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How to Get on a Sleeping Schedule

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With a new baby, it doesn't take long before the only way to recognize day from night is seeing the sun come up each morning; after all, nobody in the house is sleeping through the night anymore. If a full night's sleep has become a distant memory, take comfort in knowing that when your infant reaches 4 to 5 months old, you can establish routines for your baby that will help lead him to a regular sleeping schedule—that all of you will enjoy.

Watching the Signs

Monitor your baby's patterns for his first few months of life. During this period it can be unhealthy—even harmful—to have your infant on a strict schedule; he needs to eat on demand for healthy growth and development, so you'll have to follow his cues instead of a clock. However, as he reaches 3 to 4 months, his needs become more regular. Use a journal to keep track of when and how often he is hungry, his fussy and content periods, and his longer stretches of sleep.

Day and Night

By the time your baby is a 3 to 6 months old, she's beginning to differentiate between day and night. You can reinforce this difference by keeping the house bright during the day and dim at night. Ensure she has plenty of opportunities for socializing and exploration during her calm periods during the day but turn to quiet activities in the evening. You can coo, talk and make funny faces during daytime nursing sessions, but during the night, make feedings a no-nonsense activity. When your baby wakes up hungry in the middle of the night, keep the lights dim and talking to a minimum to let her know this isn't the time to become enthralled with the world around her.

All in the Timing

Help your baby learn to anticipate bedtime. About 20 minutes before you intend to put him down for the night, give him a soothing bath, tell him a story or sing and move onto the final feeding session of the day. Place your baby gently in bed afterward while he's sleepy but still awake. This will help him learn to soothe himself to sleep, rather than depending on you to do it for him—a tiring feat at 3 a.m. After awhile he'll be able to soothe herself back to sleep if he wakes up during the night.

Don't Expect Perfection

Even the most well-established schedule can occasionally hit a few rough patches. If she's ailing, your baby might end up off her routine. Breathing difficulties from a stuffed up nose might make her want to stay up in your arms all night and breastfeeding can be difficult. An over-stimulating day can make settling down for bedtime difficult and an early morning can make bedtime arrive much earlier than you'd expected. Go with the flow while the reason for the change is present. As soon as you can, reintroduce the sleep routine, but be prepared for your baby to take a few days to readjust.

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