Sleeping seems to be one of the most difficult and elusive parts of baby-ness. I can’t tell you how many times I wondered how to get my baby to sleep more in the first few months of his life. Looking back, he was doing exactly what babies do, but I had this idea that he needed to be doing something more or different. Then, once I relaxed and decided to go with HIS flow, things sort of started falling into place.
Okay, I’ll admit it, we have a great sleeper on our hands. Sammy is almost a year old and has been sleeping through the night since he was 4 months. Naps have been spotty, but still really good considering all of the torture and mayhem we’ve heard while out on the front lines of the baby wrangling. While you might be saying that we’re lucky, we have also done some specific things that we believe have helped our little family get consistent sleep.
So, in an effort to maintain some level of your sanity, I hope any or all of these help!
How to Get Baby to Sleep
1. From day 1, keep night time dark and quiet and day time light with ‘normal’ levels of noise. This helps their little brains develop a rhythm that allows them to distinguish day sleep from night sleep. While very new babies don’t seem to care if it’s day or night, trust me, this will come in handy in the long run! I would stay as quiet and calm as I could while doing a night time diaper change and bottle, and during the day always had music on or people around chatting while he napped.
2. Establish a routine. As soon as you can, implement a night time routine and a nap time routine. For very young babies this may seem like a waste of your time, but it really establishes a solid foundation for the baby as to what they can expect. When Sammy was about 6-7 weeks old, we picked a reasonable evening time and started doing a bath then bottle at roughly the same time every night. We still follow that same routine, and that kid KNOWS the deal…he starts to fuss at 6:30-7 every evening and is ready for that bath come 7:30!
3. Decide what is best for your family as far as schedule, routine, etc. There is no right or wrong! If you spend much time at all researching pretty much ANYthing about babies and sleep, you’ll get anything from: cry it out/never let them cry, co-sleep/sleep in their crib, no bedtime bottle/absolute bedtime forex system bottle. Don’t listen to ‘them’. Listen to YOU! You know what you and your family feel comfortable with and what works for you…go with that and build your sleep habits around what’s best for you. But do agree on something and stick with it.
4. Decide where you stand with crying. It’s inevitable…babies cry! And they seem to do a lot of crying around sleeping, or the lack thereof. Being able to self-sooth and put oneself to sleep is a learned behavior and takes some training (for both baby and parents). If you know your baby is tired and you put him down for a nap after reading a book and some gentle soothing, he’s likely not going to just drift off into dreamy bliss with no struggle. He will cry. There’s a lot of information and even more opinion out there about how to handle this…so figure out what you’re comfortable with and go from there. The main key…BE CONSISTENT!!!! And be patient, sooner or later, they’ll fall into a routine and it just gets easier.
5. Learn to tell when your baby is tired. It’s not always as easy as it sounds…and ‘they’ like to say that there’s some magical tiredness zone that’s tired, but not too tired where you’re supposed to be able to put them down and get wonderful sleep behavior. Bullshit. They’ll show you when they’re tired, you’ll learn to recognize it, and there you go. Sometimes they sleep great and sometimes they don’t. You know your baby and your baby will learn what to expect from your consistent behavior in response to their cues. Our guy will stop playing, rub his eyes and start to get whiney…this is the start of it, then not long after that, the wheels completely fall off and he’s done. There ya go…naptime!
My biggest message with this to parents struggling with sleep behavior is to go easy on yourself. Sleep is a huge part of your baby’s world right now, whether he knows that or not. It’s important to take it seriously, but don’t kill yourself over it. We used to think we needed to be on a strict nap schedule with Sammy, until we realized that it wasn’t working for any of us. Maybe he was tired earlier than the 9:30 nap, or not tired enough yet so either way, we were all struggling. We now put him down when he’s tired! Sometimes he takes really long naps and sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes he takes 3 naps a day and sometimes 2. We work with it…and that works for us!
Now get out there and get some sleep! You, and your baby deserve it!