Let your baby learn to sleep through the night

Let your baby learn to sleep through the night

The ideal that many parents would like to achieve could unfold like this: After a relaxing bedtime routine, you lay your baby in his bed while he is still awake. After a moment, you tiptoe from the room, hearing familiar noises as he soothes himself to sleep. He moves from a light sleep into a deep sleep. After about three hours, he surfaces to a lighter sleep that may last about an hour, then self-soothes back down for another round of deep sleep. By linking sleep cycles, he sleeps for eight hours, or right through the night.

Infant sleep cycles

Infant sleep occurs in cycles, which alternate between periods of light and deep sleep. A baby will develop a sleep cycle lasting approximately four hours; about an hour of light sleep will be followed by two hours of deep sleep, followed by about another hour of light sleep. During deep sleep, the baby is hard to wake and has no eye or body movement. During light sleep, the baby is in a semi-alert state and easily aroused. His eyes, muscles, and head may move. When babies wake up at night, it is generally from a light sleep, and, at first, it is usually because they are hungry. Their stomachs (about the size of their fists) need to grow large enough to hold more milk so they can sleep longer periods.

It is when your infant has learned to handle the light-sleep periods and can self-soothe back down to a deeper stage of sleep without parental help (not being fed or held) that two, and eventually three, sleep cycles may be linked together — forming longer periods of sleep.

To self-sooth after waking between sleep cycles, your baby may suck his fingers, make noise, cry out, or self-rock in order to calm himself to the next sleep cycle.

Self-soothing, the ability to calm and relax oneself, is a wonderful and important developmental skill for your baby to learn, and is used throughout life.