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How to Change a Newborn's Sleep Patterns

By Holly Case ; Updated June 13, 2017

Welcoming a new baby into your family is a joyful experience. In the early days, however, you will have many sleepless nights. The Kids Health website reports that newborns sleep an average of 16 hours a day. However, the challenging aspect of this fact is that the 16 hours are not consecutive and not necessarily at night. Many newborns have their days and nights reversed, wanting to be awake and active in the wee hours of the morning instead of sleeping during that time. With some effort and patience, you can change your baby's sleep patterns so that both you and your newborn will sleep more normal hours.

  1. Adjust your baby's days and nights, which are commonly reversed in newborns. According to pediatrician and author William Sears, creating a peaceful and restful daytime routine for your newborn will help your little one sleep better at night. Using Sears' theory, spend time holding and bonding with your baby during the day. Babies who spend time in someone's arms for several hours each day often settle more easily into sleep at night.

  2. Establish a bedtime routine. The Kids Health website recommends starting a bedtime routine as soon as your baby is born. A common routine is an evening feeding followed by a bath, story and cuddle. Put the newborn to bed in her crib while she is still awake. Even if your baby does not fall asleep immediately after going through this routine, she will get used to the pattern. Start a bedtime routine early and consistently follow it to help your baby sleep throughout childhood.

  3. Swaddle your baby to help him sleep, recommends pediatrician and author Harvey Karp, in his book and video both titled, "The Happiest Baby." Swaddling is a technique that dates back to Biblical times and involves wrapping babies in a receiving blanket. You tuck the baby's arms and legs inside the blanket. Wrap her tightly enough so that she cannot move easily. This holds the newborn's limbs in close to her body, comforting her because it resembles her position in the womb. Newborns also experience involuntary flailing of their arms while sleeping, and swaddling prevents them from being startled awake by these movements.

  4. Tip

    Keep the house busy and moderately noisy during the day so that it provides more of a contrast at night, when it becomes quieter and slower. Newborns do not need total silence to sleep.


    Never try to force a newborn to skip a nap in hopes that they will sleep better at night.

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