By Shelley Frost
Getting a baby to sleep at night is one of the biggest struggles that many parents face. Because every baby is different, there is no magic cure for sleep troubles. Many factors work together when it comes to putting a baby to sleep. Careful consideration of the bedtime routine and the environment will help identify problem areas.
Babies often change their sleep and awake patterns without notice. Setting a specific routine at bedtime encourages your baby to fall asleep easily. There is no one routine that is better than another. Choose the elements that work for you and your lifestyle. The key is to keep the routine the same each night. Your baby will grow accustomed to this routine and will understand that the routine means bedtime.
Every house has natural noises and sounds created by televisions and other activities. You may not even notice many of these sounds, but a baby could find them distracting. Assess the noises that may be distracting to your baby at bedtime. A white noise machine can eliminate distracting noises for your baby. A fan or other steady noise also works for many babies.
A darkened room is another signal to your baby that it is time to go to sleep. Lights are stimulating for babies, so choose a dim night-light or no light at all.
Pay close attention to the temperature of the nursery. Take into consideration the amount of clothing your baby wears to bed. If she is swaddled, the blanket adds more warmth. A nursery that is too warm or too cold can interfere with your baby’s sleep patterns. Dry air in the nursery may also cause difficulty for your baby at bedtime.
Many newborn babies sleep better when swaddled. The swaddling gives them a sense of comfort and security. Special swaddling blankets are available to make the task easier.
Rocking a baby often soothes him to sleep. A comfortable rocking chair in the nursery will make the bedtime process easier for you. A baby may prefer to be rocked side to side in your arms while you stand. Try different positions and methods of rocking to find the technique that works best for your baby.
Transitioning from your warm arms to a cold bed can understandably cause a baby discomfort. Flannel sheets in the crib make a warmer spot for your baby to sleep. You can also warm a towel in the dryer and place it on the sheets before bedtime. Remove the towel before placing your baby in the crib. A warm bed may help the baby transition to the bed without waking.
Parents need lots of patience when dealing with a baby who doesn’t want to sleep. As difficult as it may be, staying calm is best for both you and your baby. Your baby will sense your stress if you get upset. She may have more difficulty falling asleep, which will cause you more stress. Sing a quiet lullaby to help both of you stay calm and to create a soothing environment. Practice breathing techniques to stay calm.
Cosleeping is an option for some families. Cosleeping is the practice of sleeping near your baby, either in the same bed or with the baby in a special crib that attaches to the bed. Babies feel secure, which may help them fall asleep easier. You won’t have to get out of bed for feedings in the middle of the night. However, there are some concerns about the safety of cosleeping. It is important to research cosleeping to ensure proper safety precautions are practiced.
Dr. Richard Ferber developed the concept of sleep training for older babies. The baby is placed in her crib while still awake at the end of a regular bedtime routine. The process teaches the baby to soothe herself and put herself to sleep. In Ferber’s method of sleep training, a crying baby is comforted by the parent without being removed from the bed. Ferber’s book, “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems,” explains the process in detail as it involves more than simply letting your child “cry it out.” As with any sleep method, Ferber’s sleep training may not work for all families.