baby sleeping in a crib

Pediatric Perspectives: Sleep Training

Teri Stevenson, Valley View HospitalBy Teri Stevenson, MD, Pediatric Partners at Valley View

Good sleep is very important for our physical and mental health. Studies have shown it affects our mood, anxiety, focus, concentration, memory, growth, weight and chronic illness. Many parents and families have sleep concerns because it affects the whole household.

Newborns should establish good sleep habits early for a lifetime of healthy sleep. Parents can start sleep training their baby by two months of age. Learning any new skill requires practice and can cause some discomfort (think about learning to ski or ride a bike). To start sleep training, lay your baby in their crib on their back after feeding. Your baby should still be awake but drowsy. Allow your baby to “self-soothe” in the crib until he or she falls asleep. Many babies will cry for up to 20 minutes before finally falling asleep. Keep in mind it is not harmful for infants to cry as most young babies normally cry for up to three hours daily. If you must check on your baby while they are trying to fall asleep, the visits should be brief and boring. Don’t pick-up, cradle/rock, pat baby’s back, or provide any other soothing mechanism or they may not learn to self soothe. Instead, stay calm and reassure your baby that it is time for them to sleep and you will be there when they wake up. If your baby is really upset, you may pick them up and rock them for a few minutes. Once they calm, lay them back in their crib.

The most important training tip is to be calm, patient and consistent. Do the same thing every time you place your baby to sleep for naps and at nighttime. Most infants figure out how to self-soothe within 1-2 weeks. Once your baby learns to self-soothe, they should start falling back asleep with normal nighttime awakenings and start sleeping through the night by 4-6 months of age. Getting everyone in the household a good night’s sleep after training is well worth a few weeks of discomfort!

Teri Stevenson, MD is a board-certified pediatrician at Valley View’s Pediatric Partners. Dr. Stevenson loves pediatrics and the range of ages and developmental stages of her patients as they grow up. Working with the patients and parents makes her smile every day. She is excited to be here and to get to know people in the community. She enjoys Colorado recreation including hiking, biking and skiing—and also enjoys gardening, reading and traveling domestically and internationally in her off time. Dr. Stevenson is currently welcoming new patients of all ages, birth to 18, in Glenwood Springs, Silt and Willits in Basalt.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, call 970.947.9999.