Parents will often feel instant and overwhelming love as they hold their newborn son or daughter for the very first time. They may marvel at the tiny eyes and nose and the miniature hands and feet and contentedly hold and snuggle the warm bundle for hours on end. Soothing, feeding, and changing the baby may be a little awkward and intimidating at first, but with time they will come to get the hang of it.
Fast forward a few weeks, and they’re now experts as they’ve held, soothed, fed, and changed their newborn seemingly nonstop 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
Now, although they desperately love their child, they may think with a bit of sadness about how much they also love (and miss) sleep. They may begin to ask how to keep baby awake more during the day in hopes of finally getting just one relaxing night.
A Baby’s Needs
Unfortunately, babies under the age of two months have a schedule that revolves almost entirely around their need to eat. They may nurse as often as every two hours when breastfed or last a bit longer between feedings when given formula.
Although newborn babies sleep as many as 18 hours in total, for several hours at a time, they cannot differentiate day from night, and their need for nutrition will not change once the sun goes down.
For optimal development they need a lot of sleep and frequent feedings; there is not much advice experts can provide during this stage other than that it won’t last forever.
As your baby grows so will his or her stomach capacity, and therefore that full feeling will continue for longer. Trying to keep a baby awake during this stage is not recommended.
By 3 to 4 months of age, babies begin to sleep for five-hour stretches, but again, regulation of a schedule will be complicated. However, by six months, babies typically start a pattern of twice a day naps, and most have the physical ability to sleep through a night. Strategies such as limiting naps, so they are a total of two to three hours may help encourage more nighttime rest.
However, also keep in mind the concept of overtired babies who do not get enough sleep and are so exhausted that they cannot relax because of it.
This is a strange concept for new parents. But, with babies, a lot of sleep often gets you yet more sleep, not the other way around. Keeping a baby up for too long can, in fact, backfire instead of ensuring deep slumber.
It is difficult for a parent to know if sleeping problems at night are due to a baby not being tired enough or being too tired; gradual adjustment of a nap schedule should help find the right balance.
How to Keep Baby Awake and Will it Help at Night?
Once a little one is developmentally ready, parents can start to establish routines that encourage more wakefulness during the day and rest at night.
Keep rooms brightly lit during active hours and make things more mellow and soft around naps and sleep time to assist in this process.
Feeding babies unswaddled during the day and then bundling them snuggly at night can also help prepare them for longer sleep later.
Some parents find that feeding a baby upon waking during the day instead of before naptime helps them drink more as they have more energy and therefore, that they last longer before needing more. Following this by play and then a nap without another feeding will also encourage them to sleep less as they will again become hungry.
The one feeding that takes place right before sleep should be at bedtime; this will naturally comfort and lull babies to sleep as well as fill their tummies up, so they hopefully last through the night.
Just as important as setting a routine with nap times is also having set methods at bedtime. Do not overstimulate a little one right before bed or it may be harder for him or her to relax. A nice warm bath, snuggles, singing, or reading a book can help ease a baby to sleep.
When the baby wakes in the night, do not turn on a bright light or make loud noises. Care for the little one in dim surroundings using a quiet voice.
Baby Knows Best
Although exhausting, there is little that can be done to alter a newborn’s sleep schedule. Until they are developmentally ready, babies may have no set pattern to their rest. However, when babies are older parents can try to limit naps and stimulate them during the day so that they begin to sleep deeper for longer at night.