6 tips to get your infant to sleep

By The Health News Team | January 29, 2024
6 tips to get your infant to sleep

A good night’s sleep is a key ingredient to good health. People of all ages struggle to fall asleep, stay asleep and get quality sleep night after night. Infants, especially, seem to have sleep challenges, which usually means the parents suffer right along with them.

Dr. Daniel Yu, a board-certified pediatrician with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, understands that there are endless books, articles and parenting sites focused on how to help your infant sleep. The abundance of information and opinions, he says, can be overwhelming for new parents.

According to Dr. Yu, the most common sleep problems infants experience include:

  • Difficulty falling asleep on their own without the aid of a bottle or rocking

  • Frequent waking during the night

He recommends sleep training — following a specific method to help a baby learn to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night — as the key to solving these concerns.

While some parents worry that some methods might harm a baby's health or create attachment-related issues down the line, research shows that’s not the case. In fact, a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that sleep trained infants had lower cortisol — the stress hormone — levels compared to non-sleep trained infants, with no difference in attachment style or in behavioral problems.

"By three months of age, an infant has the capacity to self-soothe and sleep more continuously without waking frequently throughout the night,” says Dr. Yu. "At around four months of age, parents can start considering sleep training. At that age, a baby may be able to sleep more than five hours at night between feedings.”

6 infant bedtime tips

Dr. Yu offers his top tips for helping your infant sleep.

1. Never put a baby to bed fully asleep. Put your baby to bed while they are drowsy, so they can learn how to soothe themselves to sleep. This is the skill they will need when they wake up in the middle of the night.

2. Create — and keep — a bedtime routine. Introduce your bedtime routine as early as the first month of life. Start the routine early in the evening, so that your baby is not already overtired, and keep the environment calm and quiet. Your baby will begin to associate the routine with sleep. Do the nighttime feeding at the beginning of the routine, then bath time, pajamas, shushing and rocking until your baby is drowsy.

3. Master a method. Parents do well with specific sleep training guidelines. Dr. Yu’s preferred method is the Ferber method, also known as graduated extinction. This method calls for allowing babies to cry for a set amount of time before comforting them, gradually increasing the time you wait before going to your baby. Start with waiting one minute before comforting your baby and increase the time over several nights until your baby learns to fall asleep on their own.

4. Keep a log. Take note of each night’s bedtime routine — what worked and what didn’t. You can use a cellphone timer to track how long your baby cries before you go in to comfort them, so you’ll know when to intervene the next night.

5. Be patient and consistent. Sleep training usually only takes a week or so of consistent implementation to take hold, but consistency is key.

6. Know yourself. If you or your partner find listening to your baby crying too challenging, consider spending the night away from home or sleeping where your baby’s cries can’t be heard while the other parent handles the sleep training.

The most important part of sleep training — whichever method parents choose — is consistency. “Infants need help learning to self-soothe, so that parents are not the only source of comfort at night," Dr. Yu says.

Like so many things in life, sleep training your infant might take some trial and error. So, if the sleep training method you decided on isn’t working, don’t be afraid to try a new one or combine techniques. With time, consistency and a bit of luck, you’ll soon be sleeping peacefully, and your little one will have learned how to fall and stay asleep on their own.

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