By Dana Sullivan
Sleep deprivation. If you're a parent of a young child, it comes
with the territory. And it's an issue that can cause more stress than
just about any other part of parenting. Getting your baby to sleep --
so that you can, too -- really depends on one thing: routine.
"Establish three or four simple but soothing activities that you do
without fail," says Jodi A. Mindell, associate director of the Sleep
Disorders Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and author
of Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers and Their Parents Can Get Good Night's Sleep (HarperCollins Publishers).
activities that make up the routine aren't as important as being
consistent with them. For example, with a young infant, you might try a
bath, a few minutes of massage, followed by breastfeeding or a bottle.
If your baby is a little bit older, a bath, followed by a book and a
lullaby might become your routine.
Here are some other tips suggested by Dr. Mindell:
- Put baby in his bassinet or crib while he's still awake This
is fundamental to establishing good sleep habits. If you rock or nurse
your baby to sleep then eventually he may be able to fall asleep only
if he's in your arms. "Put a baby to bed drowsy but awake" is the sleep
- Watch the clock Babies thrive on routine, and even though
they can't tell time -- exactly -- they do have an internal clock. "Put
your baby to sleep at the same time every night and you will help
establish good sleeping habits," says Mindell.
- Keep the room cool Believe it or not, your baby doesn't need
a completely cozy bedroom, says Mindell. Dress your baby about the same
way you'd dress yourself, keeping in mind that he won't be covered by
blankets or a comforter so his t-shirt and pajamas or fleece-y sleeper
have to provide adequate warmth. (Thick blankets, plush sheepskin
mattress covers, quilts and comforters that can slip up and over a
baby's face have been linked with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
and shouldn't be used for babies younger than one year.) There is not
one temperature that works for every baby, but if your baby awakens
sweaty, or his hands or feet feel cold to the touch when he's asleep,
you will need to add or remove layers accordingly.
- Block out noise Some babies could sleep through a barking
dog, a ringing doorbell and the mayhem of older siblings. Others will
awaken when a cat walks past the bedroom door. If your baby is a light
sleeper, consider installing a "white noise" machine in his room. It
doesn't have to be anything fancy, says Mindell, just a fan or a
humidifier that makes a droning and constant noise. Mindell doesn't
recommend noise machines that turn off after ten minutes because if
your baby awakens in the middle of the night and the room is too quiet,
he may have trouble falling back to sleep. And guess who will be
awakened to come to his rescue?