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Help Your Baby Sleep Better with these 10 Easy Fixes!
Are you making these common baby sleep mistakes?
If you are, you may be unknowingly sabotaging your baby’s sleep.
In this post, I am going to help you troubleshoot some possible reasons for YOUR baby’s sleep problems.
Sleep Deprivation Hurts the Whole Family
Having a baby that doesn’t sleep well is probably the greatest new parent challenge!
When baby isn’t sleeping, parents don’t sleep.
Speaking of sleep deprivation…
If you have a newborn, then you really need to establish some postpartum sleep strategies to avoid being sleep-deprived!
This postpartum sleep resource is full of tips and ideas to help you (and your partner) maximize your sleep during those early weeks with your newborn!
Sleep deprivation can be a major contributor to many other family problems including:
- relationship challenges
- missing work
- and much more!
Does this sound familiar?
But here’s the Good News…
Many of these sleep mistakes are “easy fixes”!
As an overnight postpartum doula, I have observed several common baby sleep mistakes that new parents make.
Here are the most common new parent and baby sleep mistakes along with my quick tips for fixing them!
10 Most Common New Parent Baby Sleep Mistakes + FIXES!
Not all of baby’s sleep problems are easy fixes, but many are!
If you have a baby that is extremely fussy or not sleeping, make sure that you talk with your baby’s doctor to rule out any serious health problems.
If there is nothing concerning, then you may be making some common new parent mistakes.
Check out these common baby sleep mistakes that new parents often make to get some sleep help.
Some of these baby sleep mistakes are easy to fix while others may be more challenging or require a greater commitment to overcome.
If you recognize that you are making any of these common baby sleep mistakes with your newborn, try to fix them as soon as possible.
I am quite sure that you will see dramatic improvements if you do!
*Disclaimer – The information in the post is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be medical advice. Please make sure that you talk with your baby’s doctor if she seems to be crying excessively or not sleeping well. Always check with your health care practitioner before giving your baby supplements, medications or remedies.
Mistake #1 – Missing Baby’s Sleep Cues!
An overtired baby is a baby that doesn’t sleep well!
Most parents are.
The truth is that many babies simply do NOT get enough sleep!
Here is the most common reason for this…
The baby is often in an overtired and/or overstimulated state. When this happens, your baby’s body begins to release anti-sleep hormones that actually interfere with sleep!
Even if your baby DOES fall asleep, he is likely to wake too early since he is unable to remain asleep for long!
Usually the reason for this is that the new parents have been missing their baby’s sleep cues.
A young baby should not have long periods of wake time during the day.
At a certain point, all babies begin to get tired.
At this point, they begin sending out subtle cues that they need to sleep.
Being able to recognize your baby’s unique sleep cues can really make a huge difference in how your baby sleeps (or doesn’t sleep!)
If you are able to recognize and respond quickly to these cues, you can save yourself and your baby hours of crying and fussing!
Read this post for a more in-depth discussion on baby sleep cues and how to fix one of the most common baby sleep mistakes!
Baby Sleep Mistake #2 – Not Using a Sound Machine!
Here’s one of the easiest baby sleep mistakes to fix:
Get and use a sound machine!
A sound machine is a very easy way to help your baby sleep better day or night!
I absolutely love them!
This is my favorite sound machine because it is small, portable and works as well as a larger, more expensive sound machine!
If you are not using a sound machine or a white noise app, start today!
There are so many reasons why they help with sleep…
First of all, newborns love them!
Awesome little sound machine!!!
Why is a sound machine important?
Because it reminds them of the sounds in the womb and that really comforts them.
Sound machines also serve to neutralize all the noises in your home.
Let’s face it…
it’s impossible to keep your house quiet ALL the time.
You don’t want to be tip-toeing around all day trying not to wake your sleeping baby.
Sudden noises can startle your baby awake, especially when they are in a lighter sleep state.
You want your baby to cycle back into a deeper sleep state for longer naps and sleep stretches.
A sound machine helps babies to self-sooth and eases sleep transitions. (see mistake #9)
Another great reason why I love sound machines is that they really help with your baby’s sleep associations.
