Tired of being awake at all hours with your baby? Use these simple tips to help your baby sleep through the night.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you haven't had a good night's sleep since your baby was born, you're not alone. Sleepless nights are a rite of passage for most new parents — but don't despair. You can help your baby sleep all night. Honestly!

Newborns sleep 16 or more hours a day, but often in stretches of just a few hours at a time. Although the pattern might be erratic at first, a more consistent sleep schedule will emerge as your baby matures and can go longer between feedings.

By age 3 to 4 months, many babies sleep at least five hours at a time. At some point during a baby's first year — every baby is different — he or she will start sleeping for about 10 hours each night.

Ideally, baby should sleep in the same room as the parents for the first year of life — or at least for the first 6 months — to decrease the risk of SIDS. This can also make feeding easier.

Your baby should sleep alone in his or her own crib, bassinette or other surface designed for infants. Adult beds aren't safe for infants. A baby can become trapped and suffocate between the headboard slats, the space between the mattress and the bed frame, or the space between the mattress and the wall. A baby can also suffocate if a sleeping parent accidentally rolls over and covers the baby's nose and mouth.

For the first few months, middle-of-the-night feedings are sure to disrupt sleep for parents and babies alike — but it's never too soon to help your baby become a good sleeper. Consider these tips:

  • Encourage activity during the day. When your baby is awake, engage him or her by talking, singing and playing. Stimulation during the day can help promote better sleep at night.
  • Follow a consistent bedtime routine. Try relaxing favorites such as bathing, cuddling, singing, playing quiet music or reading. Soon your baby will associate these activities with sleep.
  • Put your baby to bed drowsy, but awake. This will help your baby associate bed with the process of falling asleep. Remember to place your baby to sleep on his or her back, and clear the crib or bassinet of blankets and other soft items.
  • Give your baby time to settle down. Your baby might fuss or cry before finding a comfortable position and falling asleep. If the crying doesn't stop, speak to your baby calmly and stroke his or her back. Your reassuring presence might be all your baby needs to fall asleep.
  • Consider a pacifier. If your baby has trouble settling down, a pacifier might do the trick. In fact, research suggests that using a pacifier during sleep helps reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Expect frequent stirring at night. Babies often wriggle, squirm and twitch in their sleep. They can be noisy, too. Unless you suspect that your baby is hungry or uncomfortable, it's OK to wait a few minutes to see if he or she falls back asleep.
  • Keep nighttime care low-key. When your baby needs care or feeding during the night, use dim lights, a soft voice and calm movements. This will tell your baby that it's time to sleep — not play.
  • Respect your baby's preferences. If your baby is a night owl or an early bird, you might want to adjust routines and schedules based on these natural patterns.

Getting your baby to sleep through the night is a worthy goal, but it's not a measure of your parenting skills. Take time to understand your baby's habits and ways of communicating so that you can help him or her become a better sleeper. If you have concerns, talk to your baby's doctor.

Nov. 23, 2016