Baby Will Not Sleep Through the Night? Try These Strategies

In the first few months of a baby’s life, it is perfectly natural for the infant to wake regularly throughout the night for feeding or just to be snuggled. But there comes a time-usually after four to six months-when the baby is ready to begin sleeping through the night. It requires work and patience on the part of the parents, however, and the reality is that many babies never consistently sleep through the night until they are a year or two old. Getting a baby to sleep through the night is not about completely avoiding wake-ups. Everyone, from newborns to adults, wakes up several times through the night. The difference is that adults and older children can put themselves back to sleep. Babies often have trouble with this step. So the key to getting a baby to sleep through the night is to encourage her to get back to sleep without help. There are a few methods parents use to accomplish this. Feelings tend to run strong on these matters, and different pediatricians recommend different things. So consider which works best for your family, and talk to your child’s doctor if you have trouble. Crying it out For desperate parents who want their baby to begin sleeping through the night, the crying-it-out method is almost infallible. It involves making the conditions perfect for sleep-that is, dressing the baby perfectly, making the temperature right, dimming the lights, and removing distractions from in and around the crib-and simply putting the baby down. The baby will of course cry for a while. But eventually she will likely stop. And if she does not stop, then you will need to go to her after a period determined in advance. The idea here is to show the baby that her parents will not be easily manipulated, that bed time is time to sleep, and that crying will not change this. It may sound like tough love, but fortunately most babies get the hang of it pretty quickly. There are obvious objections to this method. Some parents feel they could never allow their child to cry for more than a minute or two. And it should be noted that this method is not recommended for children younger than five or six months old. Younger children need that quick parental reassurance when they get upset in the night. But if your child is old enough and you have tried other things, you might want to consider at least giving it a shot. And if your baby cries for a few minutes and you cannot stand it, you can always give up and try something else. Incremental withdrawal Another popular tactic is to condition the baby to put herself to sleep through a gradual transition. One popular method is “Ferberizing,” named for its creator, Richard Ferber. In this method, you put the baby to bed, leave her while she is still awake, and let her cry for five minutes. Then, go in and reassure her and put her back down. Let her cry for five more minutes and do it again. It is only a matter of time before she simply falls asleep. And the next night, give her six minutes, the night after that seven, and so on. Weaning off sleep aids Whatever method you choose to use, it is important to gradually wean your child off the things that you usually rely on to help her go to sleep. If she likes to be held and rocked for 20 minutes before being put to bed, change the bedtime routine so she is calm and sleepy already when you put her down. If she needs the bottle or the breast to fall asleep, make sure you take care of the feeding soon before her normal bed time. Every baby is different, so identify what your baby relies on, and figure out ways to phase it out without the transition being too jarring. The key with all these methods is to have consistency. Babies respond well to routine and repetition. Few sleep methods work when you only try them once. It is best to choose a method and stick with it for several days. If it does not begin to work, switch to something else. As long as your baby is healthy, there is no rush to get her sleeping all night. By Jamell Andrews