The first thing to determine before you plan your sleep strategy is: Does your baby really have a sleep problem?
If your baby sleeps 8 hours a night (say, from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.) and naps 3 hours a day, that may be as good as it gets. Not every baby is going to sleep 10 hours straight, or fall asleep and wake up exactly when you want.
But odds are, if you think your little one has a sleep problem, you’re right. So, your next step is to gather some clues.
In general, I’m not a big one for lists and diaries. If a feeding happens an hour early or a nap an hour late that day, no big deal. But unless you keep notes, it’s hard to remember how long your infant slept, how often he awakened and what it took to help him back to sleep.
A daily diary also allows you to share your concerns with your doctor and will help you keep track of your progress as you work to resolve the problem.
So before monkeying around with bedtime changes, take a few days to notice if your little one is overtired before you put him down (wired and irritable or yawning and bleary-eyed) or wide-awake (happy and playful).
Jot down the times you see early signs of fatigue. Also, take a week to carefully record your infant’s key sleep events:
- Naps (time and duration).
- Length of bedtime routine (including the details of the routine).
- Time and duration of night awakenings (also list your response).
- Time of morning waking.
And, while you’re at it, mark down the other big events of the day, like meals, crying jags and poops.
Your diary should help you see why your baby is having trouble nodding off. The 4 top reasons to consider are overexcitement before bedtime, something is bugging her, you’re using the wrong bedtime cues or you picked the wrong bedtime.