Helping Parents Helping Babies: Sleep
As a father to six children I have experienced many
variations in the learning curve of what helps babies get to sleep and what
doesn’t. I currently have two toddlers, four children in their 20’s, and one more on the way. Together, all of my kids have helped in
teaching me the all-important sleep patterns of babies.
Here are a few helpful tips for getting your baby to sleep:
0 – 3
months: A baby in the “4th trimester” can often fall asleep in
any appropriate place; ie: your arms, a bassinet, the floor, an infant carrier.
If your baby has a difficult time falling asleep take a look at their
environment. Are they too warm or cool? Is the light too bright? Are there loud
noises? Babies often like to be rocked and soothed at this point in time.
3 – 6
months: At this point, you should have started to figure out what works for
your baby and what doesn’t work. When your baby becomes fussy, you should rock
them, give them a pacifier, speak to them softly, sing a song, or play soft
music. Some experts say the sound of the vacuum cleaner will calm baby down. Keep
in mind that whatever you start to do regularly will become their known
6 – 12
months: The most important thing during this phase is to create a routine
and stick with it. Everyone comes up with something a little different that
works for them: a song, a story, a warm bath, a final bottle, whatever it may
be, it is up to the parent to implement this routine while remaining consistent
in order for baby and parent to successfully understand and enjoy the bedtime
From my experience, the most common mistakes include:
Entering the room to coddle the child because
they are fussing for too long. If you do this your baby will learn that if they
fuss they’ll get picked up. It is best to make sure your baby has “burped,” is
not wet and not hungry before putting them down, or you will second guess
yourself, and end up falling into their ploy to be held instead of nap.
Encouraging change too quickly and without
realizing it causes shock and confusion for your baby. For instance, if your
child is used to falling asleep in your arms and you decide to now put her in
the crib awake, it is going to be a little bit of a shocker for the baby with
this drastic (but wise) change. Put yourself in your babies shoes (so to speak)
and work on the process gradually; there’s always a learning curve – for both
you and your baby.
Naptime: And then
there’s the all-important naptime. Create a schedule and a routine for your
child and stick with it. A sound naptime is essential to beneficial nighttime
sleeping too. Make sure your baby has a quiet, dark place to nap multiple times
throughout the day. Just as with bedtime, naptime should come with a sense of
routine and comfort. Your baby will get used to the routine and the stable
rhythm, and will soon fall into naptime effortlessly.
Keep in mind that during your first weeks of sleep training,
you may have to listen to a few tears and heartache, but as long as you have
bathed, read, fed and burped your baby they are most likely okay. Few babies will cry for more than 10 minutes,
so give them a chance to figure things out for themselves. If they are still
crying after 10 minutes, go back in and check on them, rub their back and talk
to them softly. Give them another 5 minutes and leave again. If this crying
process continues on for more than 30 minutes go ahead and pick them up so they
feel secure, rock them for a few minutes and begin the process again.
You’ll soon discover, as your kids get older they will start
wanting to go to bed. They will enjoy
their sheets, their blankets, they will want to have some stuffed animal
“friends” join them in bed, and they will sleep happily.