Get Some ZZZs
Being a parent and lack of sleep often go hand in hand. The good news: it doesn’t have to!
How long should baby sleep?
First, it’s important to understand that if you’re waiting for the day your infant begins to rack up the Zzzzzs, know that “sleeping through the night” doesn’t always mean sleeping from bedtime until dawn. Stretches of sleep varies by age.
“By age two months you'll notice you're probably only waking up once or twice a night to feed,” explains David L. Hill, MD, FAAP.” “By four months of age most infants will be able to sleep around eight hours at night without waking to feed. As babies begin to take solids their sleep periods lengthen, and a 6-month-old is likely to sleep 8 to 10 hours at night.”
But, even if your baby isn’t ready to go 10-hour stretches, it’s never too early to teach your little one how they can get the most amount of shut-eye.
Daytime equals playtime
A good night’s sleep starts long before the sun sets. Help your bundle of joy keep his days and nights straight by keeping daytime stimulation going, even during naptimes. If your darling does need a diaper change in the middle of the night, try to limit interaction, keep the room dark by using a nightlight or low-wattage lamp, and minimize stimulation. It’ll help maintain the message that it’s time to sleep so he’ll be more likely to drift back to lullaby land, giving you and baby the rest you both need!
Establishing a routine will give babies the signal that it is time to wind down. When used consistently, nursing, bathing, reading a book, and rocking can help signal that bedtime is not far behind. Baby will soon become accustomed to this routine and, when placed in his bed while sleepy and relaxed, will learn to fall asleep on their own.
The key to all sleep training techniques is to lay your sweetie pie in his crib or bassinet when his peepers are heavy, but he’s not all the way to sleep. This will give him the chance to learn to put himself to sleep, which comes in handy when he wakes during the night.
Because most pediatricians recommend not letting a newborn sleep longer than 3-4 hours before feeding, you cannot expect baby to sleep through the night until they are around 4-6 months of age. When it comes to how you teach your baby to sleep through the night, choose the method with which you’re most comfortable.
Some common techniques include:
- Ferber method–The first night, when your baby begins to cry, wait 5 minutes before returning crib side, then 10 minutes, then every 15 minutes until he falls asleep. The second night, start by waiting 10 minutes to comfort him and increase lengths of time between consolations. However, infants shouldn’t go stretches longer than 1-2 minutes at a time. After a few days, your baby will be drifting off to dreamland on his own.
- Gradual parent removal– For those parents worried that their little one may think they’ve been abandoned, each night over the course of two weeks, slowly scoot the chair away from the crib towards the door. Soon you’ll be completely out of the room and he’ll be going to sleep without help.
- Cry it out – More of a test of wills, simply letting your babycakes cry until he falls asleep is another method of sleep training. However, with this technique comes the risk of ignoring legitimate cries when your baby is trying to tell you something is wrong.
So, what technique is best? "My children have taught me how very quickly babyhood passes," says Elizabeth Pantley, author and mom of three children. "I struggle now to remember the difficulties of those first couple years, so fleeting are they. And I am proud that I didn't cave in to the pressures of others around us to do what they felt was right; instead I followed my heart as I gently nurtured all of my babies."