dream and that they aren’t really awake at all…
Only change a diaper if it’s poopy
If baby had enough poopy diapers during the day then the chances of a poopy diaper at night are slim (though they do happen). If you absolutely must change a diaper, use a warm wipe or washcloth and try to make it as quick as possible.
Get a good burp
but don’t try any fancy positions that might overstimulate baby unless they seem to be having a lot of trouble with gas.
Immediately return baby to crib
Don’t make a big deal out of night time wake ups, and if possible, try not to move baby out of their room.
Continue this routine for all night time feedings until morning and then begin the daytime routine all over again.
see part two of the running in triangles sleep training guide For more TIPS
Have you tried all these tips and your baby is STILL not sleeping through the night?
There could be something you’re missing. All babies are different, and there isn’t ONE plan that works for everyone. Don’t be afraid to seek help from an expert. Read my review of The Baby Sleep Site for more information.
For additional sleep training tips, check out this blog post by Taylor Jones from Dromma.