There is nothing more elusive than baby sleep. New parents everywhere seem to be in a perpetual haze. Not only that but whether or not your baby sleeps through the night seems to be the new parent litmus test. When it comes to baby sleep, I’ve been through my fair share. Here are research-based, parent-tested tips to gently get your baby to sleep and stay asleep.
When it comes to baby sleep habits and sleep training, I’ve been through my fair share.
Anticipating the birth of my first child, I read books, got prepared, and promised to do things the ‘right’ way. By about nine-months-old, my daughter went to sleep on her own, in her crib and slept through the night.
Then came my son.
I was already crazy tired by the time he was born. My daughter wasn’t even fifteen-months-old. I mean I had just survived the sleeplessness that comes with having a baby only to be an uncomfortable pregnant momma a few months later. Seriously, it was as if I needed to wake to pee or roll over every other hour.
Shortly after my son was born, we found out he had reflux. For him, this meant that despite medication, he threw up so much of what he had nursed. However, nursing at night stayed down.
So I was up feeding him pretty much every hour on the hour.
I was so tired that I broke every single baby sleep rule.
I co-slept merely out of convenience (I understand and commend anyone that does so out of choice). He nursed to sleep for naps. Really, I just wanted him to sleep as fast as possible so I could nap too. And of course, he nursed all throughout the night. He equated sleep with nursing and nursing with sleep. So much so that he ‘day weaned’ from nursing around the age of two, but still nursed at night for months longer.
He was nearly three before I was able to break this habit. Looking back now, I don’t remember a lot from his infanthood because I was so inconceivably tired.
Meanwhile, I had a daughter who slept perfectly. When it came to baby sleep, I existed on two totally opposite ends of the spectrum.
Two months ago, my husband and I welcomed our second son into the world. Having learnt from both his big brother and big sister, I’m determined to set him and myself up for sleep success. Because I know this is an area that so many new parents struggle with, I wanted to share the best baby sleep advice I have.
The One Tip That Will Make Baby Sleep Better
The most crucial factor in my success with my daughter and my struggles with my son came down to putting Baby down to sleep when he or she is drowsy but not fast asleep.
For different babies, this will look different. In the case of my daughter, this meant around two-months-old, when she started to doze off on either my husband or me, I would take her, singing a bedtime lullaby and lay her down in her bassinet. Within minutes, she would fall asleep. With my youngest son, it hasn’t been quite as easy. When he gets drowsy, I sing a lullaby, put him in his bassinet. Every so often he gets fussy and I have to pick him up, calm him down, wait until he is drowsy again, and place him back in his bed. Usually, for him, it’s only a few times before he does, in fact, fall asleep.
Related reading: Why Sleep Training May Not Work and What to do Instead
Why is teaching them to fall asleep on their own so important?
The reason this is so helpful is this. A baby who learns to fall asleep on her own at bedtime will learn how to fall back asleep throughout the night.
Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Cetaphil Baby and YummyMummy.ca. It contains affiliate links. All opinions expressed are my own.[bctt tweet=”Find out the one tip that will help your baby sleep better. @Cetaphil_ca #CetaphilBaby #ad” username=”parentfromheart”]
So how do you set yourself up for success?
Here are some sleep strategies that worked really well with our daughter, ultimately our first born son, and that we are trying with our two-month-old.
Avoid a ‘sleep – feed’ association.
What I’ve found works really well is ‘feed – activity – sleep.’ This means that if your baby falls asleep while feeding, you need to slightly rouse them, breaking the association between feeding and sleeping. Changing the baby’s diaper or moving them from where they were nursing can help. In the day, it also helps to feed your baby as soon as he or she wakes. Then have play time, then cue sleep by calming the baby down before bringing him or her to bed.
Have a predictable bedtime routine.
For young babies, I like the routine of bath, massage, dress them, sing a song, and it’s into bed. Bathtime is so great because it stimulates my son just enough that he leaves the bath exhausted. In his bath, I use Cetaphil BabyShampoo & Body Wash with organic calendula. We love it because the calendula has a calming effect. The wash is hypoallergenic, paraben free, and incredibly gentle on his skin. During the day, have a shortened version of this same routine to cue naptime.
