Having a new baby is really exciting and also really terrifying! The baby does not come with an instruction manual and different books suggest different things so how are you to know what is right? Well, a couple months in you will start to get to know your baby better and will be able to decide what your baby needs. So, this is for the new parents out there, who are wondering how do you put a baby to sleep?
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All babies need is to eat, sleep, pee, poop, learn, grow, and be loved. Once you have handled the feeding and the diaper is clean you’ll need to know how to get that baby to sleep. The easy part is the first weeks when your baby will sleep on her/his own most of the time. Don’t get me wrong your baby will also wake up, eat, pee, and poop a lot too. So you will be tired from getting used to all the waking up and getting back to sleep.
When your baby will start needing your help to get to sleep…
After the first 6-8 weeks or so your baby will start to be more awake and alert. Which is really fun because they are much more interactive! This is also when your baby starts needing your help to get back to sleep. Everyone is going to be a critic in this department. So let me tell you the best advice I have ever gotten about parenting. You are your baby’s parent so you are the one who gets to decide what is right for your baby. What works for one baby may not work for your baby. Babies do not come one size fits all.
Decide what your sleep goals are…
Every parent will have different sleep goals in mind. The main point is that we all want our baby to get to sleep and do it in a safe way. That being said some parents will choose co-sleeping other will choose to cuddle their baby to sleep, others will choose to get a baby sleeping through the night as quickly as possible. This may take you some time to figure out what is right for your family and that is okay. For the sake of routine, you will want to get it figured out relatively quickly. Choose what is right for your family and your baby. It does not need to be what your mom tells you, what your mother-in-law insists is right, what your sister or best friend did with their baby. It just has to be what feels right for your family and your baby.
My choice was that I knew my babies would only be little for a short time and that I wanted to soak up those snuggles as much as humanly possible! I really enjoyed the special time we spent at night together(well at least until they got so heavy and cranky that it was time to teach self-soothing). Now, don’t get me wrong you may just want your baby to go sleep quickly so you can have a moment to yourself or get some sleep too! I have had plenty of those days as well.
Whichever method your choose just keep in mind that most babies need some assistance in getting to sleep until about 9 months of age. Be sure to choose a method you can live with for about 9-12 months. At that point, you can teach your baby to fall asleep and get back to sleep on their own.
Safe sleep is a must…
I am very passionate about safe sleep. Many parents are not aware of the many dangers of putting your baby to sleep the wrong way. SIDS(sudden infant death syndrome) is a very scary and very real thing and it is so important to reduce your baby’s chance of it a much as possible. The AAP advises parents to room share for the first year of your baby’s life(one short year out of your whole life to keep your baby alive and healthy is well worth it). Your baby’s breathing patterns actually sync up with yours and the reduced results of SIDS simply from room sharing are so huge that you can’t ignore them.
Other things you should know for safe sleep are…
- Place your baby on its back to sleep every night and nap(once baby can roll it is okay if they change positions on their own throughout the night but start on the back every time). If you swaddle and your baby has started rolling from back to front then it is time to wean from the swaddle right away to keep your baby safe.
- No loose blankets or stuffed animals until age 1. Seriously NONE! The suffocation hazard is too high. Even if baby cuddles up to close and breathes in too much of the air he/she is breathing out it could be devastating. You can use safe sleep blankets to keep your baby warm at night. Try this one to keep hands and arms warm too. Also, make sure sheets are tightly fitted and not loose or baggy.
- Firm mattress/No crib bumpers. Your baby needs a nice firm mattress for safe sleep. Baby will be plenty comfortable and you can choose a nice flannel or soft tightly fitted sheet if you want to make the crib more cozy in a safe way. Bumpers pose the same risk as the blankets and stuffed animals. If you want a safe option to keep those little arms and legs from getting stuck in between the slates, try the breathable mesh liner bumpers.
- Room sharing. This means sharing the same room for sleep as your baby. It does not mean co-sleeping(sleeping in the same bed). Your baby can sleep in a pack n play in your room.
- Breastfeeding/Pacifiers. The benefits of breastfeeding are amazing for mom and baby. Check out why you should breastfeed here and 8 ways to make breastfeeding easier. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS dramatically as well. Pacifiers are also a great option. If you don’t want to use a pacifier that is totally fine. Keep in mind that babies who do use a pacifier in the night are at less risk for SIDS because the sucking motion is said to keep them out of the deep sleep that can cause SIDS in infants.
- Appropriate temperature. Keep the room where your baby will sleep at 68-72 degrees. On the hot summer days use the AC or dress your baby in only a diaper and use a fan to help keep baby cool. On the cold days dress in layers and use a fleece sleep blanket or turn the heater to the appropriate setting.
Please always keep in mind that these things are so important for your baby. It may be tempting to get your baby to sleep the easiest way but the safest way is the best choice you can make. It is only for a short year of life and then baby can sleep with the cute little blankie and a teddy bear all he/she wants.
