There’s nothing quite as sweet as the look on your baby’s face, laying there peacefully in a deep sleep. But if you’re reading this, you probably know just how much of a challenge it can be to get to this blissful state. You’ve probably tried all sorts of baby sleep tips. Some work. Some don’t. And what you baby needs is probably different then another baby’s needs. So let’s take a look at some of the most successful baby sleep tips that parents have tried and found proven to work.
1. No Nighttime Diaper Changes
I made the mistake of changing my baby’s diaper several times over the course of the night. For my first baby, I didn’t even use a wipe warmer. Huge mistake. Let’s just say that cold wipes are a great way to wake your babe wide, wide awake. With my second child, I learned. I also listened to my pediatrician who said not to change diapers at night – unless there was poop. I used extra absorbent diapers meant for overnight use. This made a huge difference.
2. Forget Dreams. I’d Be Happy with Sleep.
After finally getting your baby to sleep, you finish up some last minutes choirs and lay your head on your pillow. Finally – some sleep. But then the sleep shattering cry comes from your baby. No bed for you. Well, try feeding your baby right before you go to sleep – around 10pm to midnight. You may have heard of this – it’s called dreamfeeding. Keep the lights dim our out completely. You may need to rouse your baby slightly to ensure feeding, but this is a great way to give your baby a full belly before drifting back off to sleep. This can help your newborn sleep longer, so you can too.
3. Keep Your Baby in the Dark
During the day, it’s okay to have your baby nap in a well lit room. However, avoid bright lights in your baby’s room around bedtime, especially during feedings or diaper changes in the middle of the night. This helps your baby know it’s time to go to sleep. The key here is to prevent overstimulation.
- Dimmers can be useful in keeping light at the right level. Also, consider a a soft nightlight or no light at all, if you can.
- Make sure that curtains block out all light if you’re putting your baby down while the sun is still shining. You may need blackout blinds or other similar products. This will help keep your baby from waking up early in the morning at first light.
A friend of mine swears by Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit. This product is designed for babies that are transitioning out of the swaddle stage. How does it work? Well, magic. Check out the reviews. Most people swear by it. One mom even claimed it saved her marriage. I think we can all relate to that.
5. Go to Bed Drowsy, Not Asleep
I wish I’d known this one with my first born. The basic idea is that it’s better for your baby to get put to bed when drowsy – not asleep. This helps your baby to develop the ability to self-soothe. Much like us, babies wake up during the night, and without knowing how to go back to sleep, they’ll cry – regardless of the reason for waking. But if you encourage your baby to fall asleep independently, she’s more likely to calm herself and drift back off into slumber all by herself.
6. The Same Ol’ Routine. Is Good.
Routine is actually great for babies and you too. An hour or so before bedtime, turn down the lights and the noise. This will help set your baby’s internal clock. Just like grown-ups, our bodies respond to darkness with the release of melatonin, which prepares us for sleep. Conversely, in the morning it’s okay to expose your baby to bright lights. This all helps to establish a sleep/wake cycle.
Once you’ve set the tone for sleep, this is the time for a warm bath, soft talk and maybe a bedtime story. Be careful not to over stimulate your baby. Too much eye contact is a major no-no. I know this sounds hard to do, but too much eye contact can cause your baby to become excited and snap her out of the sleep cycle.
Be consistent. The routine of dim lights, warm bath, bedtime story, a feeding and off to bed is comforting to your baby. Babies love structure. Every night should be the same. You baby will become accustomed to the sleep routine and soon will be drifting off to sleep.
7. Keeping Your Baby Up Too Late
As a part of your routine, the time you start the sleep routine is so important. I’ve been tempted, as I’m sure you have been, to let my baby stay up late with the hopes that she would be extra tired and sleep longer. Sounds reasonable, right? Well, it turns out keep your baby up late with only disrupt their normal sleep/wake cycle, cause them to be overstimulated and make it harder for them to fall asleep. And they won’t sleep longer. You’ll just end up with a cranky baby.
