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How to help a baby sleep

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Having a baby is wonderful but also exhausting. Every new parent knows the joys, trials and work needed caring for an infant. One of the major goals is getting baby to sleep longer periods as they move into the second month and beyond. Exhausted moms and dads just want to sleep through the night, too. Here are some tips that may help.

Swaddling
Swaddling has been practiced for thousands of years to help babies sleep longer and sounder, and even to carry them as mom goes about her day. "When done properly, swaddling can be the single most important sleep tool a mother or daycare provider can master," says Karen Barski, Woombie founder, mom of five, and certified infant care specialist. Swaddling mimics touch and recreates the womb environment that baby is used to. It also prevents startle reflex and helps maintain the "back is best" sleep position.

The effect of swaddling can also help calm an out of control or upset toddler who was a preemie. A strong prolonged hug, or hug with a blanket wrapped around the child will also simulate the womb, providing a connection to this safe environment, calming nerves that may be on the way to overload. Wise parents can teach a toddler to seek their blanket and self-swaddle when needed.

Temperature

Keep baby’s room a little warmer during the day and cooler at night with an optimal temperature between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don't have a thermostat, keep a thermometer in the room to track the temperature. Keep in mind that if the room is too hot or too cold for you, then it is too hot or too cold for baby. Also avoid over bundling baby so baby won't get so hot.

If you live in a temperate climate, try placing baby in a safe, outdoor environment where it is cool for naps. Some suggestions may be a screened porch or ventilated sunroom, deck, or taking a walk. Make sure the carriage is out of the sun and baby is protected from insects. Set up the baby monitor and relax. The cool air has always been a great nap environment. Sometimes it will allow parents to finish tasks in other areas of the house and baby will be away from the noise.

White noise

Babies hear lots of loud noises while in the womb so they like hearing soothing, rhythmic noises to help them fall asleep. A white noise machine is a very effective way to help baby sleep. It reduces stress in babies, makes them cry less and helps them stay asleep longer while also blocking out other noises around the house.

Warm bath

Many babies find warm water to be very relaxing and a soothing bath right before bedtime can be a good part of your nighttime ritual. A baby wash with a soothing scent can also promote relaxation and help baby fall asleep faster. It's also a great bonding time for baby and parent.

Music

Soft music playing in baby’s sleep environment is also calming. It mimics the effect of white noise and blocks outside sounds. Studies have shown that playing classical music while babies sleep helps neural pathways connect, making children smarter. You don’t want military marches or waves crashing, but try some soothing Mozart, Hayden or Vivaldi. Setting up the iPod is easy and quick.

Expert help

Consult your pediatrician or baby’s medical professional for more information, advice or if you have specific questions about an individual child’s needs. Child sleep consultants are also available when needed.

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