Baby sleep training tips

February 13, 2009 4:38:30 PM PST
Sleep is one of the most challenging experiences for new parents. Forming healthy sleep habits is something that can be learned and successfully done.

Sleeping Q&A

When do you start?
When your baby is 4 months and 16 lbs. At your 4 month appointment with your pediatrician, talk with them about it.

How do parents starts?
First, start with the morning nap. This is a time when babies are most accepting to change. Decide on a sleep routine. This is something that will work with your schedule and needs of the house. Some examples are reading a book, saying goodnight to everything and everyone, signing, listening to lullaby, yes, some people use a favorite TV show!

How do you start a nightly routine?

  1. Look for your baby's "sleep signals" that show when she is tired. Seize the moment before the "sleepy window" has passed. This may occur as early as 6:00 or 7:00 pm for babies.

  2. Eat Play Sleep. It is good to make sure that baby is breastfeed or bottle before you lie them down. This can be part of the bedtime routine. Do not lay baby down with a bottle as this is confusing association with sleep not with eating.

  3. Find a "lovey". This is something she will have just for sleeping. It is so she will associate sleeping with this object. The key is helping your baby learn how to get herself to sleep. This gives her the chance to learn what it feels like to fall asleep on her own. When she wakes up in the middle of the night, she will then know how to put herself back to sleep with her "lovey" or transitional object. This is an important skill you are teaching your baby!

  4. Be consistent. The sleep routine is something you will do every day, every time they are going down to sleep. Be sure to be at home the same time in the afternoon and evening to make their naps consistent, especially in the beginning. I found that after I established their sleep routine, then I had the flexibility to go out and about while mimicking the routine.
What do you do if the baby wakes up in the middle of the night?
First, see if they really are awake. If they are crying for a few minutes go in and see if they are ok. Tell them it is time for "night-night" or time for sleep, rub their back, tell them "mommy loves you" and then leave the room again. You will almost sound like a broken record "it's time for night-night"!! Remember, it is your job to put your child to bed, but it is your child's job to go to sleep.


Babies should sleep through the night
Many parents dream of nothing more than getting their baby to sleep through the night. Most babies have the capacity to make it 8 hours or more without a feeding when they are about 4 months and at least 16 pounds. If babies at this age and stage are still waking up in the middle of the night, the problem is usually not the waking up?it's the getting back to sleep. Most babies (and adults) wake up one or more times during the night.

The key is helping your baby learn how to get herself to sleep. Creating a soothing routine of lullabies, books, and rocking before bedtime is very important.

Offering your baby a "lovey" (stuffed animal or special blanket) is a good trick. Babies will often comfort themselves with these objects, which helps them fall asleep. You may also hear your baby singing or talking to herself before drifting off to sleep. These are all ways babies have of putting themselves to sleep.

"Crying It Out" is bad for baby
Crying is a common and (understandable!) response to saying good-bye to a loved parent at bedtime. However, learning to fall asleep on one's own is an important skill that you can help your baby learn when she is old enough, at about 4 months.

Most experts and research agree that letting a baby or toddler cry as they go to sleep will not have any long-term damaging effects. And the good news is that the crying at bedtime will probably only go on for a few days before your baby adapts and begins to learn how to put herself to sleep.

But that doesn't mean it's an easy choice for parents. Many parenting decisions, and especially this one, involve understanding temperament, not only your baby's, but your own as well. If letting your baby cry herself to sleep is too emotionally painful for you, there are other options. For example, you can go back to check on her every 10 minutes (but without rocking or nursing her). Or, you can decide on a certain length of crying that you are willing to put up with (say 15 minutes) and if the crying goes beyond that, you will go in to comfort the baby.

Babies on solid foods sleep longer
There is no research to support it, and in fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages feeding babies solid foods before four months of age. This is due to their immature digestive systems and their lack of oral-motor skills. Some studies even indicate that early introduction of solids can trigger food allergies.

Your young infant will be plenty full on a liquid (breast milk or formula) diet, without using solids. Make the baby's last feeding part of his bedtime routine. And try to put your baby down while he is still awake, but drowsy. If you have concerns about your child's weight gain or sleep patterns, talk to your health care provider.

About Jen Frick:
Jen Frick brings 10 years of experience in healthcare specializing in infants, children and pre and postnatal education. Prior to founding The Tulip Grove, Jen worked in management and lead positions at Alta Bates Hospital and Children's Hospital Oakland. A Registered Respiratory Therapist, Jen has helped hundreds of children at critical moments in the Neonatal and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. She has also lead educational conferences and presentations for other healthcare providers.

As a pre and postnatal fitness instructor, a support group leader, lactation counselor and Stroller Strides franchise owner, she has helped expectant and new moms navigate the changes and experiences woman encounter through pregnancy, childbirth and life with a newborn.

Originally from Indiana, Jen lives in the Montclair area and is a mother of two (Penny, 4 and Elliot, 1). Jen received her B.S. in Exercise Physiology from Indiana University and an A.S. in Respiratory Therapy, specializing in neonatal and pediatrics. She also completed the Lactation Counselor program through University California in San Diego. She serves as an adjunct professor at Napa Valley College and has presented at national healthcare and fitness conferences. She has also published articles in e-pregnancy magazine and the Journal of Respiratory Care.

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