How to Sleep Train a Newborn

Building good sleep habits as early as possible

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 and 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.

*I am not a sleep training expert, just a mother who’s been there and done that.

Sleep Training *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.


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  

Boba Wrap – Amazon.ca

Strip baby down to a diaper, lay them on your chest or you can carry them around in a wrap style baby carrier like the Boba Wrap (try it shirtless!).

Give baby a really good feeding

If you’re breastfeeding, now is the time to work on perfecting that latch.  Make lots of eye contact, talk to or stroke your baby’s skin.  Keep them undressed and try not to let them fall asleep during the feed.  Check out my post on breast compression for more tips!

How, When & Why to do Breast Compression

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.

Encourage playtime 

Skip Hop Tummy Time Mat – Amazon.ca

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)

Graco Maddox Crib – Amazon.ca

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 nighttime sleep, so keep the room bright.

Make noise

Sleep Training
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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 naptimes but it is much easier to put a sleep baby to bed than it is to wrestle with an energetic one.

Dim the lights

Gro Anywhere portable blackout blinds – Amazon.ca

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. (The Gro Anywhere portable blackout blinds attach to windows with suction cups!)

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.

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”

A bedtime classic – indigo.ca

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?  Saying goodnight to everything in their bedroom?

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.

Once baby is down for the night – DO NOT WAKE BABY UP TO EAT. 

They will wake up on their own (because food trumps sleep remember?)  But hopefully they will sleep for longer than 2 hour intervals at night.

SLEEP TRAINING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT

Do not turn on any lights

Amazon.ca

Keep the room as dark and quiet as possible.  A nightlight 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.

Feed baby

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

Prince Lionheart Wipe Warmer – Amazon.ca

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.


This is the routine that I used with all three of my kids when they were newborns (2 weeks old).  Having structure was as important for me as it was for them.  It allowed me to predict when my baby would be tired or hungry.  If they cried when I put them to sleep in their crib, I picked them up because I knew something was wrong.  They were either still hungry or had to burp or poop.  If it was not one of those reasons, then it meant they were sick or hot or cold or something else was bothering them.  Newborn babies always cry for a reason.  As the months went on, I developed a sense of confidence as a parent in knowing the reason WHY my baby was crying.  When they got older, it became easier to tell the difference between a “real” cry and a cry for attention.

HERE IS PART TWO:

 

Author: Vanessa Rapisarda

Stay at home mother of three, aspiring writer & parenting blogger