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Helping Baby Tell Night From Day

Sometime around four to six weeks, your baby’s sleeping and eating will begin to settle towards a pattern. Once he sometimes sleeps for three or four hours at a stretch, you’ll want him to do that at night and save his dozing for the day. You can’t make him and you can’t hurry him, but you can help him.

It’s worth making nighttime seem different from the beginning. Babies aren’t born knowing one from the other, but they soon pick it up.

However often and irregularly your baby nurses, you could decide which feeding counts as his bedtime, and start a ritual of washing and changing that leads up to it. You could give him that feeding alone in his room. Follow it with “good night”, darken the room a little, and put him in the crib he’ll occupy all night, rather than in his stroller in the living room.

Your baby has to be fed during the night. Even if he was willing to sleep right through, it wouldn’t be good for him to go for that long without the milk that’s his drink as well as his food. When you go to him in the night, it’s worth keeping the feeding quiet and boring. It’s the start of a message that may be important to you for years to come. “Nighttime isn’t playtime.”

Penelope Leach, Ph.D., is one of the world’s most respected (and best-loved) developmental child psychologists. She is most widely known for her best-selling books on child development and parenting. They include Babyhood, Children First: What Society Must Do — and Is Not Doing — for Our Children Today, the classic Your Baby & Child: From Birth to Age Five (now in a new edition for a new generation), and Your Growing Child: From Babyhood Through Adolescence.


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