Jodi A. Mindell, Ph.D., associate director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, answers bedtime—and naptime—questions
1. I know I’m supposed to put my newborn to sleep on her back, but she sleeps so much better on her tummy. Can I let her?
Even if your newborn seems to sleep better on her stomach, it’s really important to have her sleep on her back because it lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Being swaddled and sleeping in a confined space, such as a bassinet or co-sleeper, rather than a crib, can help her get used to sleeping on her back.
2. When can we start a regular bedtime routine—bath, book and lullaby—for our baby?
The earlier, the better. Babies thrive on consistency and predictability, and many studies show that a bedtime routine is one of the most effective ways to establish good sleep habits. Even a baby as young as 2 months can learn there are certain things that happen regularly before it’s time to sleep. I don’t recommend any particular plan or schedule over another. What matters is that you’re consistent from one night to the next.
3. My three-month-old will only sleep with a pacifier. Is this OK?
I think it’s completely fine. A lot of babies have a very strong need to suck. The only problem is that before 6 months of age a baby in a crib can’t put the binky back in his mouth on his own.
But around 6 months, when babies can find the pacifier on their own, they’re often champion sleepers.
4. My 11-month-old doesn’t seem ready to take her morning nap as early as she used to. Should I shift her from two naps a day to one?
Naps are important because babies need that extra sleep for proper growth and development. Infants usually fall into a pattern of two naps a day at around 6 to 9 months of age, and by around 18 months, most babies have switched to just one nap a day.
Sometimes the easiest way to shift to one nap is to put your baby down for her morning nap a little later each day for a few days, until she’s napping only once. Then, I recommend having her nap right after lunch, at about 12:30 or 1:00 p.m.