Newborn babies always seem to sleep, except when you want them to. They usually sleep up to 20 hours a day and only wake every 2 to 3 hours for feeding. Most babies start sleeping through the night at between 3 weeks and 3 months of age. Feeding them cereal will not make them sleep longer or earlier ( unless you believe it will, yes that's right ). Only rice cereal is safe below 6 months of age, not oatmeal, rye or barley until 6 months.
Your baby will develop his or her own sleeping schedule in time, but you can help him or her match your schedule with a few simple steps.
Your baby does not know night from day and doesn't much care at this point, but you can teach him or her the difference. During the night your baby will get up and will have some needs that need met, such as, changing a diaper or feeding ( at least for the first few weeks to months). You should change the diaper, give a feeding and put your baby back to bed. Don't reward your baby for getting up by rocking, singing, reading or watching a movie, simply put him or her back to bed.
Teach your baby that daytime is playtime. During the day you should do the opposite of what you do during the night. That is, you should sing to your baby, rock him or her, read to him or her and do all of the things you enjoy with your baby. Your baby will then associate daytime with playtime and nighttime with sleep time.
Babies that usually fall asleep in their parents arms are frightened when they awaken and find that they are not in their parents arms. Therefore, try to let your baby fall asleep in the crib. This should not matter in the first few weeks of life.
Try not to develop the habit of responding too quickly to your babys cry. All babies cry and fuss and if you respond quickly, they will learn to expect this. If you take too long to respond, they will cry louder, while babies that know their mother respond slowly will usually soothe themselves and stop crying before their mothers get there. One to two minutes is about right.
When your baby gets sick, you should comfort your baby at night however you see fit. But after the illness has past, you should return to the above methods and your baby will start to sleep through the night again.
Developing a going to bed ritual will help you get your child to bed. You have a bedtime ritual too: you take off your makeup, put on your bed clothes, watch Lettermans top ten list, then doze off. Your babies ritual should be from 5 to 15 minutes, mellow ( no excitement or playing ), at the same time every night and the room should be comforting ( not too hot or cold, loud or quiet, dark or light ). When the ritual starts, this is your babies signal to slow down and once its over that's his or her signal to go to sleep.
When your baby gets up several times a night after the first several weeks, heres how to fix it. We all get up 3 to 4 times a night, and so does your baby. We lie there, recognize that we are in a consistent environment and fall back to sleep. Therefore, your babies environment should also be consistent and most of the time they will just fall back asleep when they awaken. To help this out, you need to follow two basic rules during this time. First, when your baby awakens at night, wait 1 to 2 minutes before going into their room. This will give them a chance to fall back asleep on their own. You should not wait more than 5 minutes and every time you leave the room, you should restart the 1 to 2 minute clock. Second, when you go to your baby, you can comfort them however you need to ( except for rewarding them ), but you must leave before they fall asleep. Remember, if they fall asleep with you present, then you will always be present when they fall asleep.
When sleeping with your baby, you will not be able to feel your baby stop breathing (as some parents think) and there are too many babies that die each year from their parents rolling over on them, therefore many doctors recommend not to sleep with your infants. Since most of the worlds parents sleep with their kids and they do fine, then who is right? So long as you remember the precautions listed here, there is no problem with sleeping with your kids. NEVER let your baby sleep or lay on a waterbed, as they can get trapped between the bed and side board and be crushed or suffocate. At this time, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that your baby sleep on his or her back as this position as been shown to greatly reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The side is actually unstable and if your baby rolls over onto its belly, then the risk of SIDS goes up. Your baby should not have a very soft or fluffy pillow, comforter, mattress or bedding as your baby will not be able to turn his or her head yet if needed and could suffocate.
I have condensed much of what I learned about solving sleep problems into the page in my newborn booklet and web site. Obviously you canít solve every sleep problem with one page worth of advice. If the other tips we have discussed donít work, its time to really do some research and find out about your specific situation. The following book is a compilation of many different types of sleep problems and how to solve them. Itís produced by the American Academy of Pediatrics, therefore its comprehensive and trustworthy advice. I do caution that you read as much as possible and formulate a plan of action you can work with. Donít read for quick answers and halfway try them.
TITLE: Guide to Your Childís Sleep Problems
EDITOR: George Cohen, MD, FAAP
PUBLISHER: Random House
ISBM #: 0-679-76981-1
COST: $12.95 list in paperback, $10.36 on Amazon.com (as of 2005)