When you bring your baby home from the hospital, you'll most likely find that she has irregular sleep cycles, and that she sleeps a great deal of the time -- an average of 16 to 17 hours per day! She may only sleep for one- or two-hour intervals, however. And as baby matures, you'll see changes in her sleep cycles and need for sleep.
But can you influence your baby's sleep habits early on? The answer is yes. As a parent, there are many things you can do to begin establishing good sleep habits for your baby right from the beginning. Here are some suggestions from the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) to help everyone get a better and more consistent night's sleep:
- Keep her calm and quiet. When you have to feed or change baby during the night, don't stimulate her too much, or wake her with movement and noise. With less stimulation, she can easily fall back to sleep.
- Limit how long baby sleeps during the day. If baby sleeps for long intervals of time during the day, he'll be more likely to wake during the night.
- At first signs of drowsiness, put baby down to sleep. It's best for baby to learn early on how to relax herself and drift off to sleep. When baby is rocked and held as she goes to sleep, she may come to rely on you to help her fall back to sleep when she wakes up in the middle of the night. She needs an opportunity to practice on her own in order to learn how to soothe herself back to sleep when she wakes periodically at night.
- Avoid the use of a pacifier at bedtime. If baby gets used to going to sleep with a pacifier and uses it to soothe himself to sleep, it may become habitual. Pacifiers are best used to satisfy the baby's sucking reflex, not to help him get to sleep. If your baby does falls asleep with the pacifier in his mouth, gently remove it and then put him to bed without it.
- Delay your reaction to baby's fussing. Beginning at about 4 to 6 months of age, it's a good idea to wait a few minutes before going in to check on baby when she wakes. It's likely that she'll settle herself and go back to sleep shortly after waking anyway.
If her crying continues, quietly check on her. Avoid turning on lights, picking her up, rocking her, or playing with her. If she continues to cry, or if her cries increase in intensity, wait just a few minutes longer and check on her again. If she just can't seem to settle down, try to think about what might be troubling her. Is she hungry, wet or soiled, feverish, or otherwise uncomfortable? Tend to her needs, and it's likely she'll soon settle in for some more sleep.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics
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.