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« New Moms and Sleep | Main | Preschoolers and Naps: An Ongoing Discussion »

Top 3 Questions about Babies and Sleep

Q: I can’t get my baby to sleep during the day.  I think she must be tired, but I can’t really tell.  Could she be ready to give up naps?

A:  Although there is great variability in how much individual babies sleep, most babies (and children under the age of 3) need to sleep in the day in order to get the amount of sleep they require.  The general rule of thumb for determining if your baby is getting enough sleep is by looking at her behavior.  Does she get through her day pretty well, without undue fussiness?  Does she manage transitions and minor disruptions fairly well? If so, then maybe she is a “short sleeper.” 

However, does she look tired? Does she rub her eyes a lot?  Does she seem less interested in her environment?  Does she wake up from her short naps crying and needing to be held?  Is she often fussy, cranky, hard to soothe?  Does she have a hard time settling at bedtime?  Does she wake frequently in the night?  These are frequently signs of a tired baby.  The more tired a baby or child is, the more hyper alert or the more “aroused” she will become. 

Q: My baby used to be a good sleeper. Now she is waking throughout the night and is resisting napping during the day.  What’s gone wrong?

A: Something happened: there could have been an illness, such as an ear infection; there could have been a change in family routine (a move, a change of job, or a parent returning to work); or there may have been a developmental change (a big change in language growth, gross motor skills, or developmental autonomy).

The good news is that a baby who already had the ability to sustain sleep will be able to relearn those skills.  She will be able to go to sleep and stay asleep on her own again soon. The bad news is that she may not be pleased that you will not continue to be her primary soother and she, most likely, will protest this change.

Q: My baby used to fall asleep nursing and go easily into her bed.  Now she wakes up and doesn’t want to go to sleep.  It seems as if she has gotten a cat nap and has caught a second wind.

A: Nursing a baby to sleep is a most wonderful experience, both for the baby and for the mother.  This blissful time can go on for many months.  Often, however, there will be a point at which your baby is going to get more pleasure from being awake with you and will begin to fight sleep to do so.  In this situation, you will probably have to set about the work of helping her go to sleep on her own.  Changing your schedule to nurse your baby before the beginning of the bedtime routine is one way to help in the process.

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