So your baby isn’t sleeping well and you’re looking for some sleep tips to get them sleeping through the night. First of all, one thing I want to get out of the way…every baby is different. I don’t care that your Aunt Linda, neighbor down the street or friend in a Mommy and Me class all say they had great sleepers. I’m sure they’ll all tell you something different, and hey, by all means feel free to try their tips and see if they work for you. But absolutely don’t feel guilty if you try those things and your baby still isn’t a great sleeper. All children are different. They grow differently, have different personalities, and hit milestones at different times.
I absolutely don’t condone shaming a mom into feeling guilty because her child isn’t sleeping through the night. It doesn’t make you a bad mom, it just means your child isn’t at that point yet. There definitely are moms out there who like to hold the fact that their kids slept through the night over your head as if they did it all right, and you’re doing it all wrong. In all likelihood, they got lucky. Sure there are definitely things you can do to promote good sleep habits (hence this post), but it isn’t a badge of honor you get to lord over others. So now that I have that rant out of the way…if you are having trouble with getting baby to sleep well, here are some great baby sleep tips to try out.
Baby Sleep Tips to get Baby to sleep through the night
Have the Right Expectations for Baby Sleep
Before sharing all a slew of baby sleep tips to help baby sleep longer, I think it’s important to have the right expectations from the start. You may think your baby isn’t sleeping well, but then you come to find out that they are in a normal sleep pattern for their age.
Newborns need a lot of sleep. They will average a total of 16 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period with 8-9 of those hours during the night and ~8 hours during the daytime. During the newborn phase they may not be sleeping at any time for more than 1-2 hours. By month 1 the daytime sleep usually decreases overall by about an hour. By Month 3 their nighttime sleep increase to about 9 to 10 hours, and daytime sleep decreases to 4-5 hours. This is the age at which babies may start sleeping through the night (meaning a 6-8 hour stretch).
Most babies under 6 months of age will need to feed to fall asleep or be soothed / rocked to sleep. As babies get older they will typically start to sleep for longer periods, reduce daytime sleep, and wake less at night. I know you are eager for that to start happening right this very moment, but just know that it is normal for young babies to sleep for only short periods.
Reference: Stanford’s Children Health Sleep
Understand your Baby’s Sleep Needs
Babies need sleep to grow and develop properly. During sleep key activity happens in the brain that sets the stage for how baby learns, grows, and develops. Proper sleep has been tied to immune benefits, cognitive performance and developing proper social/emotional skills. Typically you can use baby’s mood and general well-being as a gauge of whether they are getting enough sleep, as just like adults some babies will need slightly more or less sleep.
If your baby is exceptionally fussy and doesn’t sleep well, then you should definitely speak with your Pediatrician. They could have an underlying medical issue disrupting their sleep. A common culprit is reflux, but many conditions can affect sleep. If you have any concerns around how your baby is sleeping (or not), it’s best to discuss with a medical health professional.
Now that we’ve covered what is typical and set expectations, let’s get into some tips to help promote health sleep skills for your baby.
Tip #1: Put baby to bed drowsy, but not asleep
Learning to fall asleep on their own is a skill that baby has to learn just like anything else. Try to put baby down to sleep when they are beginning to be tired but are not completely asleep. This will allow baby to practice the critical skill of falling asleep on their own. This will give a good foundation so that when baby wakes in the middle of the night, they will begin to be able to fall back asleep on their own. If baby only falls asleep in your own, then that is what they will want to do any time they wake up.
Also, on the opposite end of the spectrum, don’t let baby get extremely overtired. This can make a baby so irritable they will actually have difficulty falling asleep, and will definitely want the comfort of mom or dad while doing so. You’re aiming for the sweet spot in the middle!
Tip #2: Establish a Sleep Routine
Routine, routine, routine. I find that with everything to do with babies (and let’s be honest, this is true for toddlers / bigger kids too) routine is absolutely critical and can make a huge difference. Make sure you establish a nice calming routine before naptime and especially before bedtime. This helps baby know what to expect and will help to get baby sleepy. For baby bedtime, a warm bath, followed by reading a book, offering a bottle or feeding baby and then singing a song before laying them down can be a great routine. Choose whatever works best for you, but you are aiming for something low-energy and soothing that will help put baby to sleep.
Tip #3: Delay morning naps
If your baby is waking up at 4 or 5am only to take a nap at 7am, their circadian rhythm may be off. Try slowly shifting back their nap schedule by 10-15 minutes each day until their first nap is a bit later in the day. This can help reset their internal clock so that they will naturally wake up a bit later in the morning. Once you get baby’s morning naptime to an ideal time, be sure to give it at least 2 weeks to establish the routine and gauge success.
