Want to help your baby catch her z's? Jodi A. Mindell, PhD, a pediatric sleep specialist and the author of Sleeping Though the Night (HarperResource, 2005), tells you how.
1 to 3 months
"The first few weeks are a free-for-all," says Mindell, with a 20-minute catnap here, a three-hour siesta there. However, by 6 to 8 weeks, you can start developing a sleep schedule linked to feedings, with an "official" bedtime, even though she's not sleeping through the night. Now is also the time to start a bedtime ritual: Wash baby, sing her a lullaby, and change her clothes to signal a transition.
3 to 6 months
As baby sleeps longer through the night, bedtime shifts earlier, to between 7:30 and 8:30. At this stage, she is getting about three to four naps a day, and it's important to schedule them -- either at a set hour (say, 9:30, 12:30, etc.), or two hours after baby wakes.
6 to 12 months
By 6 months, baby will probably be in her own room. Don't respond to her every cry; see if she can soothe herself to sleep. If she wants to play in the middle of the night, gently discourage her with some soft shushing, and avoid making eye contact. Stretch out her nighttime routine with a bath, a book, and a song.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, March 2006.