Helping Your Child Sleep Through the Night
When you have a newborn, the nights are long which make your days long. This can be a very difficult period to get through. In fact, it may seem like it will never end. But it will end. And you can help your child learn to sleep through the night with a little practice and patience.
First of all, it is important to be aware that every child wakes up in the middle of the night. Adults will even periodically wake up in the middle of the night, but adults have taught themselves how to go back to sleep. Infants have not learned this skill of going back to sleep. When they awaken in the night, they may cry or fuss just because they have woken up and do not know what to do.
When your child cries in the middle of the night and they are at an age when they should be sleeping through the night (at two to three months of age) it is important that you go and check on them to make sure they are okay, but that is it. Once you have made sure your child does not have any necessary and immediate needs, leave your child in the crib and gently rub their belly (as they should be sleeping on their back—see Safe Sleep for Your Infant) or caress their head. You may even try singing a soothing song. The important thing is that you not pick your child up.
If you pick your child up in the middle of the night when they awaken, they will learn to rely on this to help them fall back asleep. Likewise, if you rock your child in the middle of the night, they will learn to need that rocking to put themselves to sleep. Therefore, it is important for your child to learn how to fall asleep while they are in their crib.
Training your child to sleep on their own and fall back asleep in the middle of the night can be a difficult process. Therefore, do not place limits on the amount of time your child may cry before you pick them up. Once you start picking up your child after a certain amount of time, you will have trained your child to cry for that length of time to have their demands met. It can be heart-wrenching to listen to your child cry, but as long as you have made sure they do not have any immediate needs, it may be best to let your son or daughter cry it out.
Some things that you can do during the day to help your child sleep better at night are to have them take shorter naps. To have your son or daughter take shorter naps, have them nap in a well-lit room. Also, spend time outside with your child. Sunlight helps produce a hormone needs to promote sleep; this can be good for both you and your child.
Philosophies on teaching your child to sleep through the night abound. This is simply one method that you might try. Regardless of the technique you use, there are some things you should avoid when teaching your child to sleep through the night. Never let your child sleep with a bottle as this may promote tooth decay, never ignore your child when he or she cries in the middle of the night and never put your infant to sleep with a stuffed animal, pillow or comforter as this may smother them and cause them to suffocate in their sleep. With a little persistence and a lot of patience, you will not only have enabled yourself to get some much needed rest, but you will have taught your child healthy sleep habits for the rest of their life.