My 7-week old daughter is a very active baby and does not like to sleep. The only way I can get her to sleep, either for a nap or at bedtime, is if she falls asleep while being fed (breast or bottle) or if I rock her to sleep, which often can take up to 2 hours. I don't want either of these methods to become a habit, and was wondering how old she should be when I should start trying to get her to sleep on her own. Also, when the time is right, how do I get her to sleep on her own? - Ann Marie, Virginia
The Pediatrician Answers:
A seven-week old baby does not normally sleep for long periods. They are not at all pleased sleeping alone -- after all, their security is their parent's warmth and heartbeat. Generally, they sleep much better if they sleep with their parents or just beside them in a bassinette or crib. Nursing at the breast and feeling mom's warm body and tasting warm sweet milk means love and security for a young infant. Being put in a bed all by him/herself in a scary, lonely room, is hardly a baby's idea of comfort. (After all, do you sleep better with your spouse in the room? Do you like being all alone at home?)
Human babies are "made" to be nursed frequently and carried around by their parents most of the time. Your baby is just doing what babies are supposed to do -- wanting to spend most of his/her time near mom and/or dad. I would suggest doing some infant massage with your baby to promote relaxation, then nursing until the baby falls asleep and falls off the breast. You can gently transfer the baby to a crib or bassinette near you for naps; babies also nap quite nicely in a sling while being carried.
If your baby is lovingly and gently transitioned to sleep, he/she will conclude that the world is safe and loving and that mom and dad are nearby to keep it that way. As she/he matures, he/she will learn to sleep more on his/her own and will gradually separate from you. It will happen faster than you expect -- you'll feel that no time has passed before you have an active toddler who doesn't like to cuddle nearly so much.