Baby Sleep from A to Z

Trying to teach your infant to sleep through the night? We can help. These 26 tips and tricks will have your little one nodding off in no time.

A through L

A is for appetite. Hungry newborns typically need to nurse every two to three hours. Two- to 3-month-olds will usually wake up two or three times during the night to be fed. By 6 months, a baby can sleep, without waking out of hunger, for eight hours, says Parents adviser Jodi A. Mindell, Ph.D., author of Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night's Sleep.

If your baby is older than this and still waking more than once a night to nurse, he's likely doing it out of habit. To break the association between nursing and sleep, feed him earlier in the evening and put him in his crib while he's still awake. Once your baby learns how to doze off on his own at bedtime, he'll be able to fall back to sleep in the middle of the night without your help.

B is for bedtime boo-boos. These three bad habits will only make it harder for your baby to fall asleep on her own: n Putting a bottle in the crib--even if it's just water. n Rocking her to sleep. n Becoming a slave to the baby monitor. Dashing in every time your baby whimpers will just make you frantic--or, worse, wake up your infant!

C is for "crying it out." You can start teaching your baby to sleep through the night between 3 and 6 months of age. Put your infant in his crib while he's still awake. Even if he cries when you leave the room, don't go back in for five minutes. If he's still crying after that, return to the nursery to reassure him but don't pick him up. Continue to check on him every five to ten minutes, and repeat the process each night until he learns to fall asleep on his own. (It takes about a week.)

D is for "does my baby get enough sleep?" In general, newborns sleep 14 1/2 hours a day, although anything from 10 1/2 to 18 hours is considered normal. From 2 months until 1 year, babies average 14 hours of shut-eye each day.

E is for extra tears. Teaching a baby to sleep isn't easy. Don't be surprised if your baby hollers and cries for an hour or more in the beginning. Just check in on her frequently--and don't give up!

F is for family bed. While some parents swear by the family bed, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends putting your infant in a crib. It's the safest place for your baby, and it will encourage him to learn to doze off on his own. If your heart's set on bed sharing, make it as safe as possible by removing quilts, pillows, and other soft bedding and making sure there's no space between the mattress and headboard (or the wall) where your baby could get trapped.

G is for Goodnight Moon. Read a story to your baby each night. Not only will your voice calm her, but it's a great ritual to continue throughout her childhood.

H is for help! Having trouble getting your baby to sleep consistently? Don't suffer in silence. Talk to your pediatrician, or search the Internet for advice. A great Website besides this one is www.sleepfoundation.org.

I is for illness. Don't expect your youngster to rest well while he's sick. To make him more comfortable, suction his nose right before bed, moisten the air in his room with a humidifier, and slightly raise one end of his crib mattress by putting a book underneath it. You may also need to temporarily abandon his sleep regimen.

J is for jammies. For safety's sake, dress your baby in flame-retardant sleepwear. Look for tags that say "pajamas," as opposed to "playwear," to make sure the outfit meets federal safety requirements.

K is for kisses. We know it's hard to resist showering your cutie pie with affection, but don't get too cuddly when you're trying to put her back to sleep in the middle of the night. At three in the morning, you're better off with a businesslike attitude than a lovefest, Dr. Mindell advises.

L is for lullabies. A song before bedtime is a good way for both you and your baby to feel close and wind down at the end of the day. Want to learn some new ones? Try The Rock-A-Bye Collection: A Treasure of Unique Lullabyes for All Ages, by J. Aaron Brown (a songbook comes with the tape or CD).

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