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Parents can train newborns to adapt to family's sleep rhythm

Expert sleeping tips for newborns.

Expert sleeping tips for newborns. Credit: iStock

Q. What can a parent do when a newborn has her days and nights mixed up, sleeping all day and then staying awake for too long during the night?

A. In utero, baby slept at will. "Nobody told her she was supposed to be awake by day and sleep at night," says Dr. Ronald Marino, associate chairman of pediatrics at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola. "It's the parents' job to socialize the baby to join our world."

Marino and Rebecca Kammerer, a pediatric sleep coach who owns Sleep Cadets in Mineola, agree on these strategies:

* During the day, wake baby every two to three hours. "There are ways to go about that gently," Kammerer says. Unswaddle baby, letting cool air touch her skin. Take off her clothing; change her diaper.

* If she's still not awake, pat the bottom of her feet with little slaps, or rub her back firmly, almost like scratching without using your fingernails, Marino suggests.

* Give her lots of stimulation. "Sing to her, read to her," Kammerer suggests. Make sure she's exposed to natural light. Pull shades open in the house, or take the baby outside for a walk.

* When baby wakes at night, don't indulge her in play, Marino says. "Don't turn the light on; night is boring time. Don't talk to her, don't try to get her engaged with the family."

The situation will resolve. "Slowly you get the baby to join the family's rhythm instead of the family joining the baby's rhythm," Marino says. Adds Kammerer: "If you are mindful and you really start applying these strategies, it will happen more quickly."

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