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Sleeping: Encouraging my baby to sleep regularly

When babies are born they don't know the difference between night and day, so it's a parent's job to help them learn this.

Babies sleep patterns will vary as they grow. Babies will sleep less as they develop, and by the end of the first month, they will be alert for two- to three-hour stretches, sleeping an average of 15 hours in a 24 hour day. By six months, infants are sleeping about 12 to 14 hours in a 24 hour day.

In comparison to adult sleep habits, most babies are not the greatest sleepers.

Here are a few strategies to encourage regular sleeping habits:

  • Small babies like small beds - give your baby a sense of closeness by using a cradle, or make her feel cozy in a crib by using a rolled up towel.

  • If your baby wakes frequently at night, try to keep him as close to mom as possible - a cradle can be kept next to mom, or some moms may prefer to have their baby in bed with them.

  • Wrap your baby securely to give her that feeling of warmth and security - remember that newborns are accustomed to a very close and warm environment.

  • Provide your baby with more stimulation during the day, and less at night.

  • Establish an evening routine giving a clear signal to your baby that sleep time is coming - bath time is often a cue used by parents, since many babies will feel relaxed and sleepy after a warm bath.

  • Make sure the room your baby sleeps in is comfortable - check the temperature and the lighting.

  • When your baby cries in the night, go and soothe him, but make sure not to turn on any bright lights or initiate any play. Try singing gently or humming, stroking your baby's body, or turning on a mobile that plays a quiet tune. Then give him a chance to fall back to sleep on his own.

  • Moms of restless sleepers should be reminded to sleep when their baby sleeps to keep up their energy.

  • Wake and feed your baby before you go to bed - this may give you a stretch of sleep at night and will not harm her at all.

  • If there are other adult family members in the house, have them share some of the baby's waking periods.

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