sleeping baby in crib

How to Establish a Healthy Sleep Routine for Your Newborn

Establishing a healthy sleep routine for your newborn can seem like an impossible task. From dealing with endless cycles of feedings to trying to learn which cues signal which basic needs, parenthood often becomes a sleepless world filled with confusion and frustration. This is completely normal, and although it doesn't feel like it, it will eventually end. To help you make the most of the process, here are some key elements to consider when creating a sleep routine for your baby.

How Much Sleep Do Babies Need?

Every baby is different, so their sleep needs will vary. As your baby grows, the amount of sleep they need decreases. Typically, normal sleep requirements by age are as follows:

  • Newborn babies (birth to three months): 16 to 20 hours per day
  • Infants (three months to one year): 13 to 17 hours per day
  • Toddlers (one to two years): 12 to 14 hours per day



Some children sleep through the night after just a few months, while others take much longer. Talk to your pediatrician if you're concerned about your baby's sleep patterns. And remember, although getting your baby on a sleep schedule is essential to their health and your sanity, ensuring they're getting enough is more important.

When to Create a Newborn Sleep Routines

Building good sleep habits can take time, but you shouldn't rush into it. During the first few weeks of your newborn's life, their naptime routines and nighttime sleep duration will be a bit unpredictable. Plus, you may need to wake your baby for feedings, which can disrupt premature sleep training. Instead, wait until your baby is at least four months old to try a baby sleep schedule. Your pediatrician will give you more information regarding whether your baby is ready to sleep train from a developmental standpoint.

13 Healthy Sleep Habits to Help Your Baby Establish a Sleep Schedule

Your baby may need an entirely different routine than your friend's baby or your nephew, and that's okay. Sleep schedules are never a one-size-fits-all approach, not even in adulthood. The important thing is that you help your baby sleep using a healthy, consistent approach that can be carried into the rest of their lives. Some tips for building your baby's sleep schedule include:

1. Implement a Newborn Sleep Schedule at the Right Time

As mentioned, starting a bedtime routine early in development isn't going to have many positive outcomes, so it's important to be patient. Many babies start to regulate their sleep and wake cycles around two to three months. Some may sleep longer than others, but patience is important, as good sleep habits don't happen overnight.

2. Know Your Baby's Sleep Cues

Keeping a sleep log can help you gain a better understanding of when your baby gets fussy or naps and when you put your baby to bed. It's also a good way to help you identify common sleep cues that tell you it's about time to go to sleep. In the log, you'll also want to track baby wake windows, which are the length of time that they go being truly awake or alert. This can make it easier to predict evening fussiness and get ahead of it with your baby's bedtime routine.

3. When Your Baby is Tired, Put Them to Bed

Understanding your baby's sleep cues allows you to master timing and more easily solidify a regular sleep schedule. The key is to put your newborn down when they're drowsy but still awake. This means your baby is tired enough to fall asleep but not too awake to depend on your help. Consequently, you'll want to avoid waiting until your baby is overtired, as this can be just as difficult as trying to put an energized one down.

4. Try Not to Let Your Baby Fall Asleep While Nursing

While it's common for babies to fall asleep while nursing, there are considerations to keep in mind. Newborns often find both comfort and bonding in nursing, in addition to the nutritional aspects. While allowing them to fall asleep can help promote feelings of security, it can lead to dependency. Additionally, babies who fall asleep while nursing might not be getting enough nutrients, which can cause them to wake up later and require more frequent feedings.

5. Avoid Nursing to Put Your Baby to Sleep

Additionally, try not to soothe your baby in the middle of the night by nursing. Unless it's time for a feeding, nursing strictly for the reason of getting your baby to sleep can worsen problems and make them more dependent in the future.

6. Give Your Baby Time to Self-Soothe

Allowing your baby to soothe themself back to sleep can be transformative for your nights, so try not to run into their room at the first sound. Babies can technically self-soothe around three months, so give them a few minutes before you check-in. When you do, try not to pick them up right away, as this can reinforce nighttime crying.

7. Help Establish a Sense of Day and Night

Newborns have no idea what the difference between day and night is. Their biological clocks aren't yet synced with the external world, so their circadian rhythm is underdeveloped. However, with a little help, you can strengthen your baby's circadian rhythm so they begin to develop a stronger sleep-wake cycle. Take them outside during the day for walks, dim the lights for naps, and try to help them associate cues for sleepiness and alertness. When they start to know day from night, it can help make bedtime routines easier.

8. Include Structure to Your Days

A consistent daytime routine also plays a role in regulating your baby's circadian rhythm. Newborns thrive on predictability, and having a structured daily schedule provides them with cues for when it's time to sleep and when it's time to be awake and alert. Implement regular feedings using a schedule, playtime, and nap times throughout the day to make it easier for your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep for longer stretches at night. Routine and structure help reduce fussiness and overstimulation, making daily care easier.

9. Create a Calming Sleep Environment

To help your newborn go to sleep and stay asleep for longer, try creating a sleep oasis. Dim the lights in the room, utilize blackout shades, and play some white noise. This can help create a relaxing environment that gets your baby to fall asleep faster.

10. Be Consistent with the Location

Babies can fall asleep anywhere but consistently still prevails. Try to put your newborn to sleep in their crib at the same time throughout the day and at night. This will help create a sense of familiarity and consistency while establishing a connection between the crib and sleep time. It can result in deeper sleep and might even help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

11. Establish a Bedtime Routine

Creating a routine is another way to help your baby easily drift off. Incorporating calming activities such as a warm bath, gentle massage, or quiet playtime to signal to your baby that bedtime is approaching. Follow this with a feeding session, whether breastfed or bottle-fed, to ensure your baby is well-nourished before sleep. You can add whatever you'd like to your routine, but consistency can help your baby pick up on cues that signal bedtime.

12. Practice Safe Sleeping Habits

Practicing safe sleeping habits is essential to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related incidents. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends following the ABCs of safe sleep:

  • A for alone
  • B for back
  • C for crib


Infants should always sleep alone, sleep on their back, and sleep in a crib or bassinet with a firm mattress and no loose bedding, pillows, or soft toys. Additionally, keeping your baby's sleep area clear of potential hazards, such as cords or curtains, and maintaining a comfortable room temperature (around 68-72°F) is recommended.

13. Be Flexible and Patient

Trying to establish a baby sleep routine while managing your own sleep deprivation can be challenging, but it's important to be patient. These things can take time, but as your baby gets older, you will find something that works.

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