When you first take your newborn baby home from the hospital, it will probably seem like all he does is eat, sleep, and poop. Newborns do require a lot of sleep. On average, most newborns sleep between 16-20 hours and this can be during the day or night. Remember that babies do not know the difference between night and day until they are taught. In the beginning, your baby should be sleeping no more thant 4-5 hours between feeds. Over the first few weeks of life, this will gradually change so that by 1-3 months of age your baby should be sleeping most of the night.
First and foremost, we want to stress the importance of the “Back to Sleep” idea. The AAP recommends that you put your baby to sleep on his back until the baby is old enough to turn himself over. Studies have shown that this will greatly reduce the number of cases of ‘sudden infant death syndrome’ or SIDS.
So how do you train a baby that nighttime is a time for sleeping? The first key is to keep the room fairly dark, and when you respond to your awakened baby, keep the room as dark and quiet as possible. Do not stimulate your baby by playing or turning on the light. This will only encourage him to wake up. Check the diaper by peeking in the side. If the diaper is not soiled and not completely wet, you may want to postpone changing the diaper until the next feeding. Of course, if your baby has a rash, always change the diaper to prevent worsening of the rash. Gradually, your baby will learn the difference between night and day.
So what should you do when your baby is sleeping through the night and begins waking up again at 6 months? This is a very common occurence and is a normal part of development. Babies may start waking up at night around 5-7 months of age. The best thing to do is try not to pick the baby up. Comfort by patting on the chest or back. Avoid too much talking and stimulation. Your baby needs to learn to comfort himself and return to sleep. Also, you may try waiting a couple of minutes before entering the room to see if your baby will soothe himself. Some parents choose to use a pacifier, which may help to comfort your baby. Read the section on pacifiers for our suggestions regarding this.