How to Get Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night
The Family Bed
This method -- in which children share a bed with their parents -- is common in many cultures and is part of a child-rearing philosophy known in the U.S. as "attachment parenting." It's a sleeping style more than a technique for getting a baby to sleep well. This approach -- not to be confused with allowing your child to come into bed with you once in a while -- calls for sharing the bed most nights.
PROS: Proponents of cosleeping believe that the feeling of security the baby gets when she wakes up next to her mom and dad helps her go back to sleep right away. If the mom is breastfeeding, she barely has to open her eyes to feed her baby.
CONS: Many sleep experts offer warnings about this approach. You'll have to forget about having any privacy. "And there is the possibility that a parent will roll over on top of the baby," says Johnson. A family bed needs to be large enough to accommodate everybody comfortably and shouldn't have a soft mattress, fluffy pillows, or a comforter, which could suffocate the baby. Also, you should never consume alcohol or take any medications that may make you drowsy. And there's the issue of when to stop inviting your child into bed with you, because at some point she's going to have to learn to sleep alone -- which means that one of the above techniques may eventually be necessary.
With any sleep strategy, it's in everybody's best interest to start sooner rather than later -- certainly by 18 months. If your baby continues to have problems falling asleep and staying asleep, talk it over with your pediatrician; she may refer you to a doctor who specializes in children's sleep disorders. "Once a kid gets older," says Dr. Givan, "solving sleep problems requires more creative solutions."
While getting your baby to sleep through the night can take some effort and willpower, if you keep up with it, everyone will rest easy.