Sleeping patterns vary by child and evolve over the first year. Most newborns sleep for about 18 hours each day and are awake for short periods every 2 to 3 hours. By 3 months, most babies sleep up to 7 to 8 hours during the night. Some need more sleep than others.
You can help your baby—and yourself—sleep better. The goal is to help your baby learn self-comfort so they can get to sleep with little help from you.
Here are some tips for bedtime.
- Set up a soothing routine at night.
Give your baby a bath, sing lullabies, read a book, or tell a story. These activities can help your baby relax. They also signal that it's time to sleep. Don't get your baby excited with active play right before sleep.
- When your baby is getting sleepy, put them in their crib in a quiet, darkened room.
This will help your baby learn to go to sleep in the crib.
- Don't rock your baby to sleep.
Rock your baby, but lay them down to sleep while they're drowsy but still awake.
- Don't add cereal to your baby's bottle.
Adding cereal to a bottle won't make a baby sleep through the night. Babies don't need solid foods until they are about 6 months old. Some babies may be ready for solid foods at 4 or 5 months. Ask your doctor when you can start feeding your baby solid foods.
- Put your baby down for a nap as soon as your baby acts sleepy.
If your baby gets too tired, it may be hard for them to get to sleep.
- Until your baby's first birthday, remember to put your baby down to sleep on their back.
This helps prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- Try to feed your hungry newborn when they start to wake up and are still calm.
Hungry cries often start with a whimper and become louder and longer. If you respond before your newborn gets upset, your newborn will feed and go back to sleep easier.
- Keep the light off during nighttime feedings, and use a soft voice.
- Settle your baby down to sleep as quickly as possible if your baby isn't acting hungry during a nighttime feeding.
- If your baby doesn't settle down, check to see if your baby is hungry or needs a diaper change.
Feed or change your baby quietly. Keep the light low. Don't play with or sing to your baby. Put your baby back in the crib as soon as you can.
- Try to stay calm.
Young children are very sensitive to a parent's feelings of frustration.
- Be consistent.
If you change your plan for how to handle nighttime crying, make sure that other people who care for your baby agree with the plan.
Current as of: March 1, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Susan C. Kim MD - Pediatrics
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
John Pope MD - Pediatrics