How to Reset Your Baby’s Sleep Cycle

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Photo courtesy of D Sharon Pruitt

Special thanks to today’s guest contributor, Nancy Parker, a former nanny who enjoys writing about parenting. Please check out her bio at the end of this post!

As a new parent, it is hard to know what is natural and what should be changed. One thing that all new parents seem to suffer through is their child’s sleep cycle. If the sleep cycle is not consistent, or is consistently backwards, it can be hard on the parents. Here are six tips on how to turn your child’s sleep cycle around. You really can’t change a baby’s sleep cycle until they are more than six months old. With newborns, their cycle is completely dependent on their needs. Avoid trying to train a child younger than that. Once they reach six months, however, they can start to be trained.

Look for patterns

If your baby has habits, as most babies do, look for them and record them. Example: the baby wakes at 3 am every night for a pacifier. Once you record the patterns, you can start to counter those problems specifically.

Wake to sleep

Once you have figured out the baby’s habits, set your alarm clock to wake you 20-30 minutes before the baby usually wakes up. Then, go into the child’s room and change their sleeping position or do some other motion that almost wakes them up. Anything that disturbs their sleep without waking them completely will do.

Be consistent

Continue to do this for three to five nights. Eventually, you will see that the sleep cycle has been broken. The habit has been changed. Now you, and your child, should be able to sleep through the night.

Encourage healthy sleep habits

Make sure you encourage your child’s healthy sleeping habits. Nap times shouldn’t be too long or too late in the day. Have a bedtime routine where noise is kept at a minimum and soothing activities, like bath time and reading time, are used. Do not hold or cuddle the baby until she falls asleep. Instead, when the child begins to nod off, place her into the crib partially awake. That way the child can learn to master independent sleep and it won’t become necessary for you to hold or rock them to sleep.

If all else fails …

Let them cry it out. It sounds mean, but older babies fall into bad habits. If your child is constantly waking in the middle of the night for attention, you may have to withhold it. If no one comes after a while, the child will eventually discard the habit as ineffective. The best thing to do, however, is not let bad habits begin in the first place. For step-by-step directions on how to “CIO”, read How to Sleep Train Your Baby Using CIO or Dr. Ferber’s Progressive-Waiting Method.

The nocturnal baby

Some babies have their sleep clock so messed up that they sleep all day and are up all night. This is not healthy for you or the child. But how do you reset their clock? Well, keep them up all day. It may sound a little harsh, but the object is to keep moving, playing, and being active during the day. They’ll get tired and cranky and may cry a lot, but by the time night rolls around, they’ll be more than ready to hit the hay. When you’ve accomplished this, try to keep it up. Make sure they don’t sleep all day by keeping them active and involved. It’s a lot easier to avoid a problem than to correct it later.

Depending on your child and their stubbornness, habits can be very difficult to break. However, with a little time and effort on your part, you can change your baby’s sleep cycle. After all, healthy sleep is necessary for people of all ages and childhood bad habits turn into big problems if not dealt with early on.

Nancy Parker was a professional nanny and she loves to write about a wide range of subjects like health, parenting, child care, babysitting, nanny background check tips etc. You can reach her at nancy.parker015 @ gmail.com.

Comments

  1. 8

    I’m really happy to see all the other mothers comment on “crying it out” and “withholding”. That caught my attention, it’s an outdated practice and does not rear secure children. My grandmother was huge on it, and it did not create happy children.

  2. 9

    Wow, you’re encouraging new mothers to withold attention and affection towards their babies. Shocking and irresponsible advice. Sure, the baby might stop crying as a result of CIO but only because they’ve given up hope that someone will come and offer them some comfort. New mums, please don’t follow this advice.

  3. 10

    “Depending on your child and their stubborness”???? Thats a terrible thing to say! Babies are not stubborn, they are babies! They cry when they need something not to stick it to their parents/caregivers. And CIO is not just mean but ineffective and actually damaging.

  4. 11

    hmmm… it should be noted that cry-it-out isn’t recommended for babies under six months (according to some) or under one year (according to others).
    The cry-it-out method was invented by a man who believed that even when the child continued to cry to the point of vomiting, the parent was expected to clean up the vomit whilst ignoring baby, and continue to leave baby alone.
    Controlled crying is probably a better method, and generally what people are actually referring to when they talk about cry-it-out. This involves coming into the bedroom periodically to check on the baby after ten minutes or so of crying.

  5. 12
    Sarah West says:

    CIO has been proven to be dangerous. Please do amend this article. First time mums will be mislead into thinking that it is a good way to sleep train a baby.
    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201112/dangers-crying-it-out

  6. 13

    I am going to try the 1st part of the article but like the other commentors I am in strong disagreeance with the cry it out portion. I have an adopted daughter whose needs were not met during her 1st few years of life and we deal with the effects every day(she is will be 10 this year). Here is a great article about the effects of not meeting a baby’s needs. It can have devastating consequences, we know, cause we live it. http://www.fromsurvivaltoserenity.com/2012/03/unhealthy-broken-attachment.html

  7. 14
    Finley :: Mommy Chic says:

    I agree w above. Try reading Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child which discusses the need for sleep and naps during the day. Keeping a baby up all day will just make her too overtired at nap.

    I love your blog (just started reading and have turned other moms to it) but just wanted to share my opinion w any other moms who may be reading this thinking that CIO or keeping a baby up all day will work. (BTW, I’m not opposed to a little crying, but over an hour isn’t healthy for baby or mommy.)

  8. 15

    Some of this is really bad advice :( Cry it out has been shown to be a damaging method – babies left to cry it out stop crying so much, yes. However they experience the same levels of stress hormone (cortisol) as those whose needs are met, they just don’t bother crying because they know no one will come. And keeping your baby up all day?? I’m shocked. Terrible advice. Actually most health care professionals will tell you that good day time naps are key to good night sleep. If you need to stop your baby sleeping so much in the day, you do it gradually.

    Babies are not great at sleep! They never have been. Never will be. You just need to suck it up, I’m afraid.

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