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Establishing Good Sleep Routines Early

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

I must talk to parents about their children’s sleep at least 25 times a day. It is funny, the first thing a new parent says to me when I see them on their baby’s fourth or fifth day of life is, “he doesn’t sleep” and “when will he sleep through the night?”

It really doesn’t matter what books you have read about newborns, sleep, or raising a healthy happy your-baby, newborns did not read the book and seem to have a mind of their own. It is my opinion that sleep is a learned behavior, just like tying shoes, riding a bicycle, and learning to read. All of these things require practice and repetition to learn how to succeed. The same thing is true of an infant’s sleep.

Babies are not born knowing about circadian rhythms, days and nights or how tired their parents are. The first thing to do is to begin to awakening your baby every two to three hours during the day, which may sound easy, but sometimes seems to be nearly impossible. Once you have fed your baby, changed, snuggled and played with them, you want to try to lay your baby down and pray they fall back to sleep to begin the next cycle. If they fuss and cry, pick them up and console and comfort them before laying them back down. It often requires many attempts and sometimes the baby will not fall asleep and requires constant attention until the next feeding.

Do not be discouraged; remember this is a teaching and learning experience. The other important point is that once your baby does fall asleep, you too need to rest, even if it is the middle of the day, as you have no idea what might lie ahead that night.

The first six to eight weeks of an infant’s life is very labor intensive and tiring. Take turns with night time duties and after the baby is fed and changed hand the baby off for an hour or so, so that you may get a little rest. Do not be discouraged as your baby is learning to sleep and you will be amazed that suddenly they are sleeping a little more, small miracles. Lastly, everyone who is a parent will tell you, “my child slept through the night at four days, or weeks of age”, the problem is they were to tired to have accurate recall but the story sounds good. But do begin with good sleep habits and practice and we’ll get that baby sleeping. I am sure I will write more on this later as we all want a good night’s sleep!

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

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