Some babies take to the idea of bedtime better than others. When babies first come home, they pretty much set their own schedules, and there really isn’t much you can do other than try to work around it. But as baby gets older, you should be able to start putting her on a more regimented sleep schedule.
As early as three months old, you should be able to start training your baby to sleep at night. This doesn’t mean that she’ll sleep through the night right away, of course. Frankly, her tummy isn’t developed enough to sleep for more than four hours at a stretch until she’s at least 4-5 months old.
Still, you can start the process at about three months old. Training your child to sleep at night basically boils down to helping her want to sleep at night. You may think that’s easier said than done, but it really isn’t in most cases. The real trick is to make night time as uninteresting as possible, while making daytime fun and exciting for baby.
When your baby is first born, she really doesn’t have much interest in anything beyond eating and sleeping. When she’s hungry or otherwise uncomfortable, she’ll cry, but other than that she really doesn’t interact much with the world around her. As she gets older, she becomes more aware of her surroundings.
By the time baby is three to four months old, she will begin to show some interest in what’s going on around her. When she wakes up to eat, she will want to check out her surroundings. If they are interesting and stimulate her, she’s not going to want to go back to sleep.
Your best bet for night time feedings is to put a rocking chair in a dark or dimly lit place where there aren’t many distractions. Feed baby in the dark if you can do so confidently, or keep the lights dim if you find that you need some light. If you don’t have a dimmer switch on your lights, consider using a night light or some other dim light source.
Limit your interactions with baby at night time to feeding her, burping her, and soothing her. Don’t interact with her in any way that might suggest that this is a good time to be awake. This isn’t a good time to play with baby. Save that for the daytime. Even if baby shows that she wants to play, hold her gently, rock her, and otherwise soothe her. She will eventually fall back to sleep most of the time.
By contrast, make sure that baby has plenty of your attention and interaction during the daytime. When she wakes up from a nap and the sun is shining, take some time to play with her after she has eaten. Before long, your baby will associate daytime and light with time to be awake and have fun, and night time with time to relax and go to sleep.