You can help your baby sleep by recognizing signs of sleep readiness, teaching him or her to fall asleep on his own, and comforting him or her with awakenings. Your baby may show signs of being ready for sleep by:
• Rubbing eyes
• Looking away
Babies may not be able to create their own sleeping and waking patterns. Surprisingly, not all babies know how to put themselves to sleep. And not all babies can go back to sleep if they are awakened in the night. When it is time for bed, many parents want to rock or breastfeed a baby to help him or her fall asleep. Creating a bedtime routine is a good idea. But don't let your baby fall asleep in your arms. This may become a pattern. And your baby may begin to expect to be in your arms in order to fall asleep. When your baby briefly wakes up during a sleep cycle, they may not be able to go back to sleep on their own.
Babies who feel secure are better able to handle separations, especially at night. Cuddling and comforting your baby during the day can help him or her feel more secure. Other ways to help your baby learn to sleep include:
• Allowing time for naps each day as needed for your baby's age.
• Not having any stimulation or activity close to bedtime.
• Creating a bedtime routine, such as bath, reading books, and rocking.
• Playing soft music while your baby is getting sleepy.
• Offering a transitional object that your baby can take to bed. This may be a small blanket or a soft toy. But don't do this before your baby is old enough. Your baby should be able to roll and sit. This will prevent the risk of suffocation.
• Tucking your baby into bed when he or she is drowsy, but before going to sleep.
• Comforting and reassuring your baby when he or she is afraid.
• For night awakenings, comfort and reassure your baby by patting and soothing. Don't take your baby out of bed.
• If your baby cries, wait a few minutes, then return and reassure with patting and soothing. Then say goodnight and leave. Repeat as needed.
• Being consistent with the routine and your responses.