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Baby Sleep: Expert Q & A

Should you wake your baby for feedings? How many naps does baby need? Our expert answers some of the most common baby sleep questions.

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Should I stick to a strict sleeping schedule?

I think you should give your baby the opportunity to have a routine, and I like for babies to have down time to relax in their own crib.

Try to have some semblance of a routine and schedule, but it doesn’t have to be right down to the minute.

How can I get my baby to start sleeping through the night?

Keep it dark and quiet, and have a routine every evening that consists of quiet time -- maybe a bath, reading a book, or brushing baby’s teeth if they have any yet. Get them calm and drowsy before putting them in their crib, and be consistent, put them down the same way each time. In the middle of the night, shorten your routine and rock or pat your baby for just a minute or so before putting her back to sleep.

You don’t want baby to fall asleep while you’re feeding or rocking them, though, because you want them to figure out how to put themselves to sleep. Should you wake them if they do fall asleep then? No, especially not in the first month; it’s impossible to avoid falling asleep during feedings and rockings when they’re that young. But after the first month, put them to sleep drowsy…if they’re falling asleep when you’re nursing, for example, stop nursing and put them to sleep. If they’re falling asleep too soon, try starting your calming, quiet routine sooner.

The other thing you want to do is to make sure the baby isn’t overtired when you put her to bed. Don’t wait until the baby is really fussy; try to stay a step ahead and look for the signs she’s getting sleepy before she’s cranky.

It’s also helpful to know that once babies get to the point where they’re eating more in the daytime they don’t need to wake and eat at night. But don’t overfeed the baby to encourage her to sleep through the night. Some parents try to push more formula, breast milk, or baby food on the baby right before sleep and that can backfire because the baby might not settle in well, just like you when you’ve eaten too much at Thanksgiving dinner. Wait until your baby settles into a pattern where he naturally eats more in the daytime.

Should I let my baby cry himself to sleep?

It depends on the baby and it depends on the age. The method of crying it out has been the most studied and it works for many babies, but you should talk to your pediatrician about whether it’s right for yours. Some babies get tired and go to sleep after crying, but some just get angrier. So, where crying it out works for many babies, it doesn’t work for all of them. And there’s some babies who just need to wake up and feed and then they’ll go back to bed. Instead of denying the feeding, and having the crying, it’s best to feed them.

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