How to get a baby to sleep through the night

Babies & Breastfeeding, Motherhood, Parenting

I hope all my American friends had a fabulous Thanksgiving with lots of family time and pie and whatever else makes you happy!  Now on to some serious business here…

how to sleep

I’m pretty sure the person who coined the phrase “sleeps like a baby” never, in fact, had a baby.  These little cherubic stinkers are notorious for their naughty nocturnal habits.  


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!!

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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 🙂

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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! I have this model and it has lasted years and years.

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A tip for colicky little ones:  Newborns often have lots of tummy troubles and fussy periods.  If your baby is cranky, even after all his basic needs are met, try one of these proven tricks!

*Lay baby belly down across your arm (with baby’s face by your elbow); rock or bounce baby until she calms.  This a great one-handed carry to use if you’re busy doing something else!

*Try cuddling baby with skin on skin contact (take off your and your baby’s shirts and cuddle her against your chest) or lay a bit of soft minky or satin fabric near her face. (I spared you a photo of this one.  Ha!)

*If you find yourself without a pacifier, give baby your upside down pinkie (with your fingernail towards baby’s tongue) to suck on; it calms most newborns in minutes!

 *Swaddle baby and lay him face up across your palms, with your hands out in front of your body and lift your arms up and down repeatedly (bonus: great bicep workout!).  This was the ONLY way we could pacify sweet baby Liam, way back in 2005, when he was trying to kill us with his colic.

*Wear baby in a carrier.  I love wraps (like the Moby or Solly) or a ring sling for newborns and the Ergo for babies older than 5 or 6 months.

Check out the following pictures for other great holds and carries for cranky babies.  Every baby has a sweet spot, you just have to find it!

(p.s. you might have noticed that this is not my baby; this is my neighbor’s sweet baby Owen.  Marilyn is way too ginormous for these holds now.  Waaaa!)

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Good luck to all you overtired, exhausted but good, good mamas out there!  You are doing a great work!!



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  • Reply
    December 10, 2015 at 12:27 am

    I’ve never had a child, of any age, nap for 3 hours. Not ever. I hate you. But not really, but I’d like to. I hate thinking that my four kids are the only ones in the world that don’t nap for more than 90 minutes ever. Sam’s napping sweet spot is one hour. From newborn til 20 months, he never varied, one hour naps. I don’t know why my kids don’t love sleep like their mama does!!

  • Reply
    January 2, 2016 at 6:36 am

    Thanks for the refresher! I am at the nursing-baby-to-sleep phase but she’s only 5 days old! Jotted down to remember to let her fall asleep solo… I love that tip! Thanks Bon! 😘

    • Reply
      January 6, 2016 at 12:57 am

      Oh, LOVE that stage! Enjoy it Kris!

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