Sleep Boot Camp

For many parents of infants, sleep is a foreign word. With frequent awakenings to care for a crying infant at night, the thought of more than four hours of rest in a row feels like an unattainable dream. Between four to six months of age, infants start producing melatonin, a natural sleep hormone. During this time infants will begin having longer sleep stretches.. As a child approaches six months of age, we encourage families to begin preparations for “sleep boot camp.” The following are a list of suggestions that hopefully will allow your baby (and you) to spend more time with Mr. Sandman.

  • Keep the bedtime routine consistent: Whether it is bath, bottle, book and bed, or another schedule, try to maintain a consistent bedtime and routine. Keep the room quiet and dark, and avoid any outside stimulation (e.g. the television).
  • Help your baby learn to soothe herself: Between four and six months of age, begin putting your baby down to sleep after feeds when she is drowsy but not fast asleep. Holding and rocking your baby to sleep creates an expected routine that makes it difficult for her to soothe herself back to sleep when she awakens at night.
  • Wean middle-of-night feeds: Resist the urge to feed her if she awakens at night. Our digestive tracts have a mind of their own! Those middle of the night feeds reinforce signals to the brain: “I need to eat! I need to eat!” By 4-6 months, most babies are growing well enough and have enough fat stores to sleep 10 to 12 hours at night. Generally, babies will compensate by eating more prior to bed or when they awaken in the morning. While some parents try going “cold turkey” and stop middle of night feeds abruptly, many find success in weaning feeds by a small amount every couple nights.
  • Interval training: Be assured that the first time your baby nurses for 10 minutes rather than the usual 12 minutes, she is going to protest. Avoid feeding her more or picking her up. Confidently let her know that “mealtime” is over, and it’s time to go to bed. It is okay to check on your baby after a few minutes. Pat her on the back and reassure her, but remember, picking her up or feeding her teaches her that she can cry to get her way -- a habit that may become more difficult to address as a child gets older. If crying and fussing continues, try adding 5 minutes to the previous interval before returning check on your baby.
  • Be calm and confident: Modeling behavior is a powerful tool. Infants respond to our affect and demeanor. Let your baby know, “We’re gonna get this done.”

Be patient, and know that sleep training your baby may take up to several weeks, so it is important to find a time to begin that works with your schedule. Pleasant dreams, and remember that we are here to help.

Dr. Marc Avner is a pediatrician at Greenwood Pediatrics in Parker, CO.

Posted: 10/19/2017 2:34:37 PM by Deb Braun | with 0 comments
Filed under: baby, bedtime, consistent, cry, Ferber, it, night, out, routine, sleep, the, through, training

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