As a pediatrician, one of the most common questions I hear from new parents is, “What can I do to get my baby to sleep well at night?”  Getting a full night’s sleep is important for the baby, and it’s also important for the parents. As you may already realize, when you are well rested, you are better able to handle day-to-day tasks, and you will feel more prepared to take on the role of parenting each day.

The good news is that there are a few simple steps you can take to help give your baby a better night’s sleep. Here are four tips I’ve found in my practice that assist in a gentle transition into longer-lasting sleep for your baby…and the whole family:

Routine. Creating a bedtime routine with a baby is essential. It lets them learn, and even expect, what is coming next. Your routine can be tailored to your preferences, but I find many parents enjoy giving the baby a bath, reading a book, or even playing a lullaby song just before bedtime.
Repeat. Once you have created your routine, stick to it as closely as possible. You may have nights when you are out or have company, so if there is a break in it, simply get back to the routine as soon as possible.  If you are on vacation with the child or she’s staying at grandma and grandpa’s for the night, bring familiar items – like her favorite story or music – to remind her of home.

Relax. Part of your routine should be to help your baby learn to calm down and relax. She will best be able to do this if she senses you are relaxed.  It’s amazing how children can pick up on what adults are feeling.  Also, be sure to create an atmosphere that is conducive for sleep, such as a darkened room that is relatively quiet.  I am also a big proponent of swaddling younger babies—I have found with my own children and with my patients that many young babies sleep longer if they are snuggled in a swaddle.

Remove. Remove yourself from the room before your baby actually falls asleep.  Many parents like to be an essential part of the falling asleep process whether they stay in the room until the child falls asleep, or rock her until she drifts off.  But, realize if your child needs you present in order to fall asleep every night, she will also need you to fall back asleep should she awaken in the middle of the night.  Better to walk out the door and let her learn that she can get to sleep on her own.

Also know that there will be bumps in the road along the way.  A new tooth or a new skill like rolling over may cause a child who has been sleeping well to suddenly awaken during the night.  As long as you are consistent and return to the tips above, your child should be back to sleeping through the night in no time at all.

Sweet dreams!