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Winks: How to Prepare School-Year Sleep Routines and Deal With Newborn Night Nursing

Sleep solutions for modern families

Published on: July 26, 2017

Sleepy kid

In her recurring column, author and sleep research guru Malia Jacobson answers reader questions about that most important of parenting tools: a good night's sleep. In this first edition, learn how to reset summer schedules in time for early school mornings and what to do about all-night nursing.

My kids have been staying up late all summer. How can we get back to a school-year sleep routine?

The late nights of summer won’t do your kids any favors this school year. Kids need adequate sleep to pay attention and perform at school: Overtiredness is linked to academic troubles, behavior problems, even ADHD.

Your elementary-age child needs at least 10 to 11 hours of sleep at night, tweens need 9 to 10 and teens need 8 to 9. Unfortunately, simply setting an early bedtime and ordering kids to bed won’t work. If they’re used to staying up late — and sleeping late in the morning — they simply won’t be tired enough to fall asleep earlier.

The key to returning to a school-year sleep routine, complete with appropriately early bedtime, is waking kids up earlier in the morning. Begin rousing your night owls 15 to 30 minutes earlier each morning, until they’re rising at a school-appropriate hour. (It’s best to do this gradually over several days.) The earlier wake time will help reset their body clocks to prepare for an earlier bedtime, so falling to sleep won’t be a struggle.

Congratulations on helping prep your kids for a successful school year. Good luck! 

My 2-month-old seems to nurse all night long. Help!

The newborn nurse-a-thon is tiring but necessary. During the first two months of life, babies may nurse every 15 to 60 minutes, particularly from around 8 p.m. to midnight. This feeding may feel constant, but it’s important, allowing baby to take advantage of mom’s nursing hormones that peak at night, boosting bonding during a time when you aren’t distracted by work or other children and transmitting melatonin to the baby via breastmilk, which helps pave the way for more regular sleep patterns in the coming months.

During these early months, sleeping close to baby can help minimize sleep disruption; the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends putting baby to sleep in a separate crib in the parents’ bedroom. Napping while baby naps during the day can help new moms feel rested enough to function. Take heart — this temporary phase will soon be a distant memory. In the meantime, try to treasure the nighttime snuggles.

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