7 Tricks to Get Baby to Sleep Through the Night
Get Baby to Sleep!
Over 90 percent of parents want to change something about their child’s sleep routine, according to research by Jodi A. Mindell, Ph.D., a Parents advisor and chair of the Pediatric Sleep Council, a group of leading experts from around the world. March 1 is Baby Sleep Day, the perfect time to focus on your family’s bedtime routine. Consider these helpful fixes on how you can help your little one get to bed, stay asleep, and wake up when you want.
Sleep Train Smoothly
No tears here! Melissa Moore, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in the sleep center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, shares how to set up a no-fuss bedtime routine for your baby.
Believe in the power of a bedtime routine.
Studies show that the more nights during the week your baby follows one, the better she’ll sleep. Try an evening bath to mark the end of the day; even if you skip the soap, the warm water can induce drowsiness.
RELATED: How to Wean Your Baby Off a Pacifier
Offer one last feeding.
Before you or your partner goes to sleep, gently wake your infant to nurse or bottle-feed. (This will help him wake less often in the coming hours.) Then put him back down while he’s still awake but drowsy.
Make it fun.
It’s normal for a toddler to resist bedtime; kids this age want to practice their newfound independence (plus, they have major FOMO). Give her choices: Would she like to stomp up the stairs like an elephant to get to her room or tiptoe like a mouse? You can also create a chart together that shows every step of her bedtime routine, including how many books you read. This way, you choose when your toddler goes to sleep, but she gets to pick the details.
Build a Better Bedtime Routine
You can create a consistent sleep schedule with this advice from Jodi A. Mindell, Ph.D., a Parents advisor and chair of the Pediatric Sleep Council.
Head to bed sooner.
You might think this will lead to an earlier morning, but both babies and toddlers wake up less often and get more total sleep when they hit the sack earlier. Shoot for a bedtime of 7:30 or 8 p.m. for your toddler and expect him to sleep for about ten hours.
Delay an early riser.
While you can’t change a newborn’s wake-up time (he’ll cry when he’s hungry), you can adjust a toddler’s. Try it by using a wake-up light. You can schedule it to glow at a certain hour so he’ll know exactly when it’s okay to call you or burst through your door.
It’s normal for toddlers to be afraid of the dark. Graham J. Reid, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and associate professor in the departments of psychology and family medicine at Western University, in London, Ontario, gives tips on how to calm your child’s worries.
Don't rely on soothing methods.
"If you put your baby in her crib when she's already asleep and she wakes up in the night, which all humans do, she won't recognize her surroundings and will need your help getting back to sleep," notes Deborah Givan, M.D., director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Riley Hospital for Children, in Indianapolis. "Try to put your baby down drowsy but awake." This will help her learn to self-soothe and fall asleep—and, more importantly, back to sleep—on her own, which is the main goal of parenting.
Adrienne Porzio of Centerport, New York, can attest to this. She began driving her newborn around at night to get her to fall asleep—and she was still relying on that crutch when her daughter was 5 months old. "The issue we get the most calls about is parents automatically repeating soothing habits to the point that the baby is hooked," says Los Angeles sleep consultant Heather Turgeon, coauthor of The Happy Sleeper. Newborns benefit from rocking, bouncing, and soothing to sleep, but babies develop quickly and don't need those things forever.
This one can be hard to avoid—if something works, why would you stop? But we've got to give babies the chance to learn this stuff themselves. "By about 5 months, most babies have the capability to fall asleep on their own, and if we're still doing it for them, we're getting in their way," says Turgeon. "Start practicing in the early months to put Baby down awake, at least once a day—usually the first nap is the most successful." Keep your cuddle time, but gradually stop the patting and shushing and rocking to sleep.
Set napping guidelines
As tempting as it is to let your sweetie snooze in her car seat while you're on the go, or lie on your chest while you catch up on Netflix shows, you should try early on for at least one nap a day in her crib, so she gets the quality rest she needs. "The first nap is mentally restorative for an infant and will dictate how the entire day goes, so ideally you want her to have that one in her crib at home," notes Prueher. "The second is physically restorative, so once your baby's old enough to be moving around a lot, she really needs that one to be quality too."
By 3 to 4 months of age, your little one will have longer awake periods, and you can work toward a nap schedule: one in the morning, one in the early afternoon, and a short late-afternoon nap if needed. Naps are a great time for you to practice putting Baby down drowsy, adds Prueher. It's not the middle of the night, so you can think more clearly, pick up on cues, and follow through.