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Put Your Sleepy Baby to Bed

Starting when your baby is 6 to 12 weeks old, soothe her until she is drowsy. When she’s on the verge of sleep, put her down and let her drift off on her own. Don't wait until she’s fully asleep in your arms; this could be a behavior that may become a struggle to get rid of later in her life.  

This routine will teach your baby to soothe herself to sleep, and you won't need to rock or cuddle her to sleep every time she wakes up during the night.

Safety First: Lower SIDS Risk

Every time you put your baby down to sleep, whether it's at night or for a nap during the day, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you do the following to lower the chances of SIDS ( sudden infant death syndrome):

  • Always put your baby down to sleep on his or her back.
  • Always use a firm sleep surface. Car seats and other sitting devices are not recommended for routine sleep.
  • Your baby should sleep in the same room as you, but not in the same bed as you.
  • Keep soft objects or loose bedding out of the crib. This includes pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, and bumper pads.
  • Do not use wedges and positioners.
  • Offer your baby a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.
  • Avoid covering your baby's head or overheating.
  • Do not use home monitors or commercial devices marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS.
  • Make sure your baby gets all recommended vaccinations.
  • Give your baby supervised, awake tummy time every day.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Breastfeed your baby.
  • If you're pregnant, get regular prenatal care.

Let Your Baby Cry It Out -- Should You or Shouldn’t You?

One crying-it-out type of sleep training is the well-known, yet controversial, Ferber Method, also known as "Progressive Watching" or "Graduated Extinction." The goal is to teach your baby how to sleep on her own and put herself back to sleep if she wakes up during the night. Richard Ferber, MD, director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children's Hospital Boston, developed this method. He advises parents not to start this training until their baby is at least 5 or 6 months old. Here’s an overview of how it’s done:

  • Put your baby in her crib -- drowsy, but awake. Once you've finished her bedtime routine, leave the room.
  • If your baby cries, wait a few minutes before you check on her. The amount of time you wait depends on you and your baby. You might start waiting somewhere between 1 and 5 minutes.
  • When you re-enter your baby’s room, try to console her. But do not pick her up and do not stay for more than 2 or 3 minutes, even if she's still crying when you leave. Seeing your face will be enough to assure your baby that you are close by so she can eventually fall asleep on her own.
  • If she continues crying, gradually increase the amount of time you wait before going in to check on her again. For instance, if you wait 3 minutes the first time, wait 5 minutes the second time, and 10 minutes each time after that.
  • The next night, wait 5 minutes the first time, 10 minutes the second time, and 12 minutes each time after that.