Choosing bedtimes and sleeping arrangements can be a challenge for new parents. The more sleep you lose, the harder it will be to think rationally about this topic. Your decision will depend on your lifestyle, your beliefs, and your baby. Keep in mind that your baby's bedtime will change as she gets older. In the beginning, it may be easier to have the baby keep hours similar to yours. This allows you to get more sleep when you are naturally tired and sleep well.
Newborn babies sleep about twelve to eighteen hours a day during the first month of life. Generally, periods of wakefulness become longer as they get older. The problem with this is that most babies will not sleep for long stretches of time—especially at first—preventing you from getting sufficient sleep. But take heart: as time goes on, your baby will sleep longer and longer, and so will you.
Partially determining how well your baby sleeps will be the environment in which she sleeps. If you suspect your baby is not getting enough sleep, consider her environment. Do you leave the lights on? Does your baby share a room with a sibling who snores loudly? Is your baby's temperature comfortable? These and other details play a major role in how well your baby sleeps at night.
Sleeping through the night is really only possible when your baby is neurologically ready. It cannot be forced by feeding your baby cereal, letting your baby cry, or any other rumored “cure.” Always be skeptical when presented with surefire methods to make your baby sleep through the night.
Co-sleeping, or having your baby sleep in bed with you, is the natural way to parent at night. In many cultures, parents have their children sleep in or very close to their bed. This enables them to respond quickly to the child's needs.
Co-sleeping, also called sleep sharing or the family bed, is a safe practice when executed using common sense. It is beneficial for you as well as your baby and will not cause your baby to become dependent on you to sleep. Your baby will eventually leave your bed, when you are both ready.
Sharing sleep with your baby is a natural extension of baby care, particularly during the first months of life. Sleeping with your baby will make breastfeeding at night very simple, as there is no need to get out of bed, turn on lights, and sit up to feed your baby. This will probably help both of you get more sleep as well.
Many babies sleep better when comforted by the presence of their parents. It has also been shown in some studies that babies who sleep with their parents are less likely to have problems with sudden infant death syndrome(SIDS). Researchers speculate this is because the baby falls into your sleep patterns.
Do not sleep with your baby if you are taking pain medications or if you have been drinking. This is dangerous, as certain medications and alcohol can cause you to act without regard for your baby. If you need to take medication, your baby should sleep in a crib, where she will be safe.
The rules for co-sleeping are simple: Don't sleep on a water bed. Don't be crowded in bed—use a queen- or king-sized bed if possible. Don't go to bed intoxicated or on pain medication. And end co-sleeping when you feel your child is naturally ready to sleep alone.
You may decide that a crib is the best place for your baby to sleep. Be sure to choose a crib that meets the most current safety standards, to prevent injury to your baby. This includes ensuring that the crib has slats that are close enough together, the crib does not contain toxic paint or other materials, and the mattress is of safe firmness.
Consider holding or rocking your baby into a light stage of sleep before trying to lay her down in the crib. If your baby wakes up as soon as you move her, you may need to wait until she is in a deeper sleep stage. Remember that even if the baby is not sleeping in your bed, or maybe not even in your room, you still need to be physically responsive to her at any time of night. Make sure she is relatively close by so you can hear any sounds of distress.
Don't be seduced by cute crib toys and decorations. Bumpers might match your baby's nursery, but they could potentially harm your baby. It is best for her to sleep with nothing but a small, lightweight blanket. This means no toys, bumpers, pillows, or other items should be in the crib with her.