Use them as part of your sleep routine and your baby will quickly learn that this sound means sleep!
Having a sound machine running in your baby’s room also makes it much easier to check on her as she sleeps without startling her awake!
Don’t be afraid to turn up the volume on the sound machine!
Most parents are afraid to have the sound too loud, but the truth is, the noise that your baby heard in the womb was similar to the sound of a vacuum cleaner!
Babies like a loud shushing sound.
A loud shushing sound is one of the 5’S that actually helps trigger baby’s calming reflex.
According to Dr. Harvey Karp, author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, a safe volume for baby is around 65-70 decibels, which is the sound of a running shower.
Studies show that intrauterine volumes reach 72-88 decibels. (source)
Turn up that sound machine, Mama!
Mistake #3- Too Much Stimulation!
Is your TV always on?
Do you have lots of loud conversations or noise going on throughout the day?
Are you taking your baby out in public frequently?
Do you have a lot of company?
All these things can cause a baby to become overstimulated, which adversely affects his sleep.
Some babies are just more sensitive to stimulus as well!
Babies like calm and boring.
This is not always easy in our fast-paced lives.
But, if you have a baby that is often fussy and not sleeping, you may need to consider how to slow down and quiet his environment.
There are some things you can do to help reduce all the stimulus that may be affecting your baby’s sleep.
Turn down the lights and turn off the TV for starters.
Did you know that red light has a calming effect on sleep? Studies show that red light does not interfere with melatonin levels. I love this cute little red bear night light… another client favorite!
Check out my entire post about how to prevent and help babies that are overtired or overstimulated.
“gummy bear” squeezable night light reduces stimulation!
Baby Sleep Mistake #4- Not Swaddling Properly!
One of the easiest baby sleep mistakes to fix is proper swaddling.
The most common mistake that new parents make is not getting the swaddle tight enough!
Many parents tell me, “my baby hates the swaddle.”
The truth is that pretty much every baby complains while you swaddle them, but once inside a nice snug swaddle, babies quickly settle and calm down.
But the secret here is a nice. tight. swaddle.
…One that your baby can’t bust out of!
Most parents are afraid of this, but trust me, your baby will love it!
When the swaddle is too loose, baby manages to get her hands free or the swaddle starts to ride up over her face.
This scares parents and they often abandon the swaddle altogether.
While this is certainly understandable, here’s an easy solution…
Take the time to learn how to swaddle properly.
Since it’s really hard to get a blanket swaddle tight enough, I recommend a swaddle sack that is designed for easy use!
If you want a swaddle that is affordable and hard to mess up, I’d recommend this Woombie Swaddle.
Taking into account affordability as well as ease of use, it ranks #2 on my short list of my favorite newborn swaddles!
But, make sure that you get the right size!
Find out more about swaddling here.
favorite Velcro-free newborn swaddle!
Mistake #5- Not Feeding Enough During the Day!
Many new parents allow their babies to sleep really long stretches during the day without a feeding.
This is a sleep mistake and here’s why…
If your baby does not eat at least every 3 hours during the day, he will wake more often to eat at night!
Make sure that your baby eats every 2-3 hours during the day!
In the first 2 weeks, especially, you may even need to wake your newborn to eat since it is recommended that newborns eat every 2-3 hours during the day to regain normal lost weight since birth.
Even with older babies and “on demand” night feedings, It is still recommended to feed your baby at least every 3 hours during the day to help him sleep longer stretches at night!
Why are daytime feedings so important?
Your baby needs a certain amount of calories in a 24-hour period.
If she doesn’t get those calories during the day… guess what?
…she will wake more often at night to get them!
See more about that in this post.
Of all the baby sleep mistakes that new parents make, this one may have the biggest impact on night wakings!
If you are busy running errands or gone a lot during the day, your baby may simply be needing more calories, causing him to wake more often to eat at night!
Slow down your pace of life, if needed, to allow your baby to get in those necessary daytime feedings (and naps).
Don’t be afraid to wake your baby to eat during the day, either!
