Bedtime for Baby: Which Sleep Methods Work?

At 2 a.m., you probably need your own lullaby and pillow. But first, you’d better soothe that crying baby. Or should you?

The bad news is that little sleep problems can grow right along with your child. The good news, according to a recent article in the journal Sleep, is that you can easily solve your kids’ sleep problems. In the study, several different methods worked equally well—as long as parents used them every night: Keep in mind that babies’ sleep cycles are not regular until about six months of age.

  1. Positive routines. Develop a set bedtime plan. Include quiet activities your baby likes, such as a bath, a story, and a last breastfeeding or bottle. Avoid playing with and stimulating the baby. Try this method along with any of the others below.

  2. Cry it out. Put your baby to bed at the same time each night. Ignore crying, tantrums, and calling out, unless you think she’s ill or hurt. Or, stay in the nursery at bedtime, but ignore the cries.

  3. Sleep training. Answer your baby’s cries on a schedule. Wait a few minutes longer before each response on a single night, or before every response on succeeding nights. Your baby soon will learn to fall back asleep on his own.

  4. Delayed bedtime. Push bedtime late enough to ensure your baby falls right to sleep. Wake her up at the same time each morning, and limit extra daytime naps. Then, move bedtime earlier and earlier each night.

  5. Scheduled awakenings. Count how often and note the times your baby usually wakes up at night. Then awaken him 15 to 30 minutes before his usual time. Each night, increase the time between awakenings.

With any of these methods, kids should be drowsy but awake when going to bed. This teaches them to fall asleep on their own in their own beds. Sweet dreams!

Online Medical Reviewer: Louise Jovino, DO

Date Last Reviewed: 4/2/2010

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