Day 1: Start a regular routine
Many babies get their days and nights mixed up, taking long afternoon naps and waking up to play at bedtime. But today you’re going to fix it. Dr. John Herman, clinical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Children’s Medical Center Dallas, says: “The latest research shows that infants can distinguish between day and night from the very beginning.” . You just need to provide some clues to make this happen.
Wake your baby early tomorrow and get into the routine of getting up at the same time every day. Put her crib near a window and pull the blinds. “Natural light helps babies organize their circadian rhythms,” Dr. Herman says. Having her nap with the blinds drawn will also facilitate this process. “If they wake up from a nap during the day, they know it’s time to get up. If they wake up at night in the dark, they learn to go back to sleep,” he explains.
At night, start some quiet rituals. Ages zero to three: “Decide on a specific bedtime schedule,” says Claire Lerner, a child development specialist at the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families in Washington. Put your child in pajamas, put her in her crib and turn off the light. You may want to read a story or sing a song before tucking your baby in, which will help your baby’s motor and sensory systems slow down.
Day 2: Practice makes perfect
Today, you’ll want to build on the routine you started yesterday. If your child still needs to feed at night, this is a good time to emphasize the difference between day and night, says Robert Ballard, M.D., director of the Sleep Health Center at National Jewish Medical Center in Denver. “Nighttime feedings should be very relaxed and the lights should be lower. Do everything possible to avoid stimulating your baby.” . During the day, make her feedings very active when you tickle her feet or sing, so she will start to feel the difference
Continue to pay careful attention to what will soothe your baby at night. “Bathing may have a calming effect on one child and a refreshing effect on another,” Lerner says. You can also try adding white noise, says Dr. Carl Johnson, a psychologist and pediatric sleep researcher at Central Michigan University. “The humming sound of a fan, air conditioner or radio in static noise is good for many infants. The benefit of white noise is that it fades over time once your baby starts to fall into a more predictable sleep state.”
Day 3: The Crying Begins
Be strong: Tonight you start putting your baby in his crib while he’s still awake. “This is the single most important thing you can do,” says Dr. Schaefer. “For example, if he falls asleep on your breast during a bedtime feeding, wake him up and keep his eyes open when you put him in his crib.” Of course, a little ーーor a lot of ーーcrying may follow. But rest assured, this is harder for you than it is for your baby. Parents will naturally find it painful to listen to their cries, but just keep reminding yourself of the end resultーーsleepingーーis good for the whole family. Dr. Schafer emphasizes: “Don’t worry about the psychological damage that ignoring your baby while he’s crying will do to him.” . If you have met all his needs in other ways, this situation certainly won’t reduce his sense of security.
You also don’t have to worry about making a very young baby cry. In fact, the younger the baby, the easier the process becomes. “Babies over 5 or 6 months of age are naturally more frustrated because you’ve changed their rules,” Dr. Schaefer says. A 3-month-old, on the other hand, is only aware of the daily routines you create. “With younger babies, parents always assume the crying will last longer than usual,” agrees Pamela High, M.D., medical director of the infant development unit at Providence Women’s and Children’s Hospital. infants under 5 months usually last only 15 to 20 minutes
If fighting does happen, check in on your baby regularly to assure him you’re there —- do it every five minutes the first night. But don’t keep the visits too long: don’t turn on the lights, don’t remove him from his crib, and don’t give him a pacifier or bottle. “If he goes to sleep on crutches, he’ll still cry for it if he wakes up or goes to bed tomorrow night,” Lerner says.
Day 4: Hang in there
So last night was a long night. Hopefully, it will improve tonight. Your baby will quickly remember that crying doesn’t produce results. When she protests, extend your response time to every ten minutes. No matter what happens, don’t give in. If you’re inconsistent, your baby will learn to persevere,” says Deborah Givan, M.D., director of the Children’s Sleep Disorders Center at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. -She’ll up the ante tomorrow night and cry twice as long.” .
Day 5: Baby settles in
Most babies take to this program in three to five days, so tonight could be your lucky night. If your child still holds his or her own, extend your response time to 15 minutes. “Some babies need your constant attention for their comfort, but others find it a joke,” Lerner says.
Dr. Hay says: “Checking babies is for the benefit of the parents.” . “If you notice that you’re stimulating your child’s reaction every time you go in, and you can stand to leave, it’s okay to do so. Just peek at him through the doorway so he doesn’t really see you.”
Another frequent problem is nighttime feedings. At about 12 pounds or 3 to 4 months, most babies are ready to give them up. Obviously, you can’t decide to replace them with a smaller baby. But you can try to keep it short and quiet: hold your baby, but don’t sing to her, turn off the lights even when changing diapers, and put your baby in his crib once he’s asleep. Don’t buy into the argument that older babies wake up because they’re hungry. If they weigh more than 12 pounds, heavier babies actually need fewer nighttime feedings, so they are likely to wake out of habit. Dr. Girvan noted that larger babies sometimes become night owls precisely because they eat too much. “Overfeeding means they’ll have wet diapers, which makes them wake up again.”
Day 6: Baby oversleeps
Sounds blissful, doesn’t it? But chances are you’ll still be wandering the halls anyway. You may find yourself getting up to check on the baby. Relax. Put him in warm pajamas so you don’t have to worry about the covers being kicked off, and turn the monitor down so you can only hear him when he’s really distressed. Now that you’ve made great progress, don’t ruin it by rushing. Calm your child down. You also need to relax so that you can fall asleep.
Day 7: You sleep well too
Give yourself a big encouragement. Not only have you recovered your sleep, you’ve given your baby an important gift: good sleep habits are essential to your child’s health. Of course, there will be setbacks, such as illness, a new sibling, or an unfamiliar hotel room. “Even children who sleep well can have occasional problems,” says Dr. Girvan. But you can count on our foolproof plan whenever you need it. Your child will respond more easily the second time around because he already knows the exercise.