Most parents know good rest is as vital as good nutrition for the health of their newborns — even if they can only dream about getting a good night’s sleep themselves.

Most parents know good rest is as vital as good nutrition for the health of their newborns — even if they can only dream about getting a good night’s sleep themselves.

Women’s health nurse practitioner and author Barbara Dehn offers a few tips to help mothers get through the restless newborn nights and ease into a better bedtime routine.

“On average, an infant can sleep a total of 16 to 18 hours over the course of a 24-hour period,” Dehn said. “During this time, a baby’s body is growing and developing at rapid speed, while adjusting to a natural sleep cycle. Parents can help support their baby’s natural sleep patterns with a few simple changes to their routine.”

Dehn suggests you support your baby’s natural sleep patterns with these few tips:


“One of the first things I always tell new moms is to lose the guilt,” she says.

It’s inevitable for new parents to feel nervous, unsure and often guilty when caring for their infant — especially when it comes to sleep. Moms and dads should go with their gut feeling on all fronts and follow their infant’s lead. If your newborn tends to fall asleep in his swing or rocker, go with it. Not allowing yourself to feel guilty during the first few months will only help your baby acclimate to a schedule. Typically, confidence and a bit of relaxation will follow.

Establish a feeding schedule

Moms can maintain their baby’s natural sleep patterns and overall health with a proper feeding schedule. By establishing both day and night feeding routines that follow your infant’s natural hunger cues, you are helping your baby receive the nourishment that will support growth and development.

Turn the TV off

“I’m often telling new moms to turn off the TV,” Dehn says. Feeding time is often a good opportunity for mom to kick up her feet and unwind. Use this time to connect with your baby and avoid your regular relaxation routine like flipping on the TV. The light and noise can distract your newborn and interrupt his or her eating.

Be flexible with baths

Bath time does not always need to take place before bedtime. Some infants are extremely agitated from a bath, regardless of the calming scents, soft sounds and soothing touch you use. If you notice your baby is relaxed and calm without a bath before bedtime, go with it.

Changing the bath-time routine can make the overall experience more enjoyable for both mom and baby. This can also help your newborn develop daytime and nighttime routines.

Stay safe

Keep safety top of mind. As a new parent, keeping your newborn safe and healthy is extremely important. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other experts recommend that caregivers place babies on their backs to sleep — for naps and at nights. Placing an infant on his back to sleep is the most important step to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome in a natural and effective way.


Did You Know?

More than half the hospitalizations from H1N1 flu reported by 27 states from Sept. 1 to Oct. 10th were people age 24 and younger. –

Number to Know: 2.6 hours

The median time patients spend in the emergency department, according to National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2006 Emergency Department Summary.