There is almost nothing more frustrating and disheartening than when a baby won’t go to sleep at night! It’s exhausting to not know how to get the sleep you need, whether you have a newborn, a 10 week old baby or a 10 month old. Read on for some serious tips on how to get a baby to sleep, tested on all 8 of my kids!
I’m pretty sure the person who coined the phrase “sleeps like a baby” never, in fact, had a baby. Every parent knows that these little cherubic stinkers are notorious for their naughty nocturnal habits. Have you ever blearily wondered why in the world your baby won’t go to sleep at night? I mean, I LOVE sleep…how come they can’t figure it out??
All the sleep tips and tricks out there could fill a book – in fact they have filled several. If you’ve just had your first child, or it’s been a while since you’ve had a child sleep through the night, I highly recommend “The No-Cry Sleep Solution” by Elizabeth Pantley. I bought it when the twins were 8 months old and still waking up at all hours and it saved my life. Or the twins’ lives. OK, probably all three of our lives. After reading it, the twins were sleeping through the night in a matter of weeks.
If, however, you think you’re a fairly proficient parent who simply needs a refresher course on getting a baby to rest soundly, then read on! I’ve compiled some of my favorite tried and tested tips for getting that sanity back.
A word of warning: it does take a bit of work to sleep train, and it’s important to realize that sometimes things get slightly worse before they get better. But a little inconvenience up front is a small price to pay for a full night’s sleep, I promise!!
1 – Babies need sleep! Lots and lots of it. Just remember: sleep begets sleep, which essentially means that babies who miss naps, don’t usually sleep well at night. Want a better night sleeper? Get them to sleep more during the day! By about 3 months old baby should be on a loose sort of schedule and should be taking 2 longs naps during the day (3 hours in the morning and 3 more in the afternoon, plus about 10-12 hours at night). Keep this schedule in mind: Sleep-eat-play, sleep-eat-play…
2 – Babies will stay asleep the way they fall asleep. That means, unless you want your baby to nap attached to your breast for 3 hours, don’t nurse them to sleep! The exception is newborns…they’ll pretty much sleep whenever, wherever. But you’ll want to teach your baby to put himself to sleep as soon as possible.
3 – Teach your baby to fall asleep on her own: You can do this by nursing, rocking or otherwise comforting your baby until she is ALMOST, but not quite, asleep. Then put her down and let her fall asleep on her own. If she fusses, pat, rub &/or sing to her so she knows she’s OK, but without picking her up. If she freaks out, go ahead and pick her and start this step over again.
For older babies who are in the habit of falling asleep in your arms, this might take a few rounds until they figure it out- but it WILL happen!
If you try this several times and she’s still not falling asleep, go ahead and put her to sleep the usual way (by nursing or whatever) and try again on the next nap. Overtired babies do not train well 🙂
4 – Crying excessively = not okay. Please do not listen to any person who tells you that your baby needs to scream it out for an hour (or more!). That’s not healthy for anyone. But a little crying will not harm your baby, I promise! (And by a “little”, I mean 5 minutes or less).
I have had 2 babies now who literally cannot fall asleep unless they cry for a minute or two. It drove me crazy until I realized that they just needed to have the last word and then they zonked. Marilyn is one of them and she fusses or cries for about 2 minutes before every nap, then she’s out like a light!
5 – Create a pre-sleep routine: change baby’s diaper, make sure he’s warm but not too hot and swaddle him in a muslin or light knit blanket. Pacifiers can help comfort a baby who’s used to sucking himself to sleep.
My favorite trick is this: nurse until baby’s almost asleep, slide him off the breast and immediately insert a pacifier (or baby’s thumb, if you prefer). I also have white noise machines in every child’s room. They are a lifesaver! Note: white noise machines should be used with caution and be sure to look into the correct volume levels if you’re going to use one.
Good luck to all you overtired, exhausted but good, good mamas out there! You are doing a great work!!