Cluster feeding is another newborn behavior that can really help improve night sleep.
If your baby seems to eat constantly during the late afternoon or evening hours, this is perfectly normal behavior and good for sleep! Learn more in this post.
Related: Overtired Baby or Colic?
Mistake #6- Not Napping Enough During the Day!
Most babies are awake too long between naps and awake too much during the day!!
This is often a surprise for new parents since new parents are often told to NOT let their baby sleep too much during the day.
This is a myth and can actually backfire, making night sleep more challenging!
The truth is that a baby that naps better during the day also sleeps better at night!
That’s because new parents often confuse the advice.
Here’s the REAL scoop….
The key is that the baby has enough feedings during the day.
As long as he eats every 2-3 hours during the day, he can sleep as much as he wants in between feedings!
A baby that gets plenty of naps during the day is much better rested and this usually prevents the dreaded “witching hour” or “5 to 9 Whine” as I prefer to call it.
Learn more about preventing an over-tired baby in this post.
A good general rule of thumb is what I call the 60-90 minute rule.
This simply means that once your baby has been awake for 60 minutes (up to 90 for slightly older babies) they are ready for a nap again.
This time frame varies but learn to watch for your baby’s “sleep cues”and begin their nap time routine ASAP!
If you wait too long, your baby will enter quickly into an over-tired state.
Try to figure out their ideal wake window.
Keep in mind that the younger the baby, the shorter his wake window will be.
A newborn, for example, will need to nap again 30-45 minutes after waking! By 6-9 months, it can be up to 90 minutes.
Not catching your baby’s sleep cues is one of the biggest baby sleep mistakes and fixing this can be a real “game changer” for new parents!
Mistake #7- Not Establishing a Sleep Routine!
One of the easier baby sleep mistakes to fix is getting a sleep routine.
Even if your baby is a newborn, it’s not too early to begin establishing a sleep routine.
Once mom is recovered from childbirth, I recommend starting a very simple sleep routine to help your baby begin forming sleep associations.
Keep the routine simple!
Why a Simple Bedtime Routine?
Babies and children do love routine.
If you have a long, complicated bedtime or nap routine that is not sustainable, you will probably be less consistent with it.
Not only that, but your baby does begin to form sleep associations early on.
Do you really want your baby to become dependent on a two-hour-long sleep routine that includes a nightly bath, stories, singing, rocking 20 minutes, etc….
Although these things are really nice and comforting, many parents grow to regret long sleep routines.
What is a good, simple sleep routine?
Here’s more help for you…
I have written much more about how to establish a simple bedtime routine (as well as many other great sleep strategies) in this eBook on newborn sleep during the 4th trimester.
Learn more HERE.
Mistake #8- Bedtime is Too Late!
Babies need early bedtimes!
Many parents make the mistake of thinking that if they put their baby to bed too early, then they will wake too early.
The truth is that many babies will wake up early no matter what!
Keeping them awake too late will only make them over-tired.
This actually causes their bodies to produce adrenaline and cortisol instead of melatonin!
With too much adrenaline and cortisol in their systems, they simply cannot fall asleep or stay asleep for long.
Sleep experts agree that it is very important to establish early bedtimes for young babies (and children).
Fortunately, one of the most common baby sleep mistakes is easily fixed: Watch for your baby’s sleep cues and get them to bed early!
What is a good bedtime for babies?
Most newborns have a bedtime of approximately 9 pm at first, but parents should gradually work towards a bedtime of 6-8 pm by 2 months of age.
If your baby has been awake for a while (see the recommended “wake window” in mistake #5) then it is time for baby to go to bed.
Watch for those sleep cues and be ready to get them quickly to bed when you see them!
Mistake #9 – Not Allowing Your Baby to Cycle Through Sleep States!
Baby sleep cycles are very different than adult sleep cycles.
It takes a baby about 20 minutes to get into a deep sleep state.
They only remain in that deeper sleep state for about 20-25 minutes. After that, they cycle back into a lighter (REM) sleep state again.
In fact, babies spend about 50% of their sleep in this lighter sleep state!
