To "sleep like a baby" is probably one of the most commonly used misleading phrases. Newborns sleep for about 18 hours a day. But, if you are a new parent, you probably wouldn’t believe it. Putting a baby to sleep is among the toughest tasks new parents face. Various factors contribute to this problem including environment, sleep schedule, physical and mental stimulation, even the type and amount of nutrition. Although life with a baby is unpredictable, especially when it comes to sleep patterns and schedules, there are techniques that could help. Each one can be tried either individually or in combination with others, depending on what works for you and your baby.
Observe and understand your baby’s personality. Tailor the way you put her to sleep around it. Some babies prefer to be soothed by being rocked or sung to. This stimulation keeps other babies awake. Some babies prefer a fixed routine, while others like variety or flexibility. Identify the things, places and activities that calm and soothe your baby and make her feel relaxed. If you observe carefully, your baby might start giving you hints when she is as young as a few days or hours old. Create an environment conducive to sleep. Whether it is by dimming the lights, adjusting the temperature, holding her in a certain position, nursing, rocking or singing a particular song, introduce pleasant sleep associations early on. Help your baby to begin associating sleep as a welcome state to be in. Design a sleep technique around your baby’s needs. This method, although more exhausting for parents in the initial days helps foster bonds between baby and parents, reassuring her that you will be around when she needs you. With time, your baby will gradually begin to depend less on the props and learn to put herself to sleep without them.
Put your baby down in his sleeping position, drowsy but awake and help him fall asleep on his own. Your baby may protest by wailing loudly and not going to sleep. You could try various versions or degrees of the Ferber method. You could start by letting him cry for a few minutes before going in to soothe him, gradually increasing the time interval everyday in increments of five minutes. Or you could place a chair next to the crib, talk to him in a soothing way and gradually move the chair away from the crib, repositioning it every day, a little farther from the crib until you are outside the room. This method may take a few weeks to start working, but once successful, may be easier on parents. However it may not work for extremely sensitive, high needs babies. Also, in the initial months when baby is still forming bonds and learning to trust, this technique confuses baby and risks loss of trust when his cries are not attended to. It might also make parents less sensitive to his cries and prevent them from identifying a medical condition requiring treatment or the real cause of crying.
There is no one perfect way of putting a baby to sleep. No technique is fool-proof or guaranteed to work all the time. So, you might just have to try out different tips and methods until you establish a sleep routine that everyone is comfortable with. You could try using a sling, a bouncy seat, a swing, co-sleeping, a bed time bath and massage, or make a gradual transition from day to night. A technique may not work, may work only for a few days or may be the solution that fits your situation perfectly. Be open to trying out different methods, but give each method a chance by trying it at least for a week or two before switching to another. A baby needs time to get used to a routine and start making sleep associations.