One of the greatest challenges for new parents is dealing with the loss of nighttime sleep. Infants sleep 16 or more hours per day, but only in stretches of a few hours at a time. Helping your child learn to sleep for longer increments helps you to get the rest that’s important to you, so consider the following expert advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics as you watch your little one grow… Try these approaches to get your baby to sleep through the night.
1. A soothing bedtime routine.
Encourage a quieter home as bedtime nears. Dim the lights and help your baby relax with comforting routines like rocking or sucking a pacifier. However, never put your baby to bed with a bottle for comfort, as this promotes tooth decay and can even encourage ear infections.
2. Lots of attention.
Lots of holding, touch, cuddling, and stimulation helps your baby to feel calm and secure, and ultimately helps him to sleep easy later. Some mothers worry that too much attention will spoil their baby, but pediatricians say this is a myth. An infant who senses that he’s safe and that his needs are being met is more likely to be calm and can better regulate his own emotions and sleep cycles.
3. Fatigue signals.
It’s easier to settle your infant into sleep when he first becomes tired or drowsy, rather than later when he’s overtired and more upset. Watch for his non-verbal cues like yawning and eye-rubbing, and respond to his need for sleep promptly.
4. Nighttime wakefulness is okay.
When doctors refer to babies “sleeping through the night,” they’re referring to babies who sleep for considerable increments, wake, but are able to soothe themselves back into sleep. Occasionally waking is nature’s way of helping your baby reposition to breathe better, or to get more comfortable. If you hear your infant awake or fussing mildly, wait a few minutes to see if she might drift back to sleep on her own.
5. Low-key nighttime care.
When you do need to feed or change your child in the middle of the night, keep the lights low and stimulation to a minimum, so that she knows that this is time to sleep, not time to play.
6. Take your time.
Most infants can sleep for 5 hours at a time by three months of age, but won’t have regular sleep cycles until about six months of age. Even with these averages in mind, every child is different and may sleep through the night a bit earlier or later than others. If your child is much older than these benchmarks and still struggling to sleep for appropriate intervals, check with your pediatrician.
Dana Hall McCain writes about marriage, parenting, faith and wellness. She is a mom of two, and has been married to a wonderful guy for over 18 years.