Tip #4: Don’t Overdue the Daytime Sleep
Babies do need a lot of sleep, in fact too little sleep can make it harder to fall asleep. However, you make sure they aren’t overdoing it during the day. Too much sleep during the day can absolutely cause middle of the night wakings. If you find baby is sleeping for more during the day or for longer bouts during the day than at night, this is a good signal that they may be overdoing it on daytime sleep. Try keeping them awake for a bit longer or even seeing if you can stir them a bit earlier from their nap.
Tip #5: Differentiate Day from Night
To help establish a good circadian rhythm (i.e. a natural sleep/wake cycle), it’s also a good idea to make sure babies have some daytime activities to help them differentiate day from night. Keep baby in light during the day and keep them in dim light in the late evenings and the dark at night. It’s also a great idea to get outside during the day to get some of that natural light exposure and for baby to expend some energy taking everything in during the daytime.
Tip #6: Watch Length of Late Afternoon Naps
Many babies who sleep too late in the day can have trouble falling and staying asleep at night. If you find this to be the case, you may need to shift that last nap earlier (again try shifting by 10-15 minute increments). Alternatively, you could also try waking baby by a certain time to ensure that last nap doesn’t run too long.
Tip #7: Create an Ideal Environment for Sleep
Set your baby up for success and create an environment that is ideal for sleep. Some things to consider trying out are playing white noise or sleep sounds, installing blackout curtains to keep the room dark and setting the thermostat for a nice cool room temperature between 68° and 72°F. Of course, you’ll want to keep any other noises as quiet as possible. Probably not the best time for vacuuming or playing loud music. I know some parents who even have gone as far as disconnecting their doorbell to prevent someone from waking their baby. Of course you could just try putting out a sign that baby is sleeping and politely folks to not ring the doorbell.
Tip #8: Swaddling
Don’t give up on swaddling too soon! Babies are born with a startle reflex that stays until somewhere between 3-6 months. This startle reflex, more formally known as the Moro reflex causes baby to reflexively throw their arms and legs out wide when startled. Often this is in reaction to a noise or movement (such as trying to lay baby down) and can cause them to wake up if they were tired or sleepy. Swaddling gives a feeling of comfort and security and keeps those arm up close to their body. This can help baby feel safe and prevent that startle reflex from waking them up (and hence keep baby sleeping for longer).
Tip #9: Make sure baby is awake before rushing in
Just like you probably wake up and roll over to fall right back asleep in the middle of the night, your baby will naturally awaken and move at night. Be sure you aren’t rushing in at the smallest noise. You may actually be keeping baby awake in that case. Give your baby a moment to see if they are truly awake or not before rushing in. This is one thing I really appreciate about video baby monitors these days! You can take a quick peek and listen to see if baby is simply falling back to sleep or if they need you.
Tip #10: Soften the Door Click
Every new parent knows about the dreaded door click…you’ve gotten baby back down to sleep and creep softly to the door. Only to have baby wake up as soon as you close it (no matter how softly). It’s so frustrating! Soften the door click sound by crossing rubber bands over the latch to keep it from extending. Or you can even buy these cushy closer door cushions that cover the door latch for a silent close.
Tip #11: Prepare for Nighttime Feeds and Quick Diaper Changes
When baby does wake up at night, you want to ensure that the process getting them back to sleep is as seamless, quick, and low light possible. It should be all business and no play to keep baby in that sleepy state. Some items I recommend to help enable a speedy change are a night light and zip-up sleepers (absolutely not those sleepers with a million buttons). These baby nightgowns work well too. If you are breastfeeding make sure you have any pillows, blankets or other items you need. If you are bottle feeding, make sure you have clean (and ideally prepped bottles) ready to go. You might even consider keeping a bottle warmer in baby’s room to make things even easier for yourself.
Tip #12: Aim for a Full Tummy
Be aware that getting enough nutrition and staying full are key components to sleeping well. Breastmilk is naturally metabolized faster than formula, so many breastfed babies wake more frequently at night to feed. This is natural and normal, and nothing to be alarmed about. Make sure baby is getting enough milk during the day and at their Nighttime feed to give you the best chances for success.
I hope these tips help both you and your baby get some much-needed sleep. If you enjoyed this post on Baby Sleep Tips, you may also want to check out What We’re loving; my Favorite Baby Items 0-3 Months.
Everyone should have kids. They are the greatest joy in the world. But they are also terrorists. You’ll realize this as soon as they are born and they start using sleep deprivation to break you.Ray Romano
Do you have any great baby sleep tips that I didn’t cover in this post? If so, I’d love to hear your tip in a comment down below. I’m always expanding and updating my content to make them as valuable as possible.