The amount your baby sleeps changes rapidly during the first year.
A newborn baby will sleep most of the time. Do your best to establish a sleep pattern, but be aware it may be the baby’s pattern, not yours. Look for signs that he is tired before he gets cranky because an overtired baby has more trouble falling asleep. Establish the same nap time every day and not late in the afternoon, as that will make bedtime more challenging.
Starting at about 6 weeks of age, start to establish a bedtime routine. Reserve active games to daytime hours and quiet games for the evening. Keep activities in the same order every night. Save his favorite activity for last and do that one in the bedroom to associate sleep with something enjoyable. Keep the lighting and other conditions in the bedroom consistent so that if he wakes during the night, everything is the same as when he fell asleep.
Your baby’s sleep will start to follow circadian rhythms (night and day) at about 3 – 4 months. Reinforce this natural development by being more stimulating and active during the day and more laid back at night. Continue developing your bedtime routine. Warm baths are a good activity to introduce to help your baby relax and get ready for bed.
Between 6 and 9 months is the time to establish a “fall asleep by yourself” bedtime routine. By now, you should have a fairly well-developed and consistent routine of the same activities every night. Choosing a favorite activity for last, which can be done in the crib, helps your baby look forward to going to bed. Finally, when he is sufficiently drowsy, let him drift off to sleep. This will help him become accustomed to falling asleep in the crib, not in your arms (you can see how this could become a problem in the future).
When you put your baby to sleep into his crib and he cries, he is now old enough for you to try the Ferber method of walking away, waiting a short amount of time, then returning to comfort him, but not picking him up (don’t let him equate crying with picking up if you ever want him to stop crying at bedtime). Leave again after a few minutes, and possibly return again. Each time wait a little longer before you return as you develop the routine. The short-term pain of hearing your baby cry may be well worth it in avoiding long-term crying if you can teach him to soothe himself early. Expect it to take about a week to establish the pattern – don’t give up too soon.
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