Continuing to live with the irregular sleep pattern your family has developed after Baby’s arrival may feel impossible, especially a couple of months in. But while newborns might need to be fed and soothed back to sleep every time they wake up, by 3 or 4 months, babies can start to learn to fall back to sleep on their own. Being over-tired isn’t good for Baby or for you, so encouraging an unbroken sleep may help to reduce both of your stress in the long run, even if it can take a little while for your little one to catch up.
Give him the tools and let him use them
Of course you want to keep responding to Baby‘s needs, but as he gets older, he&;ll start to have fewer physical needs at night – besides sleep – and may start calling out to you for your help getting comfortable enough that he can drift off again. Hurrying to help soothe him back down again is definitely one way to help him go back to sleep, but he can also start to learn how to calm themselves down, maybe by sucking his thumb, or by getting his body into a comfy position. You can help encourage some of these strategies as he explores the world during the day, and then when he wakes during the night, he may try them out as a way to settle themselves down. If you slow your walk as you head towards him when he wakes up at night, the minute or two extra may give him the chance to try to put themselves back to sleep.
Get on a consistent routine
Keeping to a schedule, and verbally and physically reassuring Baby that he is safe and loved in the same ways every night, so that it can become something Baby counts on, is a great way to help establish a successful sleeping routine. This allows him to settle down with minimal intervention from you. Creating a routine with baths, stories, soft music, and shorter feedings signals to Baby that it is time for bed, and when you start to withdraw other parts of what he is expecting, like your immediate presence when he calls out, he will still have the other parts of your bedtime routine. You can soothe him with your voice, but avoid picking him up to condition him to fall asleep on his own, and you can keep your nighttime soothing visits to Baby‘s room as short and boring as possible – quiet, dark, without much stimulation – to make him not want to be up and alert quite so much. If you’re not quite ready to stop picking Baby up entirely, that’s fine, too. What you can do instead is work on putting him down when he is still awake, and practice putting him back on his own sooner and sooner so he can practice falling asleep on his own.
Remember that babies naturally learn to fall asleep on their own if put in the right environment. If you always rock Baby to sleep, he will never have a chance to learn to soothe themselves to sleep. Letting Baby fall asleep in his crib can help create that safe, cozy environment that he so desires.
- Michael Gradisar, et al. “Behavioral Interventions for Infant Sleep Problems: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Pediatrics. May 2016. Retrieved September 28 2017.
- Rebecca Parlakian and Claire Lerner. “Sleep changes: Why it happens, what to do.” Zero to Three. Zero to Three, February 29 2016. Retrieved September 28 2017. https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/331-sleep-challenges-why-it-happens-what-to-do.
- “Getting your baby to sleep.” Healthy Children. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Retrieved September 28 2017. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/Getting-Your-Baby-to-Sleep.aspx.