When it comes to your baby’s sleep, there is no shortage of advice you will receive. Whether from your parents, in-laws, friends, co-workers or strangers, everyone seems willing to share helpful tips. But in the middle of the night when the wailing alarm sounds, all the advice is drowned out by the sound of your baby’s cry.
What to do? Let your baby cry himself back to sleep, or respond right away?
When your baby is an infant and wakes crying in the middle of the night, you should absolutely respond and feed him. However, once your baby reaches the age of 6 months, he should have developed a regular sleep cycle and is capable of sleeping through the night without needing you.
Tips for helping your baby fall back asleep
Here is how you can help your baby learn how to put himself back to sleep:
- Play by day. A nice, tired baby will sleep much more soundly than one who hasn’t had enough activity during the day. In between naps, make sure you make time for play and get your baby to be physical when possible — lots of crawling, cruising, bouncing and laughing.
- Don’t rock to sleep. Don’t wait until your baby is asleep before putting him in his crib. If you are rocking your child to sleep every night, or if he can only fall asleep during a feeding, he will have a harder time learning to fall asleep without you. Put your baby in his crib — for bedtime and naptime — when he is drowsy but still awake.
- Let your baby fuss. When you hear your baby start to fuss, that’s your cue to stay put. Let her try and fall asleep on her own. If her crying continues for several minutes, you can go into the baby’s room, but don’t turn on the light, pick her up or play with her. You can give her a gentle pat on the tummy and tell her to go back to sleep. If she has a pacifier, you can give it back to her. Keep your tone soothing and gentle.
- Be patient. Sometimes it can take several weeks for your baby to get the hang of putting himself back to sleep. Stick with it and soon you will all enjoy very silent nights.
Contributed by: Patrick S. Pasquariello, MD