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Sleep Training Your Baby

Babies are supposed to sleep for 12 to 14 hours a day—question is, why must they be so wide-awake at night? Here’s some sanity-saving advice from moms who got their little ones to snooze like champions.

Give your child a little time. Another mom in the playgroup may brag about her baby sleeping through the night at five weeks, but for most kids, it doesn’t happen until the four-month mark, says parenting educator Elizabeth Pantley, co-author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night. "Attempting to regulate a newborn’s sleep cycle before it’s biologically possible makes for an unhappy baby and a frustrated parent," she adds.

Teach your child that bed is a comforting place. "Let the baby spend some time during the day in the crib, while you read, talk, sing, play," Pantley suggests. "If he responds positively and becomes interested in watching a mobile or playing with a toy, stand or sit quietly nearby and watch. Do this a few times a day for a week or so and a baby will come to know his crib as a welcoming, safe, and comfortable haven. When he wakes there during the night, he’ll find it easier to go back to sleep."

Crying it out is not a must. Some sleep methods call for letting kids cry it out after you’ve put them to sleep, but Pantley’s not for that. "The baby will eventually stop crying and sleep," says Pantley, "but that doesn’t mean he has learned skills for how to fall asleep." She suggests a little patience—and step-by-step adjustments. "If a baby has been falling asleep in your arms and you suddenly decide to put him in the crib awake, of course he will cry—it’s confusing!" she says. "You might at first keep your hands on him, patting and rubbing and gently shushing him to help him get settled. Work your way toward sitting there without physical contact, then move your chair away from the crib, and finally, sit outside the doorway." It may take weeks, but keep up the baby steps and you’ll get there.

Cut back on help. If you’ve been rocking baby back to sleep when she wakes in the middle of the night, says Pantley, "the next step is to begin reducing that. As a parent becomes less involved in the falling-asleep process, over time the baby will begin to doze off without assistance."

Do what works for your family. You’ll get plenty of advice (sought and unsought) about how to solve sleep dilemmas. Try the techniques that make sense to you," encourages Pantley: "It reduces stress if parents follow their hearts and do what they think is best for them and their baby."

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