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I wasn’t yet a baby sleep consultant when my daughter was born. I was an excited new mom ready to care for my adorable newborn 24/7. Of course, I knew I would be “tired” in the first few weeks from breastfeeding on-demand, changing lots of diapers, and feeding my newborn at night. I had heard about colic and “the witching hour.” But I didn’t worry much because I knew it would all just work out.
Seven years and two kids later, I know it all works out. But, oh, Mama, the sleep tips and hacks I’ve learned since then have given me hours of extra sleep each night and saved my sanity.
I became a baby sleep consultant because overcoming sleep deprivation and postpartum depression with my first baby inspired me to help other exhausted moms. Over the years of helping thousands of families, I’ve discovered easy ways that parents can get as much sleep as possible with a newborn at home.
10 Tips for Helping Newborns Sleep Well
Here are my top 10 tips for helping newborns sleep well so tired parents can get the rest they need.
Tip #1: Swaddle your newborn for sleep.
My years as a neonatal nurse taught me that newborns sleep best in tight and cozy swaddles. That’s because a swaddle resembles the womb, which helps your baby feel safe and secure. It also dampens your baby’s startle reflex from waking them.
It can be tricky figuring out how to wrap your baby up like a burrito with a loose blanket. So save yourself the trouble and get a swaddle blanket that velcros or snaps closed (my favorite is the SwaddleMe). Swaddling your newborn for sleep can be the difference between them waking every 30 minutes all night or getting a stretch of a few hours! See our favorite swaddles.
Tip #2: Invest in a baby carrier.
There will be days when your baby only wants to sleep ON you. There’s nothing wrong with holding your newborn while they nap. But that’s not always possible with older children, a mound of laundry, and errands to be run. This is where a baby carrier comes in super handy.
Wearing my babies gave them the closeness they needed on fussy days when they wouldn’t nap without me. It also allowed me to get things done around the house (or go outside for a walk). Win-Win! There’s a reason my husband and I referred to our baby carrier as “The Tranquilizer.” It worked so well! Don’t skip investing in a good baby carrier (I love the Ergo).
Tip #3: Use white noise.
Your newborn has just spent nine months in the womb, which is a very noisy place!1 On days or nights when your baby is extra fussy or can’t seem to settle and fall asleep, crank up the white noise. The familiarity of this static noise has been proven to help babies fall asleep quicker.2
Tip #4: Get a Haakaa breast pump.
When I was pregnant with my second baby in 2019, all anyone would talk about was the Haakaa silicone breast pump. With good reason! This nifty gadget suctions onto one breast while your baby feeds on the other—no cords, buttons, or plugs to keep up with. Plop it on and get a few ounces of milk during each feed. I quickly built up a breastmilk stash that my husband could bottle feed our son with, so I could get a longer stretch of sleep.
Technically any breast pump could serve this purpose, but there’s just something so EASY about the Haakaa, which is precisely what exhausted newborn mamas need.
Tip #5: Start tummy time.
My mom is a real baby expert. She has raised 3 kids, 6 grandkids and worked at a daycare for many years. And she ALWAYS blames gas for baby’s sleep troubles. I remember us squabbling when my daughter was born (surely I knew more than my mom since I was a neonatal nurse!). Whenever my newborn fought sleep or woke early from a nap, my mom would say, “It’s probably gas….”
It turns out Grandma was right! I quickly learned that giving my baby a few minutes of tummy time morning and afternoon helped her pass gas more easily, which led to better sleep! Just 2-3 minutes, twice a day, is enough for your little one. (This works great for constipation too.)
Tip #6: Recruit help early on.
Having someone come over to help hold the baby during the first few weeks after your newborn arrives can be a real lifesaver. But I’ve found that sometimes you have to ask for help directly! I recommend organizing a calendar of visitors who can pop over for a few hours each day, starting from day one.
If your partner isn’t available, recruit grandparents, aunts, or your besties so you can sneak off for a cat nap knowing your baby is being cared for. It’s a given that you’ll be awake in the night feeding and caring for your little one, and a nap can help refresh your energy to get through night wakings.
Tip #7: Prevent day-night confusion.
I encourage parents to start this tip as soon as their baby is born. It’s an easy way to help babies start sleeping more at night and less during the day as soon as their body clock develops around 2-3 months old. The general rule is: keep daytime bright and busy and nighttime dark and quiet.
During the day, it’s okay for your newborn to nap in the bright living room. There is no need to silence your phone or hang a threatening note on your front door warning visitors not to ring the doorbell. (That day will come in a few months!) Instead, your newborn can nap with the curtains open and normal daytime noises. Most newborns sleep fine this way.
When nighttime comes, do the opposite. Keep your baby’s bedroom dark all night. Use a dim night light for diaper changes and keep night wakings boring. There is no need to play peek-a-boo at 3 a.m. or keep your baby’s mobile running all night. This helps your baby distinguish day from night and eventually leads to long stretches of sleep at night.
Tip #8: Sleep train your older kids before the new baby comes.
I get SO many messages from pregnant mamas frantic to sleep train their toddlers before the new baby arrives (in a week). The last thing they want is to be up all night with two little ones! Whether your two-year-old has recently started climbing into your bed or never got the hang of sleeping through the night—save yourself a little sanity and get them sleeping well before the new baby arrives. It’s the BEST gift you can give yourself.
Tip #9: Start a bedtime routine.
I know what you’re thinking: a bedtime routine so early? Yep! Bedtime routines have been proven to help babies fall asleep quicker and sleep longer stretches.3 They’re also a great way for parents to bond daily with their little ones.
Even if your newborn doesn’t go straight to sleep afterward (as they will when they’re a little older), it’s a nice way for parents to feel that the day is over. Queue up pajama time and Netflix in bed! Many newborns have their longest stretch of sleep after the bedtime routine. Short and simple works best with young babies. A warm bath, infant massage, pajamas, and a feed are all your little one needs at this age.
Tip #10: Sleep on your husband’s side of the bed.
Apparently, when you sleep on your husband’s side of the bed, it turns out that you can’t hear the baby crying!
Jokes aside, there is some truth to this, as a little extra distance between a breastfeeding mama and her newborn can sometimes lessen night wakings. The idea is that your newborn will wake when hungry, not just because they smell Mama’s milk. It’s worth a try!
There you have it! My top 10 tips for helping newborns get some sleep and mamas save some sanity. Make sure you give each tip a try. You never know which will become your top tip to share with other mamas-to-be!