If you're a parent of a young baby, chances are you haven't had a good night's sleep in awhile. While sleepless nights come with the territory, you can help your babe -- and in turn, yourself -- sleep for longer stretches during the night.
Wear Him Out
If your baby spends most of his day confined in a car seat or a playpen, chances are he won't be tired when it comes time for naps and bedtime. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends ensuring that daytime is playtime for your baby in order to help him sleep longer. Spend time during the day talking to him and playing with him, giving him supervised tummy time and, when he is old enough, the opportunity to scoot and crawl around on the floor. Be careful not to overstimulate him just before it's time to lay him down. Give him time to wind down from the day's activities before resting.
Let it Be
According to MayoClinic.com, babies wake frequently during their sleep cycles, but that doesn't mean you should pick her up and let her play. The AAP encourages parents to wait a few minutes before immediately responding to a baby's cry. She might fall back asleep on her own, whereas your presence might remind her that she is missing out on all the action. If she fusses longer than a few minutes, quietly enter her room, keeping the lights off. Stroke her back gently. Your calming presence might be all she needs to re-enter dreamland.
Dr. Harvey Karp, pediatrician and author of the book "The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep," recommends playing a soundtrack of white noise while your baby sleeps. Low-pitched noise such as rain on a roof has a calming affect and helps your little one to feel safe. Karp points out that no one, including infants, sleeps through the night, but the trick is teaching a baby to put himself back to sleep. If your baby wakes to calming sounds, he is less likely to get upset, fuss and wake himself completely.
Set the Stage
According to AskDrSears.com, take inventory of the events of your day that might be contributing to your baby's inability to sleep for a long stretch. Many infants might wake out of hunger, so ensure you are giving her enough food during the day and putting her down with a full tummy. Spend plenty of time holding your baby, and give her a sense of security and peace throughout the day that will stay with her as she sleeps.
If your baby goes to bed some nights at 7:30 and other nights at 10, his body clock will be confused and he might not be tired when you lay him down. Try putting him down at the same time each night, and don't underestimate the importance of daytime naps. According to AskDrSears, babies with consistent nap times sleep for longer stretches at night. Set up a familiar bedtime routine as well -- a bath followed by a bottle and a story, perhaps -- to help his brain begin to associate those activities with sleeping.