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How Do I Get My Baby to Sleep?

Updated on September 6, 2020
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Allen is a parent with two kids. He knows stuff. Lots of stuff. Parenting is hard.

Please sleep.
Please sleep.

A Secret That Will Make Things Better

I'm going to tell you a little secret about breastfeeding and sleep and it may save your life. Okay, not literally, but you may be so glad to find out about this little secret, that you'll be jumping for joy. It is the one thing that, when my wife and I look back on the differences between raising our first son and our second son, we wish we had known.

First-Time Parents Take Note

The first thing you're probably wondering is how I, as a man, could have anything useful to say about breastfeeding. The answer is: I don't. At least, not on my own. My wife is the expert here. I'm just relaying a conversation we had. I thought it would make a good, useful, short, easy-to-read hub for first-time and expectant mothers. After all, there's so much to learn as a first-time mother or first-time parent. It's basically impossible to take it all in. It's overwhelming. So I thought that instead of reading a laundry list of things you could do, you could just read this one thing and wrap it into whatever else you're taking away from whatever else you're reading. So, here it goes.

Help Your Baby Sleep

Babies do two things a lot: eat and sleep. And yes, they poop, but that's another article.

Unfortunately, moms discover that it's easy to blur the lines between eating and sleeping. Don't. You'll regret it. One of the things new moms are likely to read in any of the myriad breastfeeding books is that moms should feed on demand. When the baby is hungry, you feed the baby. This is sound advice. However, those feedings occur at all times of the day and night. New mothers often make the mistake of allowing their baby to fall asleep at the breast. Again, you should avoid this.

My wife and I made this mistake because we didn't know any better. You're tired. The baby is tired and hungry. And often you're there, feeding the baby. Then you discover that instead of going through a ritual to get the baby to sleep, it just falls asleep at the breast. Nice.

No, not nice. It's good for babies to understand the difference between eating and sleeping. You want them to develop an understanding of the distinction because it's through that distinction that they will fall asleep on their own. If you don't allow a baby to do this, the baby will connect eating with sleeping. Then, baby will soon need to feed in order to fall asleep. And once the baby's inability to fall asleep on its own is reinforced, it's hard to reverse course.

How Long Do You Think It Should Take For a Baby to Sleep Through the Night? (8 Hours)

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The Breastfeeding Key

The key for the breastfeeding mother becomes separating eating and sleeping. She should do anything she can to make sure this happens. This is particularly difficult at night when the object is getting the baby fed and back to sleep as quickly as possible. It's also difficult because the responsibility relies almost solely on the mother. She's likely sitting in bed feeding the baby while her husband dozes off. If you're lucky, the husband will help be part of the solution and not part of the problem. To be clear, what you're trying to avoid is having your baby fall asleep while feeding.

There are so many things to know and do as a first-time parent and breastfeeding mother. However, follow this rule and it will help you immensely in helping your child develop good sleep habits.

Create a Sleep Schedule

Another important key to get your baby to sleep is a schedule.

Many first-time parents are so desperate to sleep, they put their baby down whenever possible. However, this will backfire on you later in life. Don't take the instant gratification.

We've been using a sleep schedule with both our children since they were born. They're now nine and eleven. They're still on a sleep schedule. Sure, it shifts as they get older, but they go to sleep the same time every night.

Your child should go to bed the same time every night. Develop a routine. Kids love routines. It helps them a lot. Don't worry that you're being rigid. And don't let anyone talk you out of it. Trust me, the sleep schedule pays off.

There's no debate. Those first few years are rough. The fact is, most babies don't develop a sleeping routine until they're one or two. However, parents will brag about their kid sleeping through the night at three months. If you're that lucky, great! Just remember, that's not the norm. Such things happen infrequently. And if that's not your child, it doesn't mean you're doing something wrong.

Ignore people who say you're doing something wrong. Stick with a schedule. We read to our kids every night from the time they were born. Develop habits that help them get to sleep.

It's going to seem like a long road. But once your kids start sleeping, the time will fly by. Honestly, we know parents who didn't use a sleep schedule and their kids are ten, eleven, and still having problems. They go to bed too late. Then they can't get up for school.

Like many things, invest early and your efforts will pay off late.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Allen Donald


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