Baby's Sleep

    Q: How can I make it easier for my baby to sleep?

    A: Don't despair. You can help your baby sleep all night, every night — starting today!

    Developing a rhythm
    Newborns typically sleep 16 or more hours a day — but often in stretches of just one to two hours at a time. The pattern may be erratic at first, but that's OK. A more consistent sleep schedule emerges as your baby's nervous system matures and he or she can go longer between feedings.

    By three months, many babies sleep for as long as five hours during the night. By six months, nighttime stretches of nine to 12 hours are possible.

    Encouraging good sleep habits
    For the first few months, middle-of-the-night feedings are sure to disrupt sleep for parents and babies alike. But it's never too soon to help your baby become a good sleeper.

    Encourage activity during the day.
    When your baby is awake, engage him or her by talking, singing and playing. Surround your baby with light and normal household noises. Such stimulation during the day can help promote better sleep at night. Monitor your baby's naps. Regular naps are important, but sleeping for large chunks of time during the day may leave your baby wide awake at bedtime.

    Follow a consistent bedtime routine.
    Try relaxing favorites such as bathing, cuddling, singing or reading. Soon your baby will associate these activities with sleep.

    Put your baby to bed drowsy but awake.
    This will help your baby associate bed with the process of falling asleep. Remember to place your baby to sleep on his or her back, and clear the crib or bassinet of blankets and other soft items. Give your baby time to settle down. Your baby may fuss or cry before finding a comfortable position and falling asleep. If the crying doesn't stop, speak to your baby calmly and stroke his or her back. Your reassuring presence may be all your baby needs to fall asleep.

    Consider a pacifier.
    If your baby has trouble settling down, a pacifier might do the trick. In fact, a pacifier at naptime and bedtime may help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). But there are pitfalls, too. If your baby uses a pacifier to sleep, you may face frequent middle-of-the-night crying spells when the pacifier falls out of your baby's mouth.

    Expect frequent stirring at night.
    Babies often wriggle, squirm and twitch in their sleep. They can be noisy, too. Sometimes, fussing or crying is simply a sign of settling down. Unless you suspect that your baby is hungry or uncomfortable, it's OK to wait a few minutes to see what happens.

    Keep nighttime care low-key.
    When your baby needs care or feeding during the night, use dim lights, a soft voice and calm movements. This will tell your baby that it's time to sleep — not play.

    Respect your baby's preferences.
    Whether your baby is a night owl or an early bird, adjust routines and schedules based on these natural patterns.

    Keeping it in perspective

    Some babies sleep for long stretches at night right from the start, only waking for feedings. Others have trouble lulling themselves back to sleep. Take as much time as you need to understand your baby's schedule and ways of communicating.

    If you're frustrated with your baby's sleeping habits — especially if your baby still needs attention several times during the night by age 6 months — ask your baby's doctor for suggestions.

    Remember, getting your baby to sleep through the night isn't a measure of your parental skills. It's simply a goal you're working toward. The result will be a good night's sleep for everyone.

    From: Mayo Clinics

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