In their first few months, most babies sleep as few as three or four hours at a time around the clock. As the parent of a newborn, you can expect to be awake with your hungry infant each night, but don't worry, this won't last forever! As babies grow, they develop more predictable patterns of sleep and wakefulness, and by four months of age, your child may begin sleeping between five and eight hours straight each night while still napping two to three times per day. Stay focused, and soon your dedication to establishing a bedtime routine will pay off!
- Cut down on daytime sleep. If your baby sleeps longest during the day and isn't progressing toward eight hours of continuous sleep at night, encourage your child to stay awake longer during the day or gently wake him or her after three hours of naptime. Be sure to keep track of how long your baby sleeps during daytime naps.
- Make sure your baby is warm, well fed and in a clean, dry diaper.
- Begin to establish some sleep routines. A warm bath, a change into pajamas, a few minutes of rocking or snuggling or a story can be cues to your baby that it's bedtime.
- Learn your baby's sleep signs. Babies who yawn, rub their eyes or gaze vacantly into space are trying to tell you they're tired. Recognizing your baby's sleep signs will help you learn to put him or her to bed at just the right time.
- Create dark and quiet. At bedtime, speak softly to your baby or play soft music. Turn off the TV and extra lights so your child learns to associate low light and quiet with sleep.
- Differentiate between day and night. Keep household noise to an ordinary level during daytime naps, both to help your baby learn to sleep through minor disturbances and to help him or her learn the difference between daytime and nighttime sleep. Leaving a fan on at night may help muffle loud noises that may wake your baby.
- Keep interruptions short. Night feedings should be calm, quiet, dark and brief. Keep the crib warm by putting a heating pad or hot-water bottle in the crib while the baby is out of bed. Put your baby back to bed as soon as you finish the feeding. Babies who normally sleep through the night but awaken occasionally may be able to fall asleep again on their own. If not, a quick, simple check for safety is fine. Then you can place your baby back in the crib.
- Let others put your baby to sleep, too. Alternate putting your baby to bed with your partner or other caregiver so your baby doesn't associate sleep with just your presence.
- Expect your baby's sleep patterns to change. Growth spurts, teething, illness and travel can all disrupt the sleep schedule. Be patient and stick as close to your usual routine as possible, and soon things will return to normal.