9 Ways To Get Your Baby To Sleep
1.Lay baby down drowsy – This is the best place to start when getting a baby to sleep. Teaching your baby to soothe her/himself to sleep is the key to getting your baby to sleep through the night. Lay your baby down while he/she is drowsy and ready for sleep. Watch for sleep cues such as yawning, eye rubbing, ear pulling, turning away. Then put baby to bed right away. Some babies are awesome sleepers and will just fall right asleep. Newborns can often get to sleep anywhere, anytime for the first 6- 8 weeks.
2. Swaddle your baby – Swaddling is an ancient practice used to help make babies feel secure like they were in the womb. Why should you swaddle? Very simple, babies are born with a set of natural reflexes and one of those reflexes is called the Moro reflex. The reflex makes your baby feel like he/she is falling and arms go flailing or it can be triggered by a loud noise. What ends up happening is that your put your sweet little baby down to sleep and a minute after you do the reflex kicks in and your baby is startled awake and crying for you to come help. Read this post on the best 5 swaddle blankets that actually last through the night. This blanket is my favorite for new parents because it works well and is user-friendly! If you have a baby who works out of the swaddle it does not mean they don’t like it. Sometimes you just need a better blanket. This blanket is great for baby Houdini’s that get out of every swaddle. Keep in mind you can still use the swaddle and tip number one together! The swaddle may just be a great tool to help your baby stay asleep when that reflex kicks in.
3. Nurse/Bottle feed to sleep – A full tummy of nice warm milk can be very soothing and help your baby to sleep a longer stretch. Feed your baby(who can already be swaddled) and lay her/him down to sleep. Keep in mind that those tiny tummies fill and empty very fast so you don’t want your baby to go any longer than 2-3 for breastfed babies and 3-4 for formula fed babies. Yes, that means your wake them to eat. Why on earth would you wake a sleeping baby? The rate of growth body and brain is so fast that your baby needs those calories to keep up. When can you go longer in between feedings? Well, that depends on your baby(and you if you are breastfeeding). At your baby’s well check ups with the doctor discuss it with your pediatrician. If your baby is gaining weight well is and is generally healthy then it can be as soon as a few weeks. If your baby is a slow gainer or you have a low milk supply then it might be a while. A healthy baby is more important than losing a bit of sleep, so stick with it and consult your pediatrician for specifics with your baby.
4. Rocking to sleep – Babies get used to the rocking motion inside mom when she walks around all day. It soothes the baby to sleep. So it is comforting outside of the womb as well. Swaddle your baby if you choose or get your baby into their sleep blanket and rock in a glider or rocking chair until your little one is fast asleep. Then put baby in the crib. You can also rock baby in your arms in a back and forth or side to side motion just as easily. We also loved to use a rock n play to rock our little ones to sleep. Another little tip is to lay baby in a pack n play and rock the pack n play back and forth gently until baby falls asleep. That way baby won’t wake when you lay her/him down.
5. Bounce baby to sleep – The same as with the rocking motion babies are used to the bouncing of mom moving around. Make sure you support baby’s head and neck and gently bounce baby in your arms. My little ones loved a combination of bouncing and rocking to get to sleep. Another choice, if you want to sit, is to grab a big exercise ball and bounce your baby to sleep while you sit on it. Once baby is fast asleep then lay her/him down in the crib. Another tip is to gently bounce baby’s crib mattress until he/she falls asleep that way you baby won’t wake when you lay her/him down.
6. Baby carrier – Sometimes your arms get tired from all that rocking and bouncing and sometimes you just need to be able to use your arms. Enter the amazing creations called baby carriers! This has always been the easiest way to get my little ones to sleep. They offer the motion of me moving around, the sound of my constant heartbeat and the warmth and comfort of mommy. Perfect combo for easy sleep. Baby carriers are great for sleep on the go too. I love to use them for events, parties, vacation(especially traveling), grocery shopping, and even just around the house to get some chores done. If your baby gets distracted while in the front pack try tying a lightweight loose swaddle blanket around your neck as a cover(make sure baby can breathe and isn’t getting too hot).
7. Swing/Bouncer Seat – If your baby needs the motion to get to sleep you can try a swing, bouncer seat or vibrating seat for naps. My daughter liked the swing when she got a little older(this is how her grandparents got her to sleep) and my son never cared for it. I have seen other babies love to take a nap in a swing though. This fancy bouncer seat stimulate more how mom or dad would bounce baby. Some babies love the slight vibration that some pack n plays or swings offer too and it lulls them right to sleep. Always be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety guidelines and know that most of these options are intended for naps and not a long nighttime stretch of sleep.
