We all know babies can be difficult to put to sleep. It’s one of those universal truths like the sun rising every morning. What if we told you that it doesn’t have to be that way after all. Even though most parents understand that there are some tricks to making the process easier, few believe that they have much of an influence over their baby’s sleeping habits.
We can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard young parents say things like ‘That’s just the way my baby is’ or ‘We tried everything but if he/she doesn’t want to sleep there’s nothing we can do about it.’ In this article, we’re going to give you a list of things to try out if you feel like your little one is stealing your nights away, and you’d like to know how to put a baby to sleep.
Understand Your Baby’s Sleep Needs
Now that we’ve got your attention and you’re all hyped-up to find out about the holy grail of putting your little guy or gal to sleep, we have to take a step back. You need to understand that this could be a long and arduous process and that there are no simple tricks and shortcuts that you can take unless you’re fortunate. What it all comes down to is understanding what your little one needs, and adapting accordingly.
Although we are going to share some ideas about how you might approach the situation, it will boil down to your perception of your baby’s unique sleep needs. Pay attention to the times of day they are most likely to fall asleep, and the activities preceding their drowsiness. This will allow you to plan ahead and make the most of the things that make your baby sleepy.
Safe Sleeping: Lower SIDS Risk
All young parents are familiar with the risk of SIDS, and it is often something that can lead to crippling anxiety and fear of leaving your baby alone in their crib. Before we talk about the practical tips about how to make a baby fall asleep fast, we’d like to address this problem and talk about ways you can do everything in your power to prevent it.
First of all, you should always place your baby on their back when you want them to sleep, whether it’s a daytime nap or at night. This is because the back sleep position is by far the safest one for babies until they reach the age of about twelve months. It is especially risky to switch your baby’s sleeping position once they’ve gotten used to sleeping on their back because putting them on their stomach for a nap could lead to suffocation.
Another thing to remember is always to use a flat and firm sleep surface. This means safety-approved crib mattresses covered with a fitted sheet. You should never use any soft items or other bedding in the baby’s sleep area. Never put your baby to sleep on a blanket, sheepskin, quilt, pillow, sofa, or couch. These are dangerous surfaces for babies to sleep on because there’s a severe risk of strangulation, entrapment, and suffocation associated with them, so remember to always use a mattress for kids. Also, try not to have your baby sleeping in their car seat, infant carrier, swing or stroller whenever you can avoid it.
Finally, if you’re still worried about leaving your baby alone for the night, put their crib in your room. Never share your bed with your infant, as that’s probably the worst thing you can do in terms of SIDS risk factors, but there’s no harm in having them sleep in the same room so you can keep a watchful eye on them.
4 Tips on How to Get Your Baby to Sleep
Now that we’ve dealt with the serious matter of SIDS risk, we’re finally going to talk about what you’re here for – tricks and tips on how to get a baby to sleep longer and fall asleep faster. If your baby wakes up crying during the night, reworking their sleep routine can solve your problem.
We mentioned in the first few paragraphs of this article how some parents think that their baby is ‘just a bad sleeper,’ but there’s no such thing. There are only bad sleep habits and routines, and we can reverse those with a little bit of effort. Put the following tips to use, and you’ll find yourself well-rested again in no time.
Timing is Key
Breastfeeding moms will find this first tip especially tricky, but getting the timing right in terms of when you put your baby to sleep can make a world of difference. The idea is to put your baby to bed when they are drowsy and just about to fall asleep, not when they are already asleep. This will make it easier for your baby’s developing brain to make the connection between being in bed and falling asleep.
Strengthening this connection is something experts recommend for adults as well, which is why you often see articles talking about not looking at screens while you’re in bed. That’s beside the point at the moment, since we’re talking about babies, but we thought it was worth mentioning.
Anyway, babies who drift off to sleep on their own while in bed are more likely to learn how to soothe themselves to sleep and self soothing techniques, not needing nearly as much help as other kids later on. Try to put your baby in her crib just before he or she nods off for the best results. Make sure to know how to get your baby to sleep in a crib.
Be Smart About How You Use Light
Newborns can’t really tell when it’s night or day, which is why they have this maddening sleep schedule where they sleep for a couple of hours at a time round the clock. However, once your baby is a few weeks old, you can use light strategically to teach them the difference between night and day and establish a healthier sleep routine.
Lights activate your baby. It’s like pressing ‘go’ on a battery-powered robot. If you need them to fall asleep, that’s the last thing you want. Thankfully, the flip side is correct as well, so darkness triggers your baby’s melatonin release, which makes them drowsy. If you can keep your little one’s nights dark and days bright, you’ll quickly teach them when it is time to go to bed.
