Sleep problems in children are very common. It is easier to prevent sleep problems before 6 months of age than to treat them at a later stage. Listed below are some ways to establish good sleep hygiene for a newborn:
- Place the infant in the crib when they are drowsy but still awake
- Hold or comfort the baby for all crying episodes during the first 3 months of life
- Limit sleeping during the day to 3 hour stretches
- Keep feeding intervals to between 2 to 4 hours during the day
- Make middle of the night feeding boring and brief
- Do not let your infant sleep in your bed
To continue establishing good sleep hygiene in your baby by 2-3 months of age the baby should be sleeping in their own crib and in a separate room. By 6 months of age, you should eliminate all night time feedings. Most babies between 4 and 6 months of age do not need nutritional night time feedings.
You can improve on your child’s sleep habits at any age. The keys to establishing good sleep hygiene are routine and consistency. A child needs to fall asleep in their own bed/crib by themselves in order to be able to fall back asleep without your assistance in the middle of the night. Starting between 4 and 6 months of age the child should be put into their crib awake in order to allow them get to sleep themselves. Establishing a good bedtime routine also helps the child know what to expect for their bedtime and to prepare them for what is going to happen next.
A good resource for sleep problems in young children is a book by Dr. Richard Ferber, “How to Solve your Child’s Sleep Problems.”