Ah, those blissful times when you used to get a full-night’s sleep, waking refreshed and ready to take on the day … have come to a screeching halt. Hopefully, you’re one of the lucky moms whose babies sleep soundly for several hours, but if not, you may be at your wit’s end trying to “train” your baby to sleep.
Why won’t my baby sleep?!
He does sleep—and he sleeps a lot! Up until about 6 months of age, babies sleep about 16 to 17 hours every day. The problem is, they may only sleep for an hour or two at a time. They simply don’t have that regular sleep/wake cycle yet.
How can we get better sleep at night?
There’s no magic wand to make babies sleep when we want them to—if there were, life would be too easy! But, there are ways to help your baby learn to sleep more on a schedule, which hopefully includes a long stretch at night.
- During the day: While it may be tempting to use nap time to work or do some chores around the house, resist the urge to let baby sleep too much. The average baby can manage one good stretch of sleep, maybe five hours or so, in a day. You want that stretch to come at night. Make sure that when your baby is alert, you take time to interact with him. Sing songs, have long conversations, dance, read books—whatever keeps him engaged and is fun for you both. Another good tip is to feed them after they wake, which will give them energy to play and engage with you.
- Falling asleep: Once bedtime starts to creep up, you want to choose quieter activities. Watch for your baby’s cues that say he’s getting sleepy. He might rub his eyes, yawn, be less attentive or start fussing a little. Now’s the time to start establishing a bedtime routine. This can be as simple as bath, book, song and a cuddle before bed. It doesn’t have to be complex; it just needs to be consistent, every night, so he begins to understand when he’s supposed to sleep. Try to get baby in bed while he’s very sleepy, but still awake, so he learns to fall asleep in his crib. You may want to keep a hand on his tummy, or lightly stroke his arm, to provide comfort as he dozes off.
- Staying asleep: The truth is, babies just aren’t designed to sleep for eight straight hours at only a few weeks old. Their little tummies can’t hold enough to stay satisfied all night. Breastfed babies, especially, need more frequent feedings.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep in the same room with their parents for the first six months, but in a separate bed. This can be very useful as you learn baby’s cues—sometimes, he may wake up and fuss for a moment, but a comforting word or pat might soothe him right back to sleep. Other times, he may be hungry—and he’ll make sure you know it!