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First Night at Home

Adapted from Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night's Sleep by Dr. Jodi Mindell and from an article by the baby care experts at JOHNSON'S®.

When you welcome your newborn baby into your home, you'll discover that his sleeping patterns are very different from your own. Newborns sleep a lot -- in fact most sleep up to 16-18 hours a day - but never for more than three or four hours at a time. For the first few months, your baby will fall asleep and wake up at all hours of the day (and night!). Waking frequently is normal. During the first weeks, you should respond to your newborn quickly - in about 30 seconds to a minute. Most newborns are unable to settle themselves back down. Later, when your baby is older - approximately two to four months old - you can give him a chance to comfort himself.

Your newborn baby may awaken for many reasons, but most often because he is hungry or needs to be changed. As you get to know your baby, you'll know when and how quickly to respond. And you should respond quickly to a sudden change in your baby's established sleep pattern - it may signal illness, a hunger-inducing growth spurt or teething pain.

Every Baby Is Different
Learn your baby's signs of being sleepy. ?Many babies become fussy or cry when they get tired, while others will rub their eyes, pull on their ears, or even stare off into space. Put your baby down for bedtime or a nap when your baby first lets you know he is tired.

Back to Sleep
To lessen the chances of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) always put your baby down to sleep on his back, not his tummy. A baby should sleep on a firm mattress, with no fluffy or loose bedding, no stuffed animals and no pillow.

Distinguish Between Day and Night
Although your baby is highly unpredictable during the first few weeks, you can help him learn that nighttime is sleeptime and daytime is playtime. When your baby sleeps during the day, keep the lights on and keep sounds at normal levels. After diapering or feeding your baby, stimulate his interest by speaking to him warmly and expressively, moving his arms and legs, or showing him toys. At night, on the other hand, turn off the light or use a night-light, feed and diaper your baby as calmly and quietly as possible, and limit your interactions to holding him gently. Soon you will notice your baby's longest periods of sleep occur at night.

Establish a Bedtime Routine
Babies are comforted by routines. You may wish to establish a bedtime routine even at this tender age. For example, try regularly giving your newborn a warm bath, a feeding or a rocking session before bed. Also, a gentle, soothing massage can help to relax your newborn for easier sleep.

Catch Up on Your Sleep
Finally, use your baby's naptime as a time to catch up on sleep yourself. As tempting as it is to use naptime to get things done, you'll be able to cope better if you nap when your baby does.