For safety and comfort, a baby should sleep in a specially designed
crib. Most cribs have sides with bars that can be lowered and raised by
an adult. Babies should be kept covered in their cribs to avoid chills.
Babies may sleep up to 23 hours a day during the first month after birth. Their need for sleep then gradually decreases.
Most infants like to lie on their stomachs or backs with their
heads turned toward the lightest part of the room. But a baby’s head
may become flattened on one side if it is always turned in the same
direction. To avoid this problem, babies should be turned head to foot
at every other bedtime. They will then have to turn their heads in the
opposite direction in order to face the light. If the baby still
prefers keeping its head turned in one direction, there is no real
cause for alarm; the child normally will outgrow any head flattening by
one year of age.
Swaddling the Baby. A newborn baby is much happier if he or she
is wrapped up snugly. This custom, called swaddling, is considered
old-fashioned and even unkind by some people, but modern research has
shown that it is a practical way to help a baby to sleep peacefully.
Remember that the infant is not used to unlimited space, having
been confined for months to the restricted space of the womb. Swaddling
makes the baby feel more secure and helps him or her to adjust to the
world, little by little.
Newborn babies have little or no control over their limbs so
they often wake themselves with the jerky movements of their own arms
and legs. The well wrapped-up baby is not bothered by this.
How long a parent continues to swaddle a baby depends on whether
the baby is of a calm or excitable disposition. But up to six weeks is
usually beneficial. At three to six weeks, however, the baby’s hands
should be allowed to reach high enough so that he or she can suck the
fist or fingers.
When the baby can lift his or her head, the baby can lie on the
stomach without risk of smothering. Swaddle from the waist down, with
the arms free, so that the baby cannot wriggle up the crib or cradle.