- Be careful of “sleep aids” whereby a baby comes to associate something with going to sleep (feeding, rocking, pacifier, a warm body, a beating heart, driving, white noise, etc.) If they become conditioned to falling asleep with these aids, they will believe they need them to fall asleep.
- Wait on a pacifier. Some say if you wait a few weeks before offering a pacifier your baby will have more control of his thumb and will be able to get it to his mouth for self soothing. In the long run, you will save lots of lost sleep by not having to run to his room to put the pacifier back in the mouth when he spits it out and awakens.
- Let your baby adjust to the room he will be sleeping in beyond the first few months. Open the door slowly. I am a firm believer in baby having his own room from day one. A low floor bed in a double or queen size allows a parent to lie down and/or nurse but also allows baby to acclimate to one environment at a time. When they grow accustomed to the sounds, smells, temperature of parents’ room, it is confusing to have to adjust to a new room.
- Establish sleep associations and routines you can live with long term. You might want to:
- dress your baby in a sleep sack,
- draw the blinds,
- turn on the fan (or white noise if you’re willing to travel with it!)
- read a book and/or sing a song.
- speak softly. Establish a “sleep voice”
- close the door
- Give opportunities for self soothing. Most babies will learn to self soothe quickly by giving them the chance. One way to do this is to settle the baby, then leave the room for increasing periods of time, giving baby the opportunity to fall asleep independently.
- Learn about your baby’s temperament. T. Berry Brazelton has a great book called Infants and Mothers which describes 3 different baby temperaments. I had one baby who needed a lot of winding down to fall asleep and I eventually learned that 10 minutes of crying was necessary for her to purge the sensory input she accumulated (she was very sensitive to sounds, etc.).
There is one book that was so important to me when my kids were babies. Healthy Sleep, Happy Baby by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. He was my cousin’s pediatrician here in Chicago and I knew about his theories even before I had kids. They reminded me of the successful habits I saw while babysitting as a child in the 60s and 70s (when sleep wasn’t such a big deal). .
Another book I wished I’d had when my kids were young is 12 Hours by 12 Weeks. I highly recommend this to new parents!