Around 8 weeks, your baby starts to produce more melatonin, which we’ve mentioned naturally makes your baby feel drowsy and ready for sleep. This melatonin release spikes around sundown. What about when there’s a time change or the sun sets later? Stick to your routine. If it’s still light out at bedtime, close the blinds. Make it as dark as possible.
8. Make Noise. White Noise.
Creating a calm, peaceful place for your baby to sleep is so important. This doesn’t necessarily mean totally quiet. In fact, a little noise is good for your baby. As long as it’s the right kind of noise. White noise has long been recommended for adults wanting to fall asleep, but it’s also good for babies. When I was young, we always had a fan in our rooms. Air conditioning was for rich people, so the steady blowing of a fan was the only way to enjoy a cooler night’s sleep. When air conditioning became more standard in homes, I let go of the fan. But I never slept quite as well, even though I was cooler. It was the dull hum that I was missing.
A fan or a white noise machine is a great way to lull your baby to sleep. I used them with all of my kids, and I still use one today…for me. I really like the Hatch Baby Rest Night Light is awesome! It’s a night light, sound machine and time-to-rise machine all in one wonder. It can be controlled remotely via an app, and it grows with your baby. So you can use it for years to come.
9. Hold Your Horses. It’s Okay to Cry.
When I had my firstborn, I would literally sprint into the room when he would cry. I was panicked. What was wrong? Is he okay? What does he need? Mommy’s here. I felt like I was doing such a great job. Then I learned that this approach wasn’t best. My pediatrician recommended letting him cry. WHAT? Not a chance. But I gave it a try, and within 2 nights, he was settling himself and falling back asleep. Much like adults, babies naturally wake up several times during the night. By allowing your baby to fall back asleep without your intervening, you’re teaching her it’s okay to wake up. And then fall back asleep. Of course, don’t let your baby get so worked up that she can’t go back to sleep. You know the difference between a “little” cry and a “there’s something wrong” cry, so give it a minute or two before rushing in. This is all part of the self-soothing that is so important for your baby to learn – especially if you want to get some sleep too.
If your baby is hungry (you know the schedule) or has a poopie diaper, by all means, take care of her. So if you have to go in, remember to maintain a calm, peaceful environment. Keep the lights low or off. Try patting or shushing her back to sleep. Avoid eye contact or talking as this may further awaken your little bundle of joy. It may be necessary to escalate your interventions – maybe a feeding in a rocking chair. But always start with the least intrusive interventions and work your way up.
10. Where’s My Bed?
Okay – I admit it. I’ve sat in my car for 30 minutes with the engine running, parked in my driveway just so my baby would sleep for an extra 20 minutes. I’ve driven countless miles with no ultimate destination just so she would sleep. As tempting as it is to have your baby in bed when she’s especially cranky, fight the urge. As much as you think this might help, you’re only hurting your baby’s routine. It’s important to teach your baby, early on, where her bed is. This will help prepare your baby, mentally and physically, when it’s time for bed. This includes naps and nighttime sleeping.
11. Don’t Get Distracted
Avoid distractions in or around your baby’s crib. This includes mobiles, toys and stuffed animals. These can distract your baby and cause her to stay awake. And whatever you do, no bottles in bed. While some people claim this helps soothe a baby to sleep, it can become a crutch. It also be dangerous. Babies can choke on the liquid. They’re also increases the risk of ear infections and tooth decay.
12. Don’t Overthink It. Be Patient.
My husband likes to say, “It’s called fishing. Not catching.” I think that applies here. Sort of – but don’t tell him. There are so many techniques, tips and tricks. You’re just trying to find what works for you and your baby. The internet, while helpful, also overloads parents with so much information that we sometimes forget to focus on consistency. Don’t be tempted to try something different tomorrow just because one thing didn’t work today. Much like raising kids, it takes time.
Share in the Success!
There are many more methods and techniques that promise to get your baby to sleep. Maybe you’ve got one that you’d like to share. Please do! We’re all in this together. After all, we share a common goal – to get our baby’s the best sleep possible, so we can maybe get a little rest too.