As any parent of a young baby knows, sleep is a precious and rare commodity during the first few months following baby's birth. After reaching the six-month mark, babies should be able to sleep through the night without requiring middle-of-the-night feedings. With a few consistent techniques, it is possible to get your baby on a regular nighttime sleeping schedule, and save your own sanity in the process. Within one week, both infant and parent can indeed look forward to sleeping like babies.
Establish a nighttime sleeping ritual for your baby. An evening feeding followed by a nighttime bath is a good nightly practice that will relax baby and help prepare her for sleep. Have a toy or blanket that smells like you to put next to baby while she sleeps. If startled awake, baby will still feel that you are near her and be more likely to drift off again.
Decide on a consistent bedtime, and stick to it. Consistency is key in creating a bedtime routine that you and your baby will adhere to. Half an hour before bedtime, cuddle with baby in a dimly lit room free of noise.
Take baby into her darkened nursery and gently lay her in her bassinet or crib. To prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development says, "Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep, for naps and at night. The back sleep position is the safest, and every sleep time counts." When you leave the room, close the door behind you to shut out unwanted light or noise.
Note the time. Listen carefully for signs of crying or fussing. If and when baby starts to cry, quietly go into the room to check on her. Do not turn on the lights or pick her up. Ensure that she is not tangled in her blankets, give her belly a reassuring rub, and leave the room. This technique is known as "compassionate crying it out," developed by Dr. Penelope Leach, author of "Your Baby and Child." Leach says, "You may have to repeat this over and over again, but it is the only sure way eventually to convince him both that you will come and that you will not get him up."
Increase the check-in time by 10 minute increments at a time. For example, let her cry for 15 minutes to start, 25 minutes the second time, and 35 minutes the third time. Do not turn on the lights or pick baby up when checking on her, as this will confuse her and make her more upset when you put her down again. Repeat this process consistently until baby settles down for the night. This could take an hour or more, but eventually she should drift off on her own.
Follow this pattern consistently every night. Over the course of one week, the amount of time baby spends crying should gradually diminish to the point where she is sleeping soundly through the night.
Things You Will Need
- Separate sleeping area for baby
- Baby crib or bassinet
- Baby blankets
- Stuffed animal
- Clock or watch
Be aware that opinions on this approach vary widely. While some experts do not recommend checking on your baby at all when crying at night, others feel that leaving this step out entirely can cause baby unnecessary anxiety. Always do what feels right for you as a parent.
Never implement these techniques on babies who are sick. Wait until your baby is healthy before embarking on a sleep-through-the-night routine.