10 Truths About Baby Sleep

Naps, colic, and schedules

6. A too-tired baby won't sleep well. Learn the signals of sleepiness. Once a baby is rubbing his eyes or yawning, he's overtired, says Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Nap Solution. "I call it the volcano effect: If he doesn't get the nap, he erupts." Watch out, too, for the "micro-nap," that five-minute snooze Baby takes in your arms or while in the swing or car seat. "The first five minutes of a nap reduce feelings of sleepiness, but they don't rejuvenate your baby," Pantley says. "After this brief snooze, Baby is tired, but he can't fall asleep." And if he doesn't nap during the day, he won't sleep well at night.

7. There's no right way to nap. Your baby might end up taking two naps by the time she hits 3 to 4 months, or she could do three to four 45-minute naps until she's 9 or 10 months. Follow her lead or "you'll pay the price," says Marc Weissbluth, M.D., a Chicago pediatrician and author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Don't expect a younger child to follow a big sib's previous patterns.

8. Colicky babies find it hard to wind down. All babies cry; how can you tell if it's a colic thing? Listen for crying that is loud and higher-pitched, and that follows the Rule of Three: It goes on for three hours a day, three days a week, for three consecutive weeks. On the bright side, colic usually goes away at 3 months. Until then, soothe Baby with swaddling, singing, and shushing.

9. It's good to surrender to Baby's schedule. Kate Clow's second daughter, Nora, was a great sleeper, but she woke up each day at 5 A.M. The mom from Chatham, New Jersey, tried putting her to bed later and changing nap times, but Nora remained an early bird. "What finally made it work was adjusting my own sleep schedule," she says. That meant no more staying up late doing laundry or checking email— and, thankfully, no more bleary-eyed mornings, either.

10. Even stellar sleepers run into snags. Your baby may sleep like a dream now, but don't be alarmed if that's no longer the case when he reaches developmental milestones such as pulling up to standing. Whatever you do, don't change the bedtime rules! Let your tot practice his new skills during the day so he's less apt to lie awake at night, trying them in his crib.

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