8.Stroller ride – If your baby likes the car seat(most strollers are not safe for baby without the infant bucket car seat attached until 6 months of age because her/his little neck and head are not stable enough. Read your manufacturer’s directions before you take a stroll) then taking a nice stroll to get your baby to sleep can be a great naptime option. I really enjoyed being able to take my son through the mall for a nap while my daughter and I could get some bonding time at the play place, shopping and out to lunch! It was also a really great option to get a workout in while my baby slept or just enjoy a nice walk around the neighborhood. Car seats are not intended for nighttime sleep either and can cause developmental delays and tummy troubles if used for sleep all the time. So enjoy them for nap time and use them when your little one is sick but not for nighttime sleep.
9. Driving – In today’s busy world we all have somewhere to be. Use the motion of the car to help lull your baby to sleep when you are out and about. Time a nap for a longer drive to commute, visit family and friends, get errands done. Some babies will transfer from the car to the stroller with a click connect system just fine. Or even from the car to into the house to finish the nap in the car seat. You will get good at knowing what works for your baby and maybe it means bringing a book or a car charger for your phone so you can work, read or keep yourself busy while baby finishes a nap in the car if transferring wake her/him up. I do not ever recommend getting in the car just to put your baby to sleep. The rate of car accidents is far too high. Even if you are a good driver it does not mean everyone around you is too. Think of the commercials on TV about taking baby for a drive in the night to get to sleep. A tired parent driving a fragile tiny human around with other tired or under the influence people on the road is not ever a good option!
Additional tips for getting your baby to sleep…
Here are some other things to keep in mind when you are getting your baby to sleep.
- Have a routine in place – Babies thrive on routines(here is a newborn routine and here is a 3-6-month-old routine). It helps them to know what to expect next and helps to comfort them in knowing that they will be fed, changed, loved and be able to get some sleep too. Sleep routines don’t have to be complicated they just need to be repetitive so that your baby will know that you expect her/him to sleep after the routine. Try starting with a quiet sleep environment, putting a sleep blanket/swaddle on, lullaby, nursing/bottle and then your sleep method. You can change it to include whatever you want that is quiet and calming to prepare baby for sleep. Just be consistent so your baby can learn to know what comes next. It helps them to know what to expect next and helps to comfort them in knowing that they will be fed, changed, loved and be able to get some sleep too. Sleep routines don’t have to be complicated they just need to be repetitive so that your baby will know that you expect her/him to sleep after the routine. Try starting with a quiet sleep environment, putting a sleep blanket/swaddle on, lullaby, nursing/bottle and then your sleep method. You can change it to include whatever you want that is quiet and calming to prepare baby for sleep. Just be consistent so your baby can learn to know what comes next.
- Make sure baby’s needs are met – Make sure that your baby is fed, changed, burped and not too hot or cold. Keep in mind to skip night changes unless it is poop or if you have a baby with really rashy sensitive skin. If you do a night change do it as quietly and quickly in dim light as you can. Try not to talk or play with your baby at night so that they understand that nighttime is for sleeping. Do talk and play lots during the day though so that your baby can learn and grow!
- Read this post about why your newborn baby keeps waking up and how to get baby to sleep longer.
- Don’t offer rice cereal in a bottle – It won’t make your baby sleep longer and can get in the way of digestion and proper growth and weight. Really I know people say that it got their baby to sleep better but seriously ask your pediatrician and they will tell you it is actually worse for your baby.
- Choose a method you can live with – However you choose to get your baby to sleep make sure it is something you can live with for the first 9-12 months or until your baby is ready to learn self-soothing. A 12-month-old weighs A LOT more than a newborn! So if you choose bouncing and rocking like me then be ready to build some super awesome biceps! Eventually, you will have to change your method to teach your baby to sleep without your help, so keep that in mind too. Here is how to wean/transition from the swaddle( a must once your baby can roll from back to tummy) and here is how to get your baby to sleep without rocking/bouncing/nursing/holding.
Hopefully one of these methods will help you get your baby to sleep peacefully! Who knew baby sleep could be so complicated? Just keep in mind that every baby and family is different and while safe sleep is right for everyone, the method you choose for your baby just has to be the right one for your baby and your family.
I always like to re-share the best parenting advice I have ever heard it is pretty simple but a good reminder for all parents. You are the parent and you know what is best for your baby, not anybody else(including your mom, sister, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, aunt, grandma). So do what YOU think is right for YOUR baby and if others give you a hard time just ignore them or give them a gentle reminder that YOU are YOUR baby’s mommy and YOU know what’s right for YOUR baby(even if you are still learning, don’t worry you’ll get the hang out it!).
If you have any questions or comments please leave them below! Even if you don’t usually leave a comment I would LOVE if you left on here! I want this to be a place where moms and women can connect and share. It takes a village to raise a baby and I definitely need more people in my village and I would love to be a part of your village too! Other mom’s out there please share your ways to get baby to sleep too!