This is a survival mechanism which protects them from going too long without eating!
REM sleep is also the sleep that babies need for their rapidly growing brains.
As they cycle through a lighter sleep state, they often squirm, squeak, make noises and even cry out.
But this does NOT necessarily mean that they are waking up!
Are you picking up your baby too soon?
A common new parent mistake is picking up your baby too soon or not allowing her to go back to sleep when she really needs to do so.
If your baby has only slept 45 minutes and has recently eaten, she probably needs to sleep more.
A more ideal nap for a baby would be about 1-1/2 hours or two full sleep cycles.
Instead of picking her up, try rocking her if she’s in a cradle, placing your hand on her chest and saying “shhhhhhhh”, offering her a pacifier, or other soothing methods to encourage her back to sleep.
If you are interested in learning more about baby sleep cycles and tips for helping your newborn sleep better, download my eBook.
It is very inexpensive and packed with these and many other great new parent sleep tips!
Mistake #10 – Not Sleeping Baby on a Firm, Flat Surface!
Of all the new parent baby sleep mistakes, this one may be the most challenging to fix.
That’s because there are so many adorable and cozy baby products that do really help your newborn to sleep in the short term!
The problem with them is that they are not safe or sustainable for long-term use.
To reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that parents place babies on their backs on a firm, flat sleep surface for EVERY sleep.
It also encourages parents not to let babies sleep in “sitting devices” or containers (strollers, car seats, swings, slings, etc.) and advises that sleeping babies be moved from these devices to a flat surface as soon as possible.
While it is very common for new parents to use inclined sleeping seats during the early months, it is not a good idea for extended sleep.
If your baby will only sleep in rockers, swings, car seats, or other inclined infant seats, it’s important to make it your goal to transition them away from them as soon as possible.
Ideally, it’s a good goal to work towards your baby sleeping on a firm, flat surface by the age of 2 months, if not sooner.
Reasons to Avoid Inclined Sleep
There are many reasons for this, but a big reason is developmental.
Many babies are being diagnosed with head and neck conditions that are believed to be a result of back sleep.
However, many pediatricians and pediatric occupational therapists now suggest that infant seats may increase the risk of these conditions. Read one pediatrician’s letter here.
Additionally, infants that spend a lot of time in inclined seats, often have delayed developmental and motor skills.
This is because babies who spend many hours a day in these devices, are not free to move and develop upper body strength.
This is why tummy time is so very important too!
Another HUGE reason for NOT allowing babies to sleep in this inclined position is breathing.
The semi-reclined sleep position can compromise baby’s airway and restrict breathing.
Many of these infant positioners also include fluffy pillows and headrests, which increase the risk of SIDS.
A Word About Night Feedings
Keep in mind that newborns need to eat often.
This means that you can EXPECT to feed your newborn once or twice during the overnight hours.
Remember that newborns don’t usually sleep through the night!
There are rare exceptions to this and some parents do get lucky, but this is not normal.
A baby that wakes at night to feed IS normal and good!
If you would like tips for surviving middle-of-the-night feedings, check out this post.
I also have suggestions for new parents on how to avoid sleep deprivation and get better sleep with a newborn in this post.
In addition, I have written a very affordable eBook on the subject of new parent sleep with a newborn. It’s available on Amazon here!
If you liked the tips and tricks in this post, there are many more in my eBook!
Please see more details about the eBook below!
Related: 30 Sleep Hacks for New Parents!
30 Sleep Tips for New Parents!
Having a newborn is hard!
The greatest challenge for most new parents is loss of sleep. How can you get more sleep with your newborn?
It is possible!
But… you need a strategy.
My new eBook shows you and your partner how to make a game plan.
This is NOT your average book on baby sleep, but an easy step-by-step, hands-on survival guide for new parents!
I teach new parents how to maximize their sleep during the postpartum period.
I have compiled all my favorite doula tips into a very practical and useful book on sleep for new parents.
It’s called 30 Sleep Hacks for New Parents: A Sleep Survival Guide for Parents of Newborns.
This quick read is a very affordable eBook that will be a game changer for your family!