Academic Health Center
Stay Connected

Sleep tips for dad and baby

Photo: N8tr0n via Flickr

Sunday is Father’s Day so Happy Father’s Day from everyone at Health Talk!

With a new baby, almost every father has gone through some form of sleep deprivation, especially in the first few months. So what can you do to help your baby sleep better so you can get a good night’s sleep?

With fathers in mind, Health Talk sat down with University of Minnesota Physicians sleep expert and father of three, Michael Howell, M.D., for his sleep tips for both dad and baby.

“For newborns, it’s important to start working on their sleeping habits as soon as they get home from the hospital,” said Howell. “I’ve found through personal experience that by keeping the baby active in the evening they are more sleepy and ready to go to bed.”

Howell’s sleep tips for baby:

Don’t make things worse – If your baby is sleeping there is no reason to wake them up to eat (within reason). They will usually let you know when they’re hungry!

Evening stimuli – Interactions with parents and siblings are like exercise for the baby and helps them to be more alert. Keep the baby active for at least two hours by reading to them, playing music, playing with them, etc.

Tummy time – At least 10-15 minutes of tummy time each night not only strengthens his/her neck muscles but it’s also the equivalent of going to the gym to the baby.

Full stomach = sleepy baby – After a full night of activities, her last meal of the day should be at bedtime. This will help keep her satisfied throughout the night so she is less likely to wake up in the middle of the night hungry. At four months, most healthy babies will be able to sleep throughout the night without food.

Place baby in crib while she’s awake before she falls asleep– Place the baby in the crib while she is awake so she learns to fall asleep on her own. By doing this it helps her understand where she is and she is less likely to wake up scared because one of her parents is not there. If at all possible, try not to rock your baby to sleep and then place them in their crib.

Give them a sunrise every morning – Expose your child to sunlight either naturally or through a light box that mimics the sun. At least 30 minutes of light exposure right away will help get her on a 24-hour clock.

As for dad, sleep can be a precious commodity, too. A newborn can be challenging enough but throw in lack of sleep and it can be downright unhealthy for you. Your sleep pattern initially will be interrupted but these tips should help you get the rest your body needs.

Howell’s sleep tips for dad:

Sleep when you can – If your baby is napping and you have some free time in between household chores, errands, etc., take a nap to catch up on sleep. Be opportunistic when it comes to sleep.

Limit caffeine intake – It’s very tempting (and easy) to overcompensate for lack of sleep by drinking a lot of coffee or energy drinks. Don’t do it! Large amounts of caffeine will disrupt your sleep pattern even more making good sleep much harder to obtain.

Take turns or ask for help – If your baby is having trouble sleeping and one parent is up, if possible, trade off shifts or nights so at least one parent is getting a few hours of or a night of good sleep. Don’t be afraid to ask your partner or support system for help if lack of sleep is becoming a problem area.

Invest in some ‘me time’ – New parents have a lot going on but it’s important to take some personal time to unwind and get your body and mind ready for sleep, even if it’s just for a few hours.

Be supportive – Generally speaking, a newborn can be harder on the mom than on the dad. Be supportive of each other as you make the parental transition.

  1. April 7, 2015 7:58 am | Kids Nook Says:

    The “Place baby in crib while she’s awake before she falls asleep” is crucial to develop good sleeping habits. With my firstborn son I believed the first few months were hard but as the baby got older my wife and I developed a bunch of wrong sleep associations with him and he believed that in order to fall asleep he needed to be breastfed. This led to him waking up every hour and a half. My wife wrote an article about our experiences called Every child can learn to sleep.


    I’d like to add a note to your good list. Not everything comes instinctively. Educate yourself!

    Nice post!