Allow plenty of sunlight into the house during the day, or better yet, take your kid outside as much as possible. When it’s nap time during the day, feel free to put them to sleep in a well-lit area, so they can begin to connect the dots that daytime is not meant for sleeping. If they have a lot of trouble falling asleep in a well-lit room during the day, pulling down the shades is fine as well.
Come nighttime, dim the lights in your kid’s room, but also other places where they’re going to spend a lot of time before bed. Set the mood by lowering the lights as soon as the sun sets, or even earlier, if you want your baby to go to bet sooner. A night-light is perfectly fine, as long as it stays cool to the touch, and it has a dim glow.
If your little one wakes up during the night, don’t turn the lights on or take them to a well-lit room. Once they see the light, they will think it’s go-time, and you’ll have a lot of trouble putting them back to sleep.
Avoid Eye Contact
As odd as this one may sound, it stems from a sound scientific background. Babies are easy to stimulate – no surprise there, but what many parents don’t realize is that merely meeting their baby’s gaze can signal to the baby that it’s playtime and engage their attention.
Parents who make eye contact with their babies when trying to put them to sleep inadvertently snap their babies out of their drowsiness. Any interaction with you gives your baby the motivation to get up and go. This system has worked perfectly for ages, and it’s part of the reason kids learn and adapt so quickly, but it can be a problem when you’re trying to put your baby to bed.
Avoid being too interactive with your little one during the night, and keep the interactions as low-key as possible. Don’t sing their favorite song, give them tickles, or talk excitedly. But most importantly, keep your eyes away from theirs if you want them to fall asleep quickly.
Lower the Volume on your Baby Monitor
This may sound harsh, but if you get up and go to your baby for every squeak coming out over the baby monitor, all you’re doing is teaching her that you’ll be there the second she’s awake. Give your little one some time to settle back to sleep before rushing in there.
If it sounds like he won’t fall asleep any time soon, try to reach him before the crying escalates, though. Letting it turn into a full-blown howl will damage the chances of her going back to sleep because she’ll be too worked up.
Use a time when your baby is crying to calibrate the volume on the monitor, so you’re not woken up by her every gurgle and squeak.
How Much Sleep Your Baby Needs?
A lot. But you already knew that, didn’t you? You’re wondering about some exact numbers in terms of hours or minutes preferably. Deep down, you probably also know that the answer is not that simple and that we’re going to say that it depends on many factors. These factors are things like exposure to natural light, whether the child is breastfed and others, but the most important one is age. So, we’ve decided to divide the answer into two categories.
Healthy, full-term newborns up to three or four months old should spend most of the day sleeping. In terms of specific numbers, you’re looking at anywhere between 14 and 17 hours a day. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll be getting lots of rest because these hours will never be consecutive.
During the first few months, your baby will not be sleeping for more than two to four hours a pop, primarily because of feeding. You can expect two to three four-hour intervals at night (if you’re lucky), plus a few more naps throughout the day.
4 to 12 Months Old
These little guys and gals need a little less sleep than their younger selves, but the difference is not drastic. Your baby will still be sleeping between 12 and 15 hours each day, but this is a crucial period because this is when your little one will begin to establish their sleep pattern.
Also, they should hopefully begin sleeping for up to five hours at a time, which is what parents generously call ‘sleeping through the night.’
Should I put my baby through sleep training as soon as he/she is born?
Following the tips we lined out will help establish a healthy sleeping routine in your baby’s life, and you can start applying them in the first month of their life. However, your little one isn’t likely to be ready for any formal sleep training until he/she is at least four or five months old. This is when babies learn to sleep for more extended periods and become more receptive to adopting a sleep schedule.
Should I wake my child up for a diaper change?
Put a high-quality, nighttime diaper on your baby before they go to sleep, and you won’t need to wake them up to change it. If you change your little one’s diaper very often, you’ll teach them to wake up a lot and mess up their sleep schedule.
Each baby’s sleep needs are different. Some sleep in long stretches, while others prefer short bursts. Some start sleeping through the night quickly, while others take many months.
You should know that your baby will have their own pattern of sleeping and waking, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have any influence over their schedule. If you apply the tips we’ve lined out for you on how to sleep train a baby, you will soon be getting enough rest as well; all you need is patience and perseverance.
You also need to remember that, even though this period is difficult, it is not forever. You and your child will soon have a similar sleeping schedule, and until you do, feel free to use all these tricks to your advantage.
Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night – https://www.webmd.com/
Getting your baby to sleep – https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/
Infant sleep and its relation with cognition and growth: a narrative review – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/