I’m guessing it’s probably one of the most Googled phrases out there- “how do I get my baby to sleep?”
You would think that they are born knowing how to sleep- wrong!!
All you parents out there know what I’m talking about. And all you soon to be parents- you *think* you’ll be able to survive those sleepless nights, but just you wait. Until they occur every night for weeks. And suddenly you’ll do ANYTHING for a full nights sleep.
Baby sleep is tough- lots of things interfere with it. When they are new, they wake up every 2-3 hours to eat, and often have night/day confusion. After you get that sorted out, something reflux/gas can interfere with sleep. Then comes teething, baby’s first sickness, the four month sleep regression, wonder weeks, growth spurts, learning new skills like crawling and walking- honestly, it’s amazing they sleep at all sometimes!!
There are many schools of thought on how to help your baby learn to sleep- and some people make their living teaching others how to get their baby to sleep. Unfortunately, I have not cracked the “how to get every baby to sleep” code, but I would like to share some tips and tricks that I think are useful for EVERY baby and parent (and this is going to be a 2 part adventure because I am wordy).
1. As soon as you can, establish a sleep routine- and make it brief. Don’t turn it into an hour long ordeal.
- Ours is: bottle, bath time, brush teeth, pj’s, short song and into the crib awake.
- It is 30min tops (10-15min is bath time) and it’s the same thing EVERY day. Sometimes I swear our house is like the movie Groundhog Day- even our animals follow a routine. But it works- and everyone knows what to expect!
2. Get rid of any sleep props as soon as you can and put baby down AWAKE!
- This is a sticky one, but it’s a big one, and something that REALLY helped us with night time wake ups.
- This means stop nursing to sleep, a bottle to sleep, a pacifier to sleep, rocking to sleep, etc.
- Don’t get me wrong- I am NOT saying don’t do these things at bed time (and by all means, do them when baby is new- anything to get them to sleep in the beginning). If they work to get baby relaxed- do it! Just don’t use them to put baby fully to sleep.
- What happens is, they become dependent on these items for sleep. Baby sleep is weird- they cycle in and out of a deep sleep every 30min. When they go into their lighter sleep cycle, they can wake up (adults do this too, but it’s on a longer time frame) and if things aren’t the same as when they fell asleep (crib instead of mom/dad’s arms, not nursing, no pacifier, etc) they wake up, and cry. And then you get the vicious cycle of mom/dad running in to replace the pacifier, or nurse, or rock until they fall asleep, etc. This causes them to become dependent on this sleep prop every time they wake up (which can become every 1-2hrs at an extreme).
- And sometimes, they just stop sleeping all together, because they are afraid of waking up to a different situation. Think about it- you would too! Say you fell asleep in your bed and woke up on your front porch. You would stop sleeping too, right??
- The longer you wait to start putting baby down awake, the harder it is to break their dependence on what helps them get to sleep- and the more they will cry about it when you try to break the habit. We started putting B down relaxed but wide awake around 5mo of age- and he definitely fussed about it in the beginning, but only for a few minutes.
3. Invest in a white noise machine.
- Turn it up as loud as it will go, even if it sounds completely bizarre to you.
- We have this one. It is very loud, has 6 different sounds (we use the white noise sound), takes batteries AND plugs in, is lightweight and portable. LOVE it.
- T and I actually sleep with a white noise machine too- I find I fall asleep faster and sleep better with one!
4. Swaddle- in the beginning (we swaddled until around 4.5 months old).
- Even if baby fights it, they will sleep better for it (B fought the swaddle every. single. day). The swaddle keeps those little arms (which have a mind of their own in the beginning!) from waking baby up
- We didn’t swaddle at first (blame it on sleep deprivation) but the first night we did? B slept 7 hours in a row! Amazing.
- We used these blankets first (along with the sleep sacks I made), and then when B got super strong, we used these sleep sacks.
- However, once baby can roll from back to front, stop swaddling!! OR, once baby is waking themselves up breaking out of the swaddle- cut it, cold turkey. I recommend going from a swaddle to a wearable blanket if you can, to keep baby warm.
- This could be considered a sleep prop- but it’s a necessary one at first. Get rid of it when it stops working, and get rid of it quickly. It may take a day or two to get back on track, but baby will adjust!
Stay tuned for part 2 next week!