your babyÂs sleep
How to encourage safe, happy slumber for all
You know how good it feels to get a full night’s sleep: You awake refreshed and ready to face the world. But while adults usually prefer a seven- or eight-hour stretch, newborns typically sleep in two- to three-hour spurts. As a new parent, how do you reconcile that difference?
“If your aim this year was to get more sleep, you may have made a mistake nine months ago,” says pediatrician Jay Gordon, M.D., co-author of Good Nights: The Happy Parents’ Guide to the Family Bed (and a Peaceful Night’s Sleep!) (St. Martin’s Press, 2002). Interrupted sleep will be the norm for some time, Gordon adds, but not forever. In the meantime, you and your baby can learn to adjust to each other’s patterns—once she is a bit older, that is.
“For the first three months, your job is to follow your baby’s lead, promptly responding to cries for food, diaper changes and comforting,” says George J. Cohen, M.D., editor of the American Academy of Pediatrics Guide to Your Child’s Sleep (Villard Books, 2002). As your baby gets older, you can determine where she sleeps, her going-to-sleep routine and how you will respond to nighttime wakings.
Location, location, location> The usual options for where your baby will sleep are a crib in her room, a bassinet or “co-sleeper” next to your bed, or your own bed. If you’re tentative about having your baby in bed with you, consider this: Breastfed babies who sleep in bed with their mothers nurse more and gain weight easier, according to studies at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine. Also, the closer your baby is to you at night, the more easily and quickly you will be able to respond to her needs.
No matter where your baby sleeps, make sure the mattress is firm and there are no crevices where she can get stuck. Never place pillows or comforters near your sleeping baby, and always put her down to sleep on her back to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Easing into a ritual> Use room temperature, light and noise to signal to your baby that it’s time for sleeping or waking. The room temperature should be cool for sleeping: between 65° F and 70° F, according to Cohen. In the morning, open the blinds and go outdoors with your baby to signal that it’s daytime.
Many babies will fall into a natural rhythm of napping in the morning and afternoon. You can help your baby find this rhythm by following a loose routine. “Putting your child down for her nap at the same time every day helps set her internal clock,” says Jodi A. Mindell, Ph.D., author of Sleeping Through the Night (Harper Perennial, 1997).