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Dr. Harvey Karp’s Best Baby Sleep Advice

By Lindsay Pinchuk

I’m Dr. Harvey Karp and my goal is to help every baby sleep better and thrive from the health benefits good sleep provides. That, in turn, helps new parents get the rest they so desperately need and deserve. Here are five essential baby sleep steps you can take to set your baby on the right path to be a great sleeper for years to come!
Baby Sleep Tip #1: Learn How to Calm Your Baby
Many new parents don’t know their baby is born with a reflex that helps her stop fussing, a.k.a. the calming reflex. I stumbled upon this fact in the 1990’s while working with hundreds of crying infants in my pediatric practice. I noticed that rocking and shushing failed to soothe crying unless done in very specific ways. Just as the knee reflex is triggered by a precise whack of a hammer, the calming reflex is triggered by very particular sensations that mimic the rhythms of the womb. To help parents remember exactly what to do, I developed a simple method called the 5 S’s, which consists of swaddling, side/stomach position (only when in a parents’ arms), shushing (strong white noise), swinging (rocking/jiggling) and sucking.
Baby Sleep Tip #2: Avoid Complete Silence (and Stillness) for Better Baby Sleep
Most modern moms and dads sleep their babies in flat, still beds. But studies show that babies sleep better with low, rumbly white noise and little swaying motions. (You guessed it! These actions turn on the calming reflex described in tip #1!) Happiest Baby used this insight to create SNOO, the safest, smartest, most effective sleeper ever made. SNOO rocks and shushes a baby all night long…and responds to fussing with increased calming sound and motion. Consistently using the right sleep cues go a long way to establishing healthy sleep habits for your little one.
Baby Sleep Tip #3 Create a Safe Sleeping Environment for Your Baby
I can’t give parents sleep tips without devoting time to basic sleep safety. A staggering 3,500 infants die unexpectedly in their sleep each year in the U.S. So, there’s nothing more important than creating a safe sleep environment for your baby. To lower your baby’s risks as much as possible, be sure to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines: Your baby should always sleep on the back, never sleep seated (in a swing, car seat, rock n play) and be unswaddled as soon as the baby starts to roll over. (FYI, SNOO keeps all babies safely on the back – all night long. And it is the only bed that meets the AAP safe sleep recommendations.)
Baby Sleep Tip #4: Always Wake Your Baby for Better Sleep
When I tell parents that it’s smart to wake their sleeping baby, they look at me like I’m crazy. But if you do wake your baby—a tiny bit—by jostling her when you place her down to sleep (the “wake and sleep” method), you are actually giving her the opportunity to learn to self-soothe, i.e. learn to fall asleep on her own, without your help. Plus, using “wake and sleep” from day one may allow you to avoid using the “cry it out” method of sleep training (which many parents dread but use anyway, because they’re unaware of this gentle alternative.)
Baby Sleep Tip #5: Fill Your Baby’s Belly for Longer Sleep at Night
In the womb, babies feed every second! No wonder they need frequent feeds to sustain growth! During the first few months, feed your hungry friend every 1.5-2 hours during the day. That should keep his tummy pretty full and give you longer naps. You can also try a “dream feed” around midnight to “top off his tank” and help him sleep through the wee hours.
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