Sleep Schedules … for Babies?

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Sleep-deprived parents will try just about anything to get their baby to sleep through the night. Is a sleep schedule the answer?

Babies aren’t born knowing the difference between night and day, but you didn’t realize it would take THIS LONG for your baby to sleep through the night, did you? The good news is, it won’t last forever. Babies and sleep eventually even out, and a sleep schedule may start. By 8 months old, experts say, most babies will be experiencing nightly sleep-throughs much to their happy parents’ relief.

“The tincture of time, this too shall pass, they will sleep one day …” says a smiling Anna Morad, M.D., assistant professor of Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “In all seriousness, it’s important to remember that babies are still little growing people who haven’t developed the ability to do everything perfectly, and sometimes they need you.”

“Most new parents learn quickly that a baby put to sleep on the breast or by rocking is prone to wake back up within a short period of time,” says Lee Anne O’Brien, M.D., of Capstone Pediatrics at Centennial Park. “Allowing babies to drift off on their own is the best way to train them to form good sleeping habits. By 2 – 3 months old, most infants start to have a predictable and hopefully nocturnal sleep pattern. I recommend parents make short, 10 – 15 minute adjustments to get the baby on a schedule that works for them,” she adds.

Morad encourages parents to establish a routine first. You might try playing the same lullaby or giving a warm bath as a bedtime routine. She says to pick a routine and be sure to stick to it. “Realize that sleeping through the night is a developmental milestone that babies will reach at different time points,” adds Morad.

Tips for Better Baby Sleep

  • Caffeine: If you are nursing, limit caffeine from coffee, tea and sodas. Caffeine is not only great at keeping us awake, it passes into breastmilk and does the same for babies.
  • A dark room: Put your baby to sleep in his crib in a relatively dark room (night lights are OK). It’s important, too, that the baby is familiar with his environment.
  • Establish a bedtime ritual: Children who have the same bedtime ritual each night actually begin to feel sleepy during the last, brief bedtime story or lullaby.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics says to always put babies to sleep on their backs to reduce the chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrom (SIDS).

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