It's pretty clear that whoever coined the phrase “sleeping like a baby” never really cared for an infant. While there are exceptions, few babies master the art of sleep very early in life. Parents, however; can help things along by instilling healthy sleep behaviors. Give these four tips a try. Both you and your baby (hopefully) will rest easier.
1. Have Realistic Expectations
The majority of newborns will wake and need to feed several times a night. By 6 months, many babies will be sleeping at least an 8-hour stretch overnight. Keep night time interactions business-like, with an efficient feed/change/back-to-bed system. Keep the lighting dim light so your baby doesn’t become a late-night partier.
2. Respond Consistently
Discuss with your spouse or partner ahead of time how quickly you’ll respond to a baby’s crying. By a few weeks of age, many parents can distinguish between “I-just-need-to-fuss-myself-to-sleep” crying from real need. Respond appropriately and consistently to these situations.
Note that consistency does not rule out flexibility. If your child is sick, you have transitioned to daylight saving time, or you’re all crammed into one hotel room while on vacation, your approach will be temporarily different.
3. Understand the Evolution of Sleep
Separation awareness, motor-skill development, and other normal developmental processes can temporarily derail even the best sleepers. Be patient and expect sleep patterns to mimic a rollercoaster ride rather than a Sunday drive and it will be easier to cope with the ups and downs.
4. Predict the Future
Early sleep training is a wise investment for a restful future. Put your baby into the crib when he or she is awake but drowsy, and separate feeding from sleeping so that your child doesn’t need to be fed to go back to sleep each time. Keep the bedtime routine simple so it can be replicated away from home.
Also, the experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that your infant sleep on a separate, firm surface to prevent crib death (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), entrapment, and suffocation.
And finally, remember that the passage of time tends to erase the bleariness of sleep deprivation. Enjoy your baby and each milestone!