When you have a newborn, getting your baby to sleep can seem like an impossible task. Not only are they constantly waking up at odd hours of the night, but it seems like they’re doing so on purpose just to drive you nuts! There’s nothing worse than trying to get work done when you know that your baby’s going to wake up in two hours and then cry until he gets fed. Thankfully, there are many strategies you can use to make sure that your baby sleeps more comfortably at night, so that everyone gets some rest during the day.
Create your own sleep ritual
Think of your sleep ritual as a routine that prepares you and your baby for bedtime. It might be something as simple as reading him or her a story and singing a lullaby, or taking a relaxing bath together. To create an effective sleep ritual, put some effort into planning it out ahead of time so that it’s comforting and consistent every night.
White noise soothes babies
White noise is a simple, safe, and effective way to help your baby sleep. You can buy white noise CDs and download apps that play these soothing sounds, or you can try using a fan in your child’s room or letting them fall asleep in a car (on an overnight trip) with their window cracked open. White noise reduces sleep interruptions caused by outside noises and improves your child’s chance of falling into deep sleep.
Let baby cry it out
When your baby cries at night, waiting it out is often best. Experts agree that letting babies cry can help them learn to soothe themselves and get more rest during their naps and overnight sleep. If they just won’t stop crying, it might be because they’re in pain or distress—in which case, you need to check in with your pediatrician before you do anything else.
Use baby sign language
Although some people argue that using baby sign language won’t do anything, parents who use sign language with their child will tell you that it makes a huge difference. When babies learn how to communicate their needs early on, they’re less likely to be irritable and fussy later on because they understand what they need and can be communicated with. Plus, signing is actually proven by science to accelerate your baby’s brain development!
Change their routine
Babies can learn and memorize patterns. As infants, they learn quickly that crying usually means mom or dad will comfort them with a bottle or diaper change. This can lead to an endless cycle of nighttime wakings because your baby expects you’ll feed him every time he cries. If possible, try to break the pattern by not responding when your baby wakes up in between sleep cycles—even if he cries at first. Most babies will fall back asleep on their own after a few minutes.
Don’t overfeed baby
If you overfeed your baby during mealtimes, he may fill up quickly and fight sleep longer because he doesn’t have time to digest his food. It’s a good idea to give your baby more than an hour of access to breast milk or formula during each feeding so that he has plenty of time for digestion.
Keep things quiet at night
Babies are used to hearing a lot of noise when they’re in utero. But when you bring them home, things are different—they sleep in a quiet environment and aren’t used to it. Noise can disrupt your baby’s sleep, as well as yours, so turn off TVs and radios before bedtime. If you need white noise (like a fan or an air purifier), use it sparingly and at low volume—and make sure that it runs all night long.
Give your baby a better bedtime routine
Research shows that babies tend to sleep better when they have a consistent bedtime routine, so if your baby has a hard time falling asleep, start with creating a soothing nighttime ritual. Try singing lullabies, playing soft music or reading stories—whatever feels right for you and your little one.
Watch your feeding schedule carefully
Babies have a very delicate internal clock, and missing a feeding can throw off their body’s routine. You’ll want to pay close attention to how often your baby is eating—especially during early infancy—so you don’t miss feedings and confuse your baby’s internal clock. A tired baby will have trouble getting into his or her deep sleep phase, which means late-night feedings may be necessary.
You can’t always make them happy, but you can calm them down.
When it comes time for your baby to sleep, you’re going to need a game plan. If they’re upset, there are some tried-and-true ways of calming them down that you can implement right away. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends giving babies a pacifier or something else they can suck on; laying them down in their crib while they’re drowsy but awake; and rocking or walking with them until they fall asleep.