Infant Sleep: Setting Your Baby Up For Success
Babies want to sleep; they just need to learn how. It might seem strange to think of sleeping as a skill that does not come naturally. Successful infant sleep requires a little help and coaching to develop positive sleep habits. Although they seem to spend a lot of time sleeping, babies need to learn when to sleep (day vs. night) and how to fall and stay sleep on their own.
Start With Sleep Conditioning
Sleep Conditioning can start at an early age; typically when a baby reaches 10 lbs. in weight and gets the approval from their pediatrician. It is not sleep training; there are no tears involved! Sleep conditioning consists of practicing soothing techniques when your infant wakes up rather than feeding him immediately. This will gently lengthen the time between nighttime feedings.
You can soothe your baby with a pacifier, by rocking, shooshing, bouncing, or holding him while walking around, when he wakes up to be fed. Offer these soothing techniques until your baby starts crying and then immediately feed him. If you are feeding with a bottle be sure to have it warmed and ready. Each night your baby will stretch the length in between feedings and their stomach will become accustomed to the longer stretches as well. This leads to longer stretches of infant sleep without any sleep training or crying involved.
Connecting Infant Sleep Cycles
During REM, babies often appear to be awake and may even fuss, wiggle, move their hands or body. If left undisturbed, they will fall into deep sleep, which is called non-REM. Unknowingly, parents and caregivers can interfere with an infant learning how to fall asleep. Give your baby a chance to see if he can fall asleep on his own. Note that under 4 months old, fussing is OKAY, crying it out is not acceptable.
Babies’ sleep cycles are 20-40 minutes long. If a particular baby’s sleep cycle is 40 minutes, the first 20 minutes will be active REM sleep and next 20 minutes will be quiet, deep sleep (non-REM).
Sleep Coaching or Training
Between 4-6 months old, babies are capable of learning how to connect their sleep cycles through self-soothing techniques. This will lead to your baby being able to sleep through the night unattended. Here is when the hard work comes in for parents and babies. Babies can begin sleep coaching at 4 months of age with the okay from their pediatrician.
About the author
Carole K. Arsenault is a labor and delivery nurse and parent educator working in Boston, she interacted with many families and saw that there was a need for top-notch newborn care. Thats when she founded Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny over a decade ago to support new and expecting parents .