Three steps to successful sleep training
In addition to your comforting presence, there are three keys to establishing healthy sleep patterns: setting a sleep schedule, putting your baby to bed when she is drowsy but awake, and establishing a routine.
1. Set a sleep schedule. Babies need regular naps and bed times. While it’s common for newborns to stay up until 10 or 11, by three months your child should be in bed by 7 or 7:30. “If you leave it until nine, your baby will be too tired and it will be difficult to get them to sleep,” says Dr. Mindell. “Look for sleep signs,” adds Dr. Tobin. When your baby starts to rub her eyes, yawn, suck on her fingers, fuss and show a shortened attention span, it’s time for bed.
2. Put your baby to bed awake, but drowsy. Put your baby to bed when he’s still awake, then comfort him with your presence, touch and voice. “If your baby is fussing, whisper softly in his ear,” says Dr. Tobin. “If he’s screaming, switch to a perky voice and speak quickly.”
Expect training to take about two weeks. Once your baby gets used to falling asleep with you there, she will soon be able soothe herself to sleep.
3. Establish a nightly routine that lets your baby know it’s time for bed. Give him a bath, a massage or change his clothes. Read a story or sing a song. There are a lot of things you can do together, but the activities should be consistent and they should be soothing. “Avoid TV viewing before bed as it can lead to disruptive sleep,” says Dr. Mindell.
Meet our Experts:
Dr. Cathryn Tobin is a pediatrician and author of the Lull-A-Baby Sleep Plan. Dr. Jodi Mindell is the Associate Director of the Sleep Center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She is also the author of Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night’s Sleep.