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#AskAnExpert: How Can I Get My Baby to Sleep Through the Night?

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Babble is partnering with the experts at Kids in the House to help you tackle your toughest parenting challenges.

This month, we’re bringing you advice on how to get your baby to sleep from four of America’s leading experts and a celebrity mom. Have a question? Tweet @BabbleEditors using #AskAnExpert.

Go to Sleep Early

Many parents put their babies to sleep later thinking it will lead to waking up later, but actually the opposite is true. Between 7 pm and 8 pm is a good bedtime for your baby.

Consistency Is Key

Science says that extinction (putting your baby down while awake, leaving him in the room, letting him cry it out, and not going in all night long) is the most successful training method. But this method isn’t right for every parent. What does work is consistency. Pick the sleep coaching method that is right for both your child and your values, and then follow through with it consistently. Practice this every night, and you will be successful.

— Kim West, also known as “The Sleep Lady,” is a mother of two and a Licensed Certified Social Worker-Clinical (LCSW-C) who has been a practicing child and family social worker for more than 19 years. She is the author of The Sleep Lady’s Good Night, Sleep Tight.

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Teach Your Baby Not to Fall Asleep at the Breast

Let baby suck on a bottle or breast until he is sleepy, then put him into bed to finish falling asleep. Do not let him fall asleep at the breast. When baby starts to get sleepy, walk him to bed and give him a few jiggles (aka: the Pantley Dance), signaling that he is going into bed. Your baby will start to associate sleepiness with getting into bed rather than with breastfeeding.

Gradually Back Off

The reality is your baby will not sleep through the night without waking up because babies have cycles of sleep that are designed to keep them safe. Recognize your baby’s sleep association — the thing that you do to help your baby sleep (i.e. breastfeeding, rocking to sleep, sleeping with a certain blanket or toy, etc …).

Your baby is dependent on this sleep association and eventually learns to be unable to fall asleep without it. What you need to do is gradually pull back on whatever it is that makes your baby fall asleep so that he can learn to sleep on his own.

— Elizabeth Pantley is a parent educator, mother of four, and author of The No-Cry Solution book series.

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Try Co-Sleeping

Co-sleeping and breastfeeding will decrease the likelihood of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) because your baby is in lighter stages of sleep. It will also help with mom’s milk supply by encouraging breastfeeding throughout the night and increase the ability for mom and baby to react to one another’s physiology and for mom to respond to her baby.

It’s also an extra bonus for working moms who feel that they don’t get enough time with their baby. Co-sleeping will lead to increased bonding and attachment time between mom and child.

James McKennaPhD, is the world’s leading authority on mother-infant co-sleeping in relation to breastfeeding and SIDS. Professor McKenna has published over 139 articles on the topic and is considered one of the top experts on co-sleeping.

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Practice the “Soothing Ladder”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsc0psUa3hs

If your baby wakes up during the middle of the night, start at the bottom of the “ladder” by just coming into the room or something as small as speaking. Start with the least intrusive movement and gradually increase your involvement based on what the baby needs. The top of the ladder is picking up your baby or feeding your baby if he really needs it. Adjust your involvement daily, but do not resort to the top of the ladder unless needed.

Steps on the ladder from bottom to top:

  1. Come into the room and simply stand there
  2. Speak to baby gently
  3. Pat your baby or encourage silence with “Shh”
  4. Put pacifier back in baby’s mouth
  5. Pick up your baby
  6. Feed your baby

Julie Wright, MFT, is a marriage and family therapist with an extensive background in infant mental health and early childhood development. She is the creator of content and curriculum for The Wright Parent and Me groups at the Pump Station and Nurtury in Los Angeles, CA. She is also the author of The Happy Sleeper.

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Create the Right Environment for Sleep

Dim the lights, have bath time, lower your voices, and read a book. Use a sound machine to drown out extra noise, which is also great for travel because you can create the same sleep environment no matter where you are.

— Ali Landry is an actress, mother of three, and entrepreneur. She is the co-founder of Favored.by App, which is a personalized app that helps moms discover new products.

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What else would you want to ask an expert? Comment on this post with your questions or tweet @BabbleEditors using #AskAnExpert!

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