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How Parents Can Help Their Babies Sleep Well

“Oh, your baby is so sweet! Is he (or she) sleeping through the night yet?”

It’s a question that has fazed brand-new parents for generations. If your baby is sleeping soundly for eight to 10 hours at a time, it’s easy to simply smile and nod. Everyone assumes you’ve got this parenting thing down. But what if your baby is one of those whose eyes fly open as soon as you dare to lay him or her down in the crib? How do you respond when you suspect your answer will be met with silent judgment or worse, unsolicited commentary?

When it comes to parenting, there are few topics that polarize like how, when and where your baby sleeps. With all the conflicting advice available, it’s easy to feel frustrated and overwhelmed. Will you ever sleep again? Are you doing something wrong?

Here are some tips to help you navigate the tricky getting-baby-to-sleep waters:

Sleep Training 101

  • Give yourself a break. If your baby isn’t sleeping, it might not be your fault. Perri Klass, M.D. recently wrote in the New York Times that some babies are simply easier than others. It has nothing to do with parenting style, the child’s personality, or even the relative stability of the child’s environment. Some babies are good sleepers and some aren’t.
  • Ignore the experts and listen to your baby. Infants are often far better communicators than they are given credit for. Some cues the teachers at GEMS World Academy Chicago – Early Years look for are rubbing eyes, slower movement, sticking fingers in their ears, pulling their hair and yawning.  If you take a deep breath and pay attention, you just might discover that you know exactly what your baby needs to get a good night’s sleep.
  • Stick with it. Whatever path you take, whether it’s co-sleeping, cry-it-out, or something in between, give it some time.  The teachers at GEMS World Academy Chicago – Early Years find that establishing a consistent naptime and nighttime routine helps the little ones acknowledge that it is sleep time.  Whether that routine is rocking in a chair together, reading stories or stretching before sleep time, being consistent is key.  Keep the set routine for at least three days, maybe a week, before you move on and try something else. Change takes time to feel normal, so give you and your baby the chance to acclimate.
  • Reserve the right to change your mind. You can’t possibly know how you or your baby will respond until you’ve tried, so if it doesn’t sit well with one or both of you, don’t feel bad about switching sleep camps. Many a parent has started out a firm co-sleeping advocate only to discover that letting the baby fuss themselves to sleep was far more successful. And vice versa.  Be open to trying new things and understand that every baby is different – what works for one might not work for another.  Your child’s teacher is a great resource for coming up with different strategies to try.
  • Find support. Hopefully someone in your everyday life is able to come alongside you to remind you that you’re a good, loving parent and that it will all be okay. But if not, the classroom is a great place to meet parents with children going through similar phases in life.  Reach out to your child’s teacher and ask them who your child tends to interact with while at school.

Whatever method you choose, helping your baby get a proper amount of sleep will make a positive difference as he or she advances through the preschool years.