12 Tips to Help Your Baby Sleep at Nightby Katlyn Joy | January 16, 2012
Ask any bleary-eyed new parent about the toughest challenges in bringing up baby and you'll hear one answer over all others; sleeping! And if baby isn't sleeping, no one else in the house is either. Babies aren't born with a sense of day and night and getting them acclimated as newborns to a sleep schedule takes time. You don't want to be unresponsive to your precious little bundle, but you worry you'll spoil baby with too much bedtime attention and ruin any chance of nighttime peace.
Here are some tips to getting baby to sleep so you and your partner can get some much needed shut-eye as well!
1. Know what sleep patterns are normal for your baby's age. The first few months your newborn will sleep about 16 hours a day. Sounds dreamy? Not so fast-he'll sleep in three hour segments at most, usually. This can be a tiring and trying period, but rest assured better nights are ahead. At three months, babies can sleep for 5 hours at a stretch and at 6 months you can look forward to a full 9 to 12 hours of blissful sleep.
2. Keep baby close. In the first few months (or possibly longer) you'll probably rest easiest if baby sleeps in your room. You can check on her often and she'll actually be soothed by the sounds of your sleep. Some experts believe our respiration patterns help babies regulate their own.
3. Find the balance between being comforting and being a giant pacifier or toy. When baby wakes, don't race to the crib instantly. Give baby a second to see if he will settle himself back down. You don't have to turn a deaf ear to baby's cries, either. Go to baby and see if there's a physical cause that needs attending such as feeding, diapering or other discomforts. Maybe a burp and a cuddle will do the trick. Once you're sure baby is OK, then quietly set her back down to sleep.
4. Help baby learn difference between day and night. Keep baby occupied during the day and don't let it look like daytime when you give baby a nighttime feeding or changing. Don't turn on the tv, play loudly or leave on bright lights at bedtime.
5. Soothe baby into bedtime. Establish a nighttime routine and help baby feel relaxed and ready for sleep. Quiet comforting activities are ideal for this process.
6. Don't confuse parenting prowess with your baby's sleep stretches. Some new parents search for means of determining their success as parents. Sleep is not a way to do this. Some infants are more active and less likely to sleep for hours at a time without fuss. Other babies are born with a quiet, low-key attitude and may have to be roused for feedings. It's not your ability as much as baby's temperament.
7. Keep baby comfy. Make sure the temperature of the room is ideal for baby, and that the clothes worn to bed are soft and non-chafing. Bright lights are likely to disturb, and once past the newborn stage, noise will definitely interfere with baby's slumber. While some babies will doze through wet or soiled diapers, others will howl with a soaked diaper. Having a full tummy makes most of us sleepy and baby is no exception. Don't thicken it up with cereal because Grandma swears by it, however. Wait until baby's pediatrician has advised you to start solids before trying that.
8. Have some white noise or soft music to sleep by. Lullabies are ages old and found world-over for a reason. Other babies will respond well to the sound of a ticking clock, a whirring fan, or an actual noise machine set to rain, or night time sounds for instance.
9. A warm bath and a gentle rub-down relaxes baby. Well, who wouldn't enjoy that before bed? The combination of getting warm and cozy is a great transition for daytime busy activities to bedime.
10. Give baby a lovie. A blanket, especially one that smells of you, a special toy or a pacifier are all objects that can become associated with sleep. However, keep blankets and plush toys out of baby's crib until past age one to decrease any risk of SIDS.
11. Rock baby or nurse baby before laying her down. The goal is to put down baby before he's completely knocked out but at the point where he is undeniably drowsy. Then let baby learn to settle himself down to sleep the rest of the way. Otherwise you may find yourself tiptoeing out of the room only to hear a wailing child as you creak your way to the door.
12. Be consistent. Try to keep to a consistent bedtime and a regular bedtime routine. If baby generally goes down at 8 p.m. for the night following a story and rocking with daddy before the last bottle or nursing, keep that pattern as much as possible each and every night. Consistency is a theme you'll hear over and over in parenting and with sleep it has a definite pay off for the whole family.
Just remember babies are unique creatures and quite changeable. Be consistent but always flexible. Babies will occasionally have set backs in their sleep schedule. Be ready for those and you'll get baby back on track in no time.
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