Baby Sleep: What to Expect in the First Year

Tips and expert advice on how to get baby to sleep during the first year.

Nursery Pointers

Baby Sleeping in Striped Pajamas in Black and White

In the first few months of baby's life, you may have done whatever it took to get him to nod off -- rocking or nursing him to sleep, or letting the car seat serve as an unofficial crib. That's okay -- you were in survival mode.

But at 3 months, it's time to help your baby develop good sleep habits, such as making sure that naps happen in his crib. And when you put him down for bedtime or a nap, try not to rock or nurse him to sleep, or he'll rely on you for this familiar comfort whenever he wakes up in the middle of the night.

The Peaceful Nursery

While a newborn could sleep amid the chaos of New York City's Grand Central Station, "when your baby gets to about 5 to 6 weeks, she starts becoming aware of her surroundings," says Brett Kuhn, PhD, the director of the pediatric sleep clinic at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, in Omaha. Don't try to keep things perfectly quiet, or she'll depend on silence to drift off.

Set the thermostat where he sleeps at the upper 60s to low 70s and consider "white noise" (from a machine or the drone of a fan or a humidifier), which can "trigger sleepiness and drown out other noises that might wake baby," says Dr. Kuhn. What about music? Think twice about it. Babies become highly conditioned to environmental cues. If he hears a song when he drifts off to sleep, he needs to hear it when he wakes up in the night to get back to la-la land on his own.

Solid Sleep Helpers

Where should baby sleep? For the first four to six months, in a bassinet or crib in your room, says the American Academy of Pediatrics, after which he may move to his own nursery.

Want to get your baby to snooze through the night? Then let her learn to fall asleep independently, says Dr. Kuhn. "Rock, feed, and sing all you want, but put your baby to bed drowsy and slightly awake," he says. This way, if she wakes in the middle of the night, she can go back to sleep on her own -- without crying out for Mom or Dad.

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