Massage your baby to relax him or her.
For parents who don’t want to bathe their babies every night, a simple massage can be just as relaxing as a bath. Or a massage can be a nice way to relax a baby before his or her nap. Find great tips on baby massage here. We love Cetaphil Baby Moisturizing Oil for because of its calming effect. Also, it’s paediatrician-recommended. It smells so much nicer than conventional baby oil and isn’t greasy.
Always soothe your baby when he or she is upset.
One of the reasons parents steer clear of any sleep tips is they fear the source will recommend cry it out. Always console your baby and then try to set your baby down to fall asleep again. For great resources on baby sleep, I highly recommend The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Infants, The Baby Whisperer and Susan Urban’s Hold with Love technique featured in her book, How to Teach a Baby to Fall Asleep Alone.
Above all, forgive yourself and listen to your gut.
No two babies are alike so no blanket sleep strategy is the cure-all. Moreover, babies are only little for such a small period of time, if rocking, bouncing, and nursing to sleep make you and Baby happy, do it.
I hope you get as much from these sleep tips as we did!
Related reading for new moms
Baby Must-Haves On A BudgetMay 20, 2014
3 SIMPLE Ways to Foster Language Development in InfantsMarch 13, 2016
Baby Sleep: The number one tip you need to knowApril 26, 2017
Best Baby Bottles: A guide for the nervous mamaMay 17, 2017
Baby Sleep: Why sleep training might not work & what to do insteadJune 27, 2017
First of all I really like this blog 🙂
About sleeping- my daughter was a bad sleeper since day one. When she was born I thought that gentle rocking her to sleep is not a big deal. But day by day she wanted us to rock her longer and longer! Her naps were too short and she was constantly exhausted. When she turned 6 months I decided to do something about it. I saw people talking good things here on Parenting From The Heart Blog and generaly in the internet about Susan Urban and her “How to teach a baby to fall asleep alone” guide ( http://www.parental-love.com ). I decided to try it and I am so happy I did it. After 3 or 4 days of the HWL method described in this guide my daughter was able to fall asleep alone in her crib without rocking!!!! We made her sleep longer than 15 mins during the day and the method also helped us get rid of night feedings! I love this guide, the author says exactly what to do and how to do it – first when your baby is 0-3 and and from 3 months onwards. It also has step-by-step swaddle instructions. Now I regret I didn’t know about it earlier before my daughter was born.
I think everybody with a baby should read the guide to stop beeing so crazy exhausted.
We got this guide and we love it! firts of all it is an e-book so it s very easy to read it anywhere! the guide is also very short so we didn’t waste our time like before when we read all these thick books about babies! And finally what is the most important for us – it has worked and it has worked fast! Our son started to fall asleep on his own in 3 days after 8 months of rocking him to sleep – we think that is awesome! the method is pretty gentle so it wasn’t so hard like we thought it would be! So to sum up – finally something really helpful and worth to recommend! Thank you Alice for sharing!
I know this post is from last year but my son is 8 months and I am trying this method out. The ionly problem is when I soothe him and put him back in his crib, he just rolls over and stands up again, trying to get out. He will do this for hours and then it’s all of a sudden time to eat again.. any advice?
Alana Pace says
I’m not a sleep expert so certainly take my advice with a grain of salt. In the book, The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems: Sleeping, Feeding, and Behavior–Beyond the Basics from Infancy Through Toddlerhood, the author recommends picking up your baby until he stops crying and then putting him back down as many times as it takes. Or, simply placing him back down and rubbing his back. You’re not letting him cry it out even if he is crying because you’re there with him and you’re responding to his cries. I hope this helps.
The guide is great! Thanks
I used all of the instructions from this ebook and I have an sleeping angel now. Swaddle worked great for us. I am very glad that I got it from my sister while pregnant and we avoided all sleeping problems. Although I believe it can work if you start using it much later.
This guide is amazing! Can you believe it’s the 3rd one I used and the first that actually helped? Finally!
Susan is the best.