1. Your newborn may snooze a lot, but only for short stints. That's because her internal clock isn't up and running yet, so she doesn't know the difference between night and day. Besides, her tiny tummy can't hold much, so she'll be hungry every few hours, explains Jodi Mindell, Ph.D, author of Sleep Deprived No More. At about 6 to 10 weeks, she'll start to sleep for much longer stretches.
2. Good sleep habits are all about routine. By 6 to 8 weeks, Baby can have a sleep schedule linked to feedings, with an official bedtime somewhere between 7 and 8 p.m., even though he isn't sleeping through the night. Newborns can benefit from an evening ritual: "Parents don't realize how aware babies are, but when you nurse him, zip up his pajamas, and put on music, it sends a signal," Dr. Mindell says. By 3 to 4 months, your newbie should be snoozing about six hours straight (yay!), so you'll be able to drop one middle-of-the-night feeding, says pediatrician Jennifer Trachtenberg, M.D., of New York City. As Baby sleeps longer, move bedtime up.
3. Sleepy but awake is the ideal bed state. Let a child nod off on his own and he'll learn to put himself back to sleep if he wakes. Erika Riley, of Minneapolis, learned this the hard way: "I would lie in bed with my son until he fell asleep. Thirty minutes later, he'd wake up and need me next to him to drift off again!" Another common oops: feeding Baby right before bedtime. He'll come to rely on that to doze off. Make feeding the first part of the bedtime routine.
4. Comfort with caution. Experts agree: For the first three months, cater to your baby's every need. After that, if you resist the urge to pick her up at every wail, she'll probably fall back asleep on her own, without much coaxing. Sometimes, all you need to do is gently place a hand on her belly or softly sing in her ear.
5. Flexibility is key. When you have more than one child, there will be compromises. "I'd have to wake up the baby so I could take my older son to activities," says Jamie Gallovich, of Keller, Texas. If this is you, cut yourself some slack! "With your first kid, it's possible to follow a consistent schedule," Dr. Mindell says. "When you get to a second child, if you hit 50 percent consistency, that's good."