Helping Your Baby Get a Healthy Night’s Sleep

June 15, 2011 · Filed Under Nursery · Comment 

It’s time to bring your new baby home from the hospital and to introduce the newest member of the family to his or her new home. Everything has been ready for weeks. The matching baby bedding in the crib and the cute decorations in the freshly painted nursery are so perfect you can’t imagine that this area could ever become a war zone. But for many parents, nighttime becomes a stressful, frustrating experience, night after long, tiresome night. Trying to get your baby to settle down for a healthy night’s sleep seems to be a battle of the wills with the baby winning most rounds. 

The following tips can help make the adjustment from “day play” to “night sleep” easier on everyone:

• Be realistic. It doesn’t matter that your best friend’s baby slept through the night within the first three weeks. Each baby has its own rhythm and sleep patterns. What you can do is facilitate times when sleeping seems like the right thing to do. Typically, newborns will sleep 16–20 hours, usually in 1–2 hour increments. As their nervous systems develop and feedings increase, by three months they may begin sleeping as long as five hours at a stretch, preferably at night. By six months, 9–12 hours is normal.
• While some mothers are tempted to run fans or a noise machine to create the quietest possible atmosphere, your baby already has built-in noise filters. Letting him or her learn to sleep through the everyday, normal noise levels of your home will ensure the ability to settle down in other places when you travel or visit family. Nightlights are only necessary if you need to see to quietly check on the baby, not to reassure your infant. A child who becomes accustomed to a night light may require one for years.
• Daytime activities, aside from 1–2 hour morning and afternoon naps, should be filled with activity and interesting opportunities. You will want your baby to associate being busy and moving around with daylight and settling down with the darkness of night. Resisting the temptation to let your baby sleep excessively in the daytime will pay off when your baby is happily tired and ready to sleep at night.
• Be consistent. Rocking, a bath, cuddle time and story time are all ways to relax and calm your baby. However, put your baby down when he or she is sleepy, not already asleep. Learning to self-soothe is an important baby learning task. Bedtime rituals should be done by Mom, Dad and big brother or sister so that the baby learns to relax with any member of the family.
• Your baby may wiggle and squirm and even cry out in the night. Don’t immediately rush in and scoop him out of the crib. Speak quietly, repositioning if necessary. Checking for a wet or soiled diaper or tangled baby bedding or giving a night bottle or nursing should be done quietly under dimmed lights with as little communication as possible. This is not playtime.

When in doubt, let your heart rule. Your baby will eventually learn to sleep through the night. Lovingly helping him or her with the process will leave you both feeling better prepared to start a new day.

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