Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sleep Baby Sleep

Trouble getting sleep?  Baby cries whenever you put her in bed and leave the room?  Hoping to find a way to teach your infant to sleep without all the fuss?

First off, know that this is but one of the MANY new skills that your child is working on, and that he will learn this in his own time.  And even when he does learn to go to sleep on his own, there will be times needing extra help again (when vacationing, feeling sick, uncomfortable from teething, working on a new skill such as walking, experiencing separation anxiety, etc).

This may be the #1 most common "problem" for parents in the US, and a source for tons of books and advice for how to "fix" it.  I believe the true source for the disconnect is that our lifestyle is simply not compatible with a baby's natural instincts, which is to be close to mom and dad at ALL times.  That doesn't mean that co-sleeping or wearing the baby is the only answer (though it can be done safely-- parents should be aware that somewhere down the line they will want to have their own space, and the child will need to go through the same steps to get there).

Much of this is age dependent.  Newborns through about 3 months of age can't be expected to follow any kind of pattern, and all cries should be attended to.  This is the time for bonding, feeling safe and secure, needs being met.  In these early months, the chance your baby needs food or diaper-change at any given hour are really high, so you may as well be close at hand

At around 4-5 months of age is when I recommend starting a true bedtime (and nap time) routine for baby in his own crib and room.  This is about the earliest he can be expected to learn the patterns and feel safe without you immediately there.  
Remember, your child's desire to be next to you even in sleep is completely NATURAL, and actually a very good survival instinct!

Helping baby learn to sleep on her own 

- Anticipate sleepy times, don't let baby get overtired.  The stress from missing nap or bedtimes may lead to restlessness.  Look for classic signs like yawning, rubbing eyes, and crankiness.

- Create and stick to a pre-sleeping routine that follows a predictable schedule and pattern.  For example 6pm dinner, 6:30pm bath, 7pm books, 7:30pm soft music and cuddles before laying down to sleep at 8pm.

- Make sure baby's basic needs are taken care of ahead of time (diaper changed, well fed, burped).

- Keep lights dim, voices and activity mellow for about 30 minutes before naps and 1 hour before bedtime.