Baby Bedtime Mistakes to Avoid

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

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Mistake #1: Being a Slave to Your Baby Monitor

Mistake #1: 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. And remember that all babies are different, which includes their nightly needs, habits, and routines. Check with your baby's doctor if you have questions about his or her sleep.) But consider turning 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. Eventually, she'll learn to settle herself.

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Mistake #2: Extending Nighttime Feedings

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Mistake #2: 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 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.

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Baby Sleep: When to Give Up Nighttime Feedings

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Mistake #3: Rocking Baby to Sleep

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Mistake #3: 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. It's best to rock Baby until calm, but move her to her crib while she is still slightly awake so that she can practice self-soothing.

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Baby Sleep: The Importance of Self-Soothing

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Mistake #4: Putting Her to Bed with a Bottle

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Mistake #4: 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.

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How to Bottle Feed Your Baby

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Mistake #5: Confusing Days with Nights

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Mistake #5: Confusing Days with Nights

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

Copyright © Meredith Corporation. Updated 2010

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How to Establish a Bedtime Routine