How can I help my baby establish good sleeping habits?
Matthew Hoffman, MD
Internist, WebMD Medical Expert
Parents can set the stage now for baby's good sleep patterns to emerge in the future. Try the following:
Regulate your baby's day-night sleep cycle. As soon as possible, try to teach your baby that "nighttime is when we sleep, and daytime is when we have fun."
During daylight hours, keep things stimulating and active for baby. Play with her a lot. Try to keep her awake after she feeds (often a losing battle).
When it's dark, become a more low-key, boring parent for your baby. Feed her in a semi-darkened room. Cut down on all stimulation (e.g. keep light and noise soft and low). Hopefully, she'll learn that daytime is fun time and nighttime is boring, so she might as well sleep when it's dark outside.
Begin to teach your baby to fall asleep on her own, without getting used to (and then becoming dependent on) being held, rocked, fed, etc. The goal is that when she awakens in the middle of the night (as most babies do), she will be able to get herself back to sleep without the need for you to come in and rock, feed, or soothe her.
After a few weeks (when everyone is not so sleep-deprived and things are settling down), begin to put your baby to bed awake and drowsy whenever you can, so she learns to fall asleep on her own.
Your goal should be to try to do it when it's possible. If your baby conks out right after a feeding, don't wake her just so you can put her back to sleep. This is a skill that may take months to learn. If you are reasonably consistent in your efforts, she will get the message.