10 Tips to help your baby settle down to sleep:
- Give your baby a chance to nap frequently. For the first six to eight weeks, most babies aren’t able to stay up much longer than two hours at a time. If you wait longer than that to put your baby down, he may be overtired and have trouble falling asleep.
- Teach your baby the difference between day and night. Some infants are night owls (something you may have gotten a hint of during pregnancy) and will be wide awake just when you want to hit the hay. For the first few days you won’t be able to do much about this. But once your baby is about 2 weeks old, you can start teaching him to distinguish night from day.
- When he’s alert and awake during the day, interact and play with him as much as you can, keep the house and his room light and bright, and don’t worry about minimizing regular daytime noises like the phone, music, or dishwasher. If he tends to sleep through feedings, wake him up.
- At night, don’t play with him when he wakes up. Keep the lights and noise level low, and don’t spend too much time talking to him. Before long he should begin to figure out that nighttime is for sleeping.
- Look for signs that your baby’s tired. Watch your baby for signs that he’s tired. Is he rubbing his eyes, pulling on his ear, or being more fussy than normal? If you spot these or any other signs of sleepiness, try putting him down to sleep. You’ll soon develop a sixth sense about your baby’s daily rhythms and patterns, and you’ll know instinctively when he’s ready for a nap.
- Consider a bedtime routine for your baby. It’s never too early to start trying to follow a bedtime routine. It can be something as simple as getting your baby changed for bed, singing a lullaby, and giving him a kiss goodnight.
- Put to your baby to bed when he’s sleepy but awake. By the time he’s 6 to 8 weeks old, you can start giving your baby a chance to fall asleep on his own. How? Put him down when he’s sleepy but still awake, suggests Jodi Mindell, associate director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and author of Sleeping Through the Night.
- Mindell advises against rocking or nursing your baby to sleep, even at this young age. “Parents think that what they do this early doesn’t have an effect,” she says, “but it does. Babies are learning their sleep habits. If you rock your child to sleep every night for the first eight weeks, why would he expect anything different later on?”
- Not everyone agrees with this strategy, however. Some parents choose to rock or nurse their babies to sleep because they believe it’s normal and natural, because they enjoy it and their baby is thriving and sleeping well, or simply because nothing else seems to work. These parents expect to get up with their baby several times during the night to help him get back to sleep.
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