Most babies are ready to sleep through the night by 3 to 4 months -- if their parents let them. These common mom-and-dad errors can turn your baby into a poor sleeper.

Being a slave to your baby monitor

If your baby cries when you put her down at night and you rush in to comfort her each time, she'll never learn to soothe herself to sleep. (Of course, if your child is sick or in distress, you need to help her.) Turn down the monitor so that you don't hear every whine and whimper; when she really cries, wait it out for 5 minutes before you go in to check on her. Tomorrow night, extend the check-in interval to 10 minutes, and so on.

Extending nighttime feedings

Your child is ready to give up middle-of-the-night feedings once she reaches about 12 pounds. If she's much heavier than that and is still crying for food at 2:00 A.M., it's a learned behavior. Instead of whisking her out of bed for a feeding, give your child a chance to put herself back to sleep.

Rocking baby to sleep

If you do this frequently, your baby will begin to depend on being in your arms to doze off. If she tends to fall asleep when you give her a bottle or nurse her, gently wake her up before you place her in her crib.

Putting her to bed with a bottle

When your baby falls asleep drinking a bottle, formula can pool in her mouth, leading to tooth discoloration and decay. Sleeping with a bottle also increases her risk of ear infections.

Confusing days with nights

She'll never be able to sleep through the night if she doesn't learn the difference between dark and light. To help your child organize her natural sleep rhythms, keep her room light in the morning and during daytime naps. And don't leave a light on in her room at night.

From The Best Advice I Ever Got, by the editors of Parents Magazine, edited by Sally Lee. Copyright © 2001 by Rodale Inc. and G+J USA Publishing.

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