5 Baby Sleep Tips: What Helped My Child Snooze More
Let's face it: When a baby comes to town, sleep, undoubtedly, is a hot topic of conversation. Everyone and her brother wants to know if the baby is sleeping "though the night." And everyone has a trick up his sleeve: Co-sleep. Put the baby in his own room and own crib. Feed on demand. Create a feeding schedule. Rock the baby. DO NOT rock the baby. Put cereal in the milk right before bed.
It all seems so tiring for already-tired parents to navigate through. That's why I turned toward two experts, Dr. Harvey Karp and Cara of TakingCaraBabies, who helped tremendously. I highly recommend researching them further. But here are a few uncontroversial tips that, rest assured, will decrease those restless nights and naps for the rest of baby's first year.
1. Wake to Sleep
I am sure that you heard over and over to never wake a sleeping baby. While this is sound advice, there is always an exception to the rule. Babies need to learn to self-soothe, or else you're going to be their crutch until you're so tired from getting your baby to fall asleep that you fall down the steps and really need crutches yourself. Imagine this:
You're a wee bitty baby, and you're used to falling asleep in Mommy's comfy lap. It's so warm and her smell is so pleasant. While you doze off, Mommy so gently places you in your bassinet. Then you inevitably wake up because, duh, you're a baby and you're still learning about sleep.
When you wake up, alarm bells sound. Where is Mommy? The last thing you knew, you were in her lap. Now, you are alone in this box thing. You become scared. You start wailing. Mommy comes to the rescue, and the only way to put you to sleep is the same thing as before. Repeat every night.
Exhausted from just reading that? How about doing it? So save yourself the trouble and when you place your peaceful cherub in her bed or bassinet, gently tickle her feed or nudge her to wake up if she has fallen asleep. Eventually, I would put my tired baby down when I could still see the whites of his eyes and simply say good night, turn up the sound machine, and walk out. A baby needs to learn to fall asleep on his own, so you can fall asleep when you are ready and want to.
2. Sound Machines
I have stressed the importance of this one before. Get a good one, preferably one you can control from your phone. Why? Inside the uterus is loud. There is noise 24/7. Then, one day, your cute little baby is plucked from its comfortable, cozy home and expected to sleep in utter silence in the picture-perfect, gigantic nursery you created . No way! Imagine how terrifying. Get a sound machine and turn it on for bedtime and naps.
When nighttime feedings were decreasing and we were aiming for that all-night stretch, we would feel dismayed when our son would start to wake and whine. Then, we learned to try pausing first, followed by turning up the sound machine without even leaving our bed (phone-controlled sound machine for the win). Worked. Like. A. Charm. Henry was back to sleep in no time, and we could breathe a sigh of relief.
Babies are creatures of habit. Already at a young age, they are picking up on cues: When Mommy sits in that chair, she's going to feed me. That's the reason why you want to create a bedtime routine. It lets baby know, Hey it's almost time to go to bed. Start getting sleepy.
It doesn't have to be an elaborate song and dance complete with performances and different voices from Mom and Dad. It doesn't have to follow a strict time schedule, either. At 6:45 transport baby from his nursery to our bedroom. 6:50 read story. 6:52 massage for exactly three minutes. 6:57 sing a song. 7:00 lights out.
Here is an example of my routine for the first 4 months:
- Warm, peaceful bath with dimmed lights (not every evening)
- Towel off and put into pajamas.
- Read short story
- Hush, Little Baby
- Put in bassinet awake
I would program the sound machine to play a Getting Ready tune (usually the lullaby or rain setting) which would switch into a Going to Bed sound (wind or dryer sound).
As Henry got older, we gradually switched to doing more of the routine in his nursery instead of our bedroom to get ready for his switch to permanently sleeping in the nursery and crib. We also did a shorter version of this routine for naps once we established a nap schedule around 4 months. Later on, we dropped the swaddle and breastfeeding got shorter, so overall the routine can last anywhere from 15–45 minutes. Time I would gladly trade for a full night's rest!
4. Room-Darkening Shades
This is an absolute must! I didn't believe it at first. Around the 4th month when Henry would no longer nap anywhere or any time, I would put him down for a nap, and then he would wake up about 30–40 minutes later. It was frustrating.
Finally, I caved and got the room-darkening shades, and Henry slept—well, he slept like a baby. He would go for over 2 hours sometimes. Room-darkening shades also can cure early morning wakings when the sun is starting to peek through. Trust me when I say to make the room as dark as possible if you don't want your mood to be dark from fatigue.
5. A Shirt That Smells Like You
Mom's (or dad's) scent is the best scent. To baby, that is. One particular day when I was resting my hand on Henry's stomach and gently soothing him with a gentle shake (another strategy to get a baby to sleep), an idea came to me. We've had to do this for a few days now, and it was seeming to take longer for him to settle than we (and he) would have liked. So I whipped off my shirt and gave it to him. He stopped crying, cuddled up with the shirt, and fell asleep. From then on, I would have a shirt on hand when it was time to go to sleep.
A lovey can work well, too. Sleep with a little blanket for a few day to get your musk attached to it, and then introduce it to your baby. (As a side note, if you are worried about letting your little one sleep with anything, you can watch from your monitor until it's time to go to bed. Then, you can quietly remove it. That's what I would do until Henry got older. He was never disturbed.) Always remember: The nose knows!
I hope these tips help! Feel free to drop a comment or message me if you want to know more. It takes a village, and once you start sleeping, you can be an overall better person physically and emotionally. Happy sleeping!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.