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 them the tools and let them use them
Of course you want to keep responding to Baby‘s needs, but as they get older, they&;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 they can drift off again. Hurrying to help soothe them back down again is definitely one way to help them go back to sleep, but they can also start to learn how to calm themself down, maybe by sucking their thumb, or by getting their body into a comfy position. You can help encourage some of these strategies as they explore the world during the day, and then when they wake during the night, they may try them out as a way to settle themself down. If you slow your walk as you head towards them when they wake up at night, the minute or two extra may give them the chance to try to put themself back to sleep.
Get on a consistent routine
Keeping to a schedule, and verbally and physically reassuring Baby that they are 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 them 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 they are expecting, like your immediate presence when they call out, they will still have the other parts of your bedtime routine. You can soothe them with your voice, but avoid picking them up to condition them to fall asleep on their 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 them 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 them down when they are still awake, and practice putting them back on their own sooner and sooner so they can practice falling asleep on their 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, they will never have a chance to learn to soothe themself to sleep. Letting Baby fall asleep in their crib can help create that safe, cozy environment that they 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.