Infant Sleep (1): Have You Slept Lately?

Below is a simple approach, relatively easy for both parents and babies, which if followed, should achieve 9 to 12 hours of continuous night sleep by 4 months of age.

All humans sleep by association. Infants and adults wake up multiple times per night, during REM sleep. If the conditions to which we awaken are similar to those under which we fell asleep, it is relatively easy to fall back asleep.  If the conditions are different, or “novel,” we become fully aroused, and it’s more difficult to fall asleep. For adults, the easy example is the typical 1 or 2 nights “bad” sleep in a hotel room, compared to our own bed.

So, a baby will only sleep through the night if they fall asleep on their own, without any “aid” such as nursing, rocking, or music, which will no longer be present when they awaken. Further, by 3 months babies begin to manipulate their parents, so this is the age at which I recommend moving the baby out of the parents’ room.

8 Easy Steps:

  1. When the baby is still awake at the end of the bedtime feeding 3 nights in a row, (usually by 3 months of age) a trend is established; you’re ready to start.
  2. With baby fed, changed, and awake enough to be aware of surroundings, enter the baby’s room silently (talking distracts) and lay the baby down in the crib.
  3. Say “Goodnight, I love you” with a brief, silent, gentle body massage.
  4. With baby still awake but relaxed, leave the room initially for 20 secs.
  5. As long as he is fussing, not screaming, repeat step 3, then leave for 30 secs.
  6. Continue this sequence, with departures increasing with each “exit” by 10 secs, until she screams and is upset. Training Session 1 has been completed.
  7. Continue these training sessions nightly until the baby puts himself asleep before your can rescue him, typically 7 to 10 nights, sometimes 14. By night 4, each night he should last longer before “losing it” than the previous night.
  8. Most babies then quickly stop waking for night feedings.

Note: Failure to achieve 9-12 hours sleep by 4 months suggests need for the much more challenging sequel article, “Infant Sleep: You Haven’t Slept Lately.