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Setting the Stage for Sleep

You can't control whether your baby is
a naturally "good" sleeper, but you can help
her reach her full sleep potential.

When it comes to adjusting to life outside the womb, your infant might enjoy a few sleep-enhancers that remind her of "home" (and no doubt you'll enjoy anything that helps your baby sleep better and longer). Try any or all of these baby sleep strategies and you'll likely find sending baby off to dreamland a little bit easier.

Help lull her to sleep.

Throughout your pregnancy, your baby-to-be was lulled to sleep by the motion you created when walking around. Now that she's outside the womb, your newborn still finds movement soothing – and sleep-inducing. So try rocking, swaying, or patting her gently on the back to see which ones get your infant to nod off most easily. Another idea: Try your hand at massaging your baby before she drifts off since studies suggest that babies who are massaged before bed produce more of the sleep-enhancing hormone melatonin.

Keep her cozy.

After spending nine months in your tight little tummy, it's no surprise that your newborn prefers a snug space now that she's sleeping in the outside world. Sure, she'll grow into (and out of) the crib eventually, but for now, she might prefer sleeping in a bassinet, cradle, or baby carriage, each of which offers your baby a cozier, more contained space to settle in to. Swaddling your baby with a blanket will offer her an extra dose of comfort and security (at least until she becomes more active and busts out of the blanket). Plus, research shows that babies sleep for longer stretches when swaddled – something any new (and pooped) parent will appreciate.

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Monitor the noise level.

Should silence rule when it's time for baby to sleep? Not usually. After all, your newborn is used to your stomach's symphony of gurgles and the beat of your heart; plus, life is full of noise (background and otherwise), so she might as well get used to snoozing through it now. What's more, the right kind of background noise might even summon the sandman a little faster: The hum of a fan or some soft music might do the trick, or try one of those white noise machines that imitate uterine sounds. Before you turn up the volume too loud, however, do consider your infant's individual temperament. Some newborns (and grown-ups for that matter) can sleep through a rocket launch, while others may wake if you tiptoe past their door. If your baby is particularly sound sensitive, try switching your phone's ringer to low, turning down the radio or TV, and saving your vacuuming for a time when she's already awake.

Temper the temperature in her room.

Not too hot and not too cold – that's the right climate for Baby Bear's room. Why? Overheating may make your baby too sweaty to sleep, and it increases the risk of SIDS. As for too-cold rooms, infants get chilled easily, and will likely wake up if they're uncomfortable. To figure out if the temperature is just right for your baby, feel her neck: If it's sweaty, she's too hot; if it's cold to the touch, bundle her up a bit more.

Dim the lights.

Even though some babies sleep soundly in just about any brightly lit environment, it's probably better to dim the lights and create a dark, sleep-inducing atmosphere for your baby, so that she eventually learns when it's time to go to nod off (nighttime and naptime) and when it's time to be awake (daytime). The faster your baby learns that darkness signals slumber, the sooner she'll start sleeping through the night.

for more pregnancy and parenting information,

visit WhatToExpect.com