One of the most abrupt changes to your life upon bringing your newborn home is the lack of sleep for parents. We all eagerly await the stage when our infants sleep through the night. The following will hopefully help you establish healthy sleep habits at an early age.
Newborns sleep approximately 16 hrs per day, waking every 1-3 hours to eat. To encourage longer periods of sleep at night, keep your daytime environment light and noisy, and the nights dark and as quiet as possible.
Between 4 and 6 months of age, babies no longer need to eat at night. Teaching a baby to go into his/her bed (crib)tired, but awake will avoid "sleep association" problems that develop when a baby needs to eat, be touched, or rocked to fall asleep. When those children enter lighter phases of sleep at night, or arouse partially, they will need those same conditions to fall back to sleep, which means you as a parent will need to get up to help them. Babies and children who can fall asleep on their own will not need you to get up to help them get back to sleep throughout the night. For this age group, expect your child to sleep 10 - 12 hours a night and take 2 daytime naps.
Older infants and toddlers can sometimes be hard to settle at bedtime. At this point, a predictable, consistent, quiet, enjoyable bedtime routine is invaluable. Having some milk (before brushing teeth), taking a bath, and reading a book(s) transitions to a calmer, painless bedtime. Resist endless requests to delay bedtime as it will hinder your efforts at a routine.
Some children defy all the best intentions to raise a good sleeper. For those children, the following books may be helpful:
Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems, by Richard Ferber
Good Night Sleep Tight: The Sleep Lady's Guide to Helping Your Child Go To Sleep, by Kim West
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, by Marc Weissbluth
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Silver Spring Pediatrics
Drs. DeConcini, Schooler, Zang, Wang, Yee & Marcus