Ages 1 to 3 Months: Sleeping
By 2 months, your baby will be more alert and social, and will spend more time awake during the day. This will make her a little more tired during the dark, quiet hours when no one is on hand to entertain her. Meanwhile, her stomach capacity will be growing so that she needs less frequent feedings; as a result she may start skipping one middle-of-the-night feeding and sleep from around 10:00 p.m. through to daylight. By 3 months, most (but not all) infants consistently sleep through the night (seven or eight hours without waking).
If your child does not start sleeping through the night by 3 months, you may need to give her some encouragement by keeping her awake longer in the afternoon and early evening. Play with her actively at these times, or let her join the rest of the family in the kitchen or living room so she's not tempted to drift to sleep before bedtime. Increase the amount of her feeding right before bed (if she's breastfeeding, increase the amount of time she nurses), so she doesn't wake up too early because she's hungry.
Sometimes you may think your baby is waking up when she's actually going through a phase of very light slumber. She could be squirming, startling, fussing or even crying and still be asleep. Or she may be awake but on the verge of drifting off again if left alone. Don't make the mistake of trying to comfort her during these moments; you'll only awaken her further and delay her going back to sleep. Instead, if you let her fuss and even cry for a few minutes, she'll learn to get herself to sleep without relying on you. Some babies actually need to let off energy by crying in order to settle into sleep or rouse themselves out of it. As much as 15 to 20 minutes of fussing won't do your child any harm. Just be sure she's not crying out of hunger or pain, or because her diaper is wet. Although it may be difficult just to let her cry for even a minute or two, you and she will be much better off in the long run.
Even after your baby has established a fairly regular and reasonable sleep pattern, problems can develop. For example, it's common for babies at this age to get their days and nights mixed up so that they're doing most of their sleeping during the day. Although this situation may seem to occur without warning, it usually develops over several days. The baby begins by sleeping more during the day, which causes her to sleep less at night. If she's fed and comforted when she wakes up at night, she'll adopt this new sleep cycle quite naturally. To prevent or break this habit, induce your baby to go back to sleep as quickly as possible during the night. Don't turn up the lights, talk or play with her. If you need to feed and change her, try to disturb her as little as possible when doing so. Then keep her awake as much as possible during the day, and don't put her down for the night before 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. Remember at this age, children should be put to sleep on their back. If you're patient and consistent, her sleep pattern will soon start to respond.
Many infants also wake up too early in the morning to suit their parents. Sometimes this problem can be solved by putting shades on the windows to block out the morning sun; then when the baby awakens, perhaps after a few minutes of fussing, she may fall back to sleep. If this doesn't work; however, it may help to keep her up an extra hour at night. Unfortunately, not all infants are able to sleep late in the morning; some wake up automatically and are ready to start the day at dawn. If that's your own baby's pattern, you have little choice but to adapt to her schedule. As she gets older (age 6 to 8 months), having favorite toys in her crib may keep her occupied so you can have a few more minutes to sleep.
Excerpted from Caring for Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, Bantam 1999
© Copyright 2000 American Academy of Pediatrics