For parents of infants the hardest challenge can be getting enough sleep. There is nothing in the world as grueling as trying to raise a child, and have some semblance of a life, while only getting a few hours of sleep each night. Training your baby to sleep through the night, or at least fall back asleep when he or she wakes, will make all the difference for your health and sanity. And setting up healthy sleep habits can support your childs wellbeing for her entire life.
Understand Your Babys Rhythms
Knowledge is power, with your baby as with anything else in life. Observe when and how your baby falls asleep, the signs he or she exhibits when tiredness kicks in, and the various cues given when your baby is hungry, hurt, or simply wants attention and validation.
Younger infants need to be fed every two hours or so. Their stomachs are too small for them to hold enough nutrients to sleep through the night. But at around six weeks, infants usually begin to be able to sleep longer. They may be able to sleep through the night at as young as four months.
Especially learn to recognize tiredness in your baby. She may rub her eyes, yawn, or refuse to engage with you. These are indicators that it is time to put her down for a nap or bedtime, preferably before she gets overtired and starts crying and fussing.
Bedtime Rituals to Support Sleeping Through the Night
A supportive bedtime ritual makes all the difference when it comes to getting your baby to sleep through the night. Babies thrive on routine, and following the same ritual at the same time every night will train your baby to rest well and on schedule.
Many sleep problems are caused by overtiredness. Most baby experts say that sleep creates more sleep. Never let a baby become overtired, whether it be at nap or bedtime. When your baby shows the first signs of tiredness, start putting her to bed.
Make daytime feedings and activities lively, exciting, and fun. Make evening feedings and activities quiet, gentle, soothing and relaxing. You want your baby to start associating night with quiet and sleeping, not boisterous activity.
For the most effective routine, experts recommend performing the same activities in the same order every night. Keep the routine simple, and less than 45 minutes long. Some ideas for the pre-bed routine include a bath, a gentle massage, reading a book, or singing a lullaby. Save your babys favorite activity for last.
Make sure your babys room is a pleasant, comfortable, safe-feeling place for her to be. Then put your baby into her crib as soon as she starts to nod off or seems very sleepy. Do not have her fall asleep in your arms, or while breastfeeding or cuddling. Train her to start falling asleep on her own, and she will be more likely to stay asleep. If she does wake, being accustomed to falling asleep on her own will help her fall back asleep alone.
Train Your Baby to Fall Back Asleep
Opinions vary on the best way to get your child to go back to sleep once she wakes. Most experts agree that after six months you should not feed infants in the middle of the night, so they can begin to dissociate food from sleeping time. It is also recommended to have the baby nearby, but not in the same bed as you (unless you are practicing full attachment parenting).
One of the most popular methods for training children to sleep through the night is the Ferber Method, also known as Progressive Watching. In this method when your baby wakes in the middle of the night, you let him cry for a few minutes before going in to check on him. You do not pick up the child, just comfort him verbally and make sure he can see that you are there. Then you leave the room. If he starts crying again, you wait a few more minutes than the first time before entering the room again, increasing the time each check-in until your baby falls back asleep.
The next time baby wakes, you repeat this progressive check-in cycle. The following night, you increase the time before each check-in by a few minutes. In most instances, infants begin to sleep through the night after about a week of this method. It requires patience and fortitude, but is one of the more effective methods for sleep training.
Proper sleep is something that all new parents sacrifice. Babies need to be fed throughout the night until a certain age, and even after that it takes some time and patience to facilitate their ability to sleep all night. But with a consistent bedtime routine and supportive training, it is possible to ensure that your baby (and you) will be able to get a full nights rest.