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Baby care 101

  • Always put your baby to sleep on her back.
  • Give your baby some tummy time when she's awake.
  • Respond quickly to your crying baby, but don't shake her.
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Putting your baby to sleep

Newborns love their sleep! While you may not be getting enough sleep, your baby is getting lots of it. You can learn how to put your baby to sleep so that he’s safe.

How much sleep does your baby need?

Your new baby gets about 16 hours of sleep each day. Sleep is important for your baby’s health. Newborns usually sleep in 3- to 4-hour periods. Your baby needs to eat every few hours, which is why she doesn’t sleep for long periods of time. Your baby may get cranky or overtired if she doesn’t get enough sleep.

Don’t be surprised if your baby can only stay awake for an hour or two, before nodding off again. Over time, her body gets into a sleep pattern. She starts sleeping for longer stretches, even during the night.

If you’re worried about your baby’s sleep, call her health care provider.

Can a bedtime routine help your baby sleep?

Yes. Your baby’s sleep schedule changes over time, but sticking to a routine can make bedtime easier for the both of you.

Start setting a bedtime routine when your baby’s around 4 to 6 months old. These tips can help get your baby ready for bedtime:

  • Wind down any playtime fun.
  • Turn off the phone, television, etc.
  • Give him a warm bath.
  • Massage his body.
  • Stroke his back softly.
  • Offer him a pacifier to suck on.
  • Sing a lullaby or play soft music.
  • Read a bedtime story.

Stick to your baby’s sleep routine whenever possible. Plan ahead if your baby’s sleep routine may need a temporary change, like going out of town travel or attending family parties. Change his bed time the best you can, but try to get back to his schedule and routine as soon as possible.

How can you keep your baby safe when she sleeps?

Use these tips to help keep your baby safe during sleep.

Last reviewed March 2012

See also: Co-sleeping, Safe sleep for your baby, Sudden infant death syndrome

Why baby cries

  • She's hungry.
  • He has a dirty diaper.
  • She needs to be calmed.
  • He doesn’t feel well.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I soothe my baby if she has colic?

About 1 in 5 babies develops colic - usually between 1 and 4 months of age. They cry constantly, often extending or pulling up their legs or passing gas. Sometimes their tummies are enlarged with air and gas from crying. There's no one cause of colic, but there are many different ways to ease your baby's discomfort. One way is to walk her in a soft-sided baby carrier that you strap to the front of your body. You can also try laying her tummy-down across your knees and gently rubbing her back. The pressure against her tummy may relieve her discomfort. Breastfeeding moms can ask their baby's health care providers about a change in food choices or eliminating specific foods that may cause your baby's colic. Keep in mind that colic usually disappears by 4 months of age, no matter what treatments you try.


How should I take my baby’s temperature?

If your child is younger than 3 years, taking a rectal temperature gives the best reading. Here's how:

  • Clean the end of a digital thermometer with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Rinse it with cool water.
  • Put a small amount of petroleum jelly on the end.
  • Place your child belly down across your lap or on a firm surface. Put your palm against his lower back, just above his bottom. Or place your child face up and bend his legs to his chest. Rest your free hand against the back of the thighs.
  • With the other hand, turn the thermometer on and insert it 1/2 inch to 1 inch into the anal opening. Don’t insert it too far. Hold the thermometer in place loosely with two fingers, keeping your hand cupped around your child's bottom, until you hear the beep. Remove it and check reading.

What do I do if my baby is constipated?

Your baby's bowel moments depend on her age and eating habits. Every baby is different. Some babies have a bowel movement right after each feeding. Others have it only once a day. It also is normal that a breastfed baby (3 to 6 weeks of age) passes stools only once a week. Formula fed babies should pass stools at least once a day. If your baby is having irregular bowel movements but her stools are soft (no firmer than peanut butter), this isn't a sign of constipation. But if your baby's stools are firm, she seems fussy or cries when having a bowel movement, she might be constipated. Talk to your baby's health care provider.

Have questions?

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