Practical Tips to get a Baby to Sleep

New parents need their rest. After the physical and emotional stress of pregnancy and childbirth, Mom and Dad both need eight or more hours of restful sleep during each twenty-four hour period.

Adjusting to the altered routine of life with a baby, especially one who is fretful or  colicky is not easy. Lack of sleep will intensify every little problem and erode the patience of even the most conscientious parent.  It is important to develop strategies which will ensure that everyone gets the sleep they need.

Babies who range in age from 1 to 3 months need 16 hours of sleep daily; those 3 to 6 months will sleep 15 hours, those between 6 and 12 months 14 hours and babies between a year and 18 months will sleep 13 and 3/4 hours in a 24 hour period.

There are a number of strategies which will encourage a baby to fall asleep. Here are some tips which will be helpful.

* If you are breastfeeding, cut out caffeine. The stimulant in coffee, tea or soda can cause a baby to be fretful and restless, thus keeping everyone from getting an undisturbed  night’s sleep.

* Encourage the baby to eat well during the day, so he will not be awakened by hunger at night. If he sleeps more than four hours between daytime feedings, gently awaken him and offer him milk. However, be patient if he is not yet ready to change his feeding pattern.

* Be sure the baby is comfortable. He should have been recently fed, have dry diapers and his room temperature should be about 72 degrees Fahrenheit. If colic is a problem in the early months, consult your doctor.

* Establish a consistent bedtime routine: feeding, a period of quiet play, a warm bath, a story or lullaby time. He’ll soon come to realize that these events every evening signal that it’s time for sleep.

* Keep the room quiet and the lights dim or turned off. Invest in opaque blinds so bright sunlight doesn’t interfere with naps or night time rest .  Oil squeaky springs and hinges. Turn down the phone. Try to keep the dog from barking.

* Rocking movements will calm a baby and often send him off to dreamland. Mom or Dad sitting in a rocking chair holding the little one, should put him to sleep. Other options are a carriage ride outdoors if the weather is pleasant, a car ride, or one of the automatic rocking cradles available today in baby supply stores. When he has been  soundly asleep for about five minutes, place him gently in his crib.

* Repetitive, monotonous sounds remind baby of the sounds he used to hear in the womb, and will make him feel snug and secure. Turn on a ceiling fan, an air conditioner, or place a ticking clock near his crib. Try playing tape recordings of waterfalls or ocean sounds, or lullabies crooned softly either by a professional artist or by Mom or Dad.

*  Consider buying a pacifier. Besides being a calming strategy, research suggests that sucking on a pacifier during sleep helps reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

If Mom is at home, she should take advantage of the time baby sleeps during the day to catch a few naps herself. Dad may snooze after dinner while Mom gets Junior settled for the night. Both parents may choose to alternate night duty until the baby is ready to sleep through until morning.

One reassuring thought to keep in mind: although the first few months of interrupted sleep may seem to go on forever, with the great majority of babies it is only a temporary phenomenon. Like the long nine months of pregnancy and discomfort of childbirth, this unsettling period too, will soon pass.