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How to Sleep Train Your Baby

Michael Weschler

Hooray! Your sweet baby is starting to sleep for longer stretches. There's just one catch—her lengthy snoozes fall during the day, leaving her wired at 3 a.m. Day and night reversal is common in newborns, in part because babes in utero typically sleep during the day while Mom is on the move and wake at night while she's still. Here's how to help your baby lose the “party in my crib” mindset—at least until college.

Morning

Stick to a consistent waking time, even on the weekends, says Arna Skula, R.N., a clinical nurse specialist and author of Sweet Dreams: How to Establish and Maintain Good Sleep Habits for Your Baby. Get out of bed, open the shades, and play with her at roughly the same time each day. If weather permits, pop her in a stroller or baby carrier for a walk outside. Turning on tunes and surrounding her with normal household noises will also help show that day is for play.

Afternoon

Shorten marathon naps by placing her bassinet in indirect light near a window and skipping a sound machine. Once she's 6 weeks old, you can start gradually waking her from overly long midday snoozes. Aim to end naps five to ten minutes earlier each day until they're down to two to three hours max.

Night

“The single most important thing is a routine that helps the baby recognize that it is time to sleep,” says Skula. Clue her in by repeating the same steps—such as bath, book, cuddles—at the same time and in the same place every night. “Keep the environment calm, with minimal noise, little light, and calm movements,” advises Skula. And dial down the charm (think quiet monotone). The less she's engaged, the easier time she'll have falling asleep.

Work the Clock

Track when she wakes in the morning and when she goes down for her last nap of the day. Those two times influence when—and how well—she'll doze at night, says Skula. “Babies who stay in bed late in the morning may wake up more often at night, and the timing of when they fall asleep in the evening may become irregular,” explains Skula. As for the last nap, if your baby is awake too long or not long enough before bedtime, it can impact how long she sleeps at night, says Skula. Try waking her a half hour earlier and also starting her last nap a half hour earlier. Add another half hour every three to four days as needed.

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