Being a new parent is far from easy, as my wife, Martha, and I (parents of eight) can attest. I know you have what feels like an infinite number of questions. Experts, not to mention familyand friends, sometimes offer contradictory advice. Is it any wonder new moms and dads feel overwhelmed and confused? Here are answers to three of the questions I'm asked most by new parents.
When, Oh When, Will My Baby Finally Sleep Through The Night?
There is no magic way to get a baby to nod off. But even though you can't dictate when and how much your baby will sleep, you can create conditions that encourage sleep and provide cues that it's time to rest. Babies eventually learn to soothe themselves to sleep. As your child grows, encourage him to fall asleep on his own by putting him in his crib while he's still awake. Others may encourage you to leave just before baby drifts off, but there's nothing wrong with staying until he's asleep. Remember: The goal of nighttime parenting is to help your baby develop a healthy sleep attitude; sleep is pleasant and a fearless place to remain. Once your baby sleeps through the night, try increasing the distance between you and his crib, or put him to sleep in his own room. Until then, try these sleep-inducing tips:
It's All About the Routine
Settling your child in for the night requires more than just putting him to bed. Infants who go to bed at a reasonably consistent time each night usually have less trouble falling and staying asleep. If your baby has difficulty winding down, then a warm bath or a soothing massage before bedtime may help him relax. With a child younger than 6 months, you can also try wearing him in a baby sling or carrier as you stroll around the house. In our family, we call this style of nighttime parenting "wearing down," and it helps baby calm down because the motions mimic being in the womb.
Another way to lull him into slumber is to breastfeed or bottle-feed him until he drifts off. To prevent tooth decay and ear infections, don't let your infant fall asleep with a bottle in his mouth, and don't leave a bottle in the crib.
Try various sleeping arrangements. I've found the easiest and quickest way to resettle your baby when he wakes at night is to have him sleep in your room. You can move your newborn's crib next to your bed or buy a co-sleeping crib (such as those made by Arm's Reach) that attaches to your bed. The idea is to comfort your baby before you and he are fully awake.
When your infant wakes up crying, and feeding or changing doesn't comfort him, check for ill-fitting sleepwear, a stuffy nose, a bedroom that's too hot or too cold or nasal irritants, such as cigarette smoke, animal dander or dust. All of these factors can contribute to waking. If eliminating them doesn't help, discuss possible medical causes — such as reflux, food or milk allergies or ear infections— with his doctor.