How to Get Your Baby to Sleep
It’s 2AM and you’ve got a fussy, wide-awake baby in your arms. You’re exhausted, sleep-deprived, and wondering if you’ll ever get a full night’s sleep again – help! If you’re a new parent, this scenario probably feels all too familiar. But don’t stress just yet because in this blog, we’re going to explore some tried-and-true strategies for helping your baby get to sleep. No magic wands or fairy dust here, just practical advice from one tired parent to another (been there, done that… I’m still waiting for the t-shirt!)
Understanding Baby Sleep Patterns
Before we dive into the how-to’s, let’s briefly touch on the basics of baby sleep. Babies don’t sleep like adults for those first 4-months. Instead, they cycle through sleep stages, including light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep, in roughly 45-minute intervals. This means they wake up more frequently during the night, their sleep is lighter and more easily disrupted in the newborn days. So while everything we discuss below can be used from the beginning, it’s really important to understand that a newborn is incapable of self-settling – please be realistic with what you want to achieve, expect to see things settling into place at around 4-6 months.
Now, let’s get down to business.
Create a Sleep-Inducing Environment
Darkness: Some babies are more sensitive to light than others, so we recommend making sure their sleep environment is as dark as possible. Invest in blackout curtains to keep the room dim during naps and nighttime sleep – at least we can rule out light as a reason for wakefulness!
White Noise: White noise machines are a game-changer. They mimic the comforting sounds of the womb and help drown out any sudden noises that might wake your baby. Use this safely by placing it across the room, downloading a dB reader app and placing it in the sleep space, adjust the volume so it’s sitting between 50dB – 60dB, no louder!
Comfortable Temperature: Ensure the room is at a comfortable temperature, typically between 18-22°C, however, this is not always achievable so the answer is all in your baby’s layers! Prevent over-cooling and over-heating (like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube if we’re honest!)
Routine is seriously your best friend when it comes to baby sleep. A consistent bedtime routine can signal to your little one that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep – you probably have your own wind-down routine that helps you right?! Here’s a sample routine to consider:
Bath Time: A warm bath can be relaxing for both you and your baby. Use it as a soothing start to the bedtime routine, add those epsom salts. Magnesium absorbed through the skin can help relax muscles.
Dim the Lights: Lower the lights in the room to mimic the transition from day to night, stick to red/warm coloured night lights to ensure we don’t encourage further wakefulness.
Gentle Massage: A gentle massage with baby-safe lotion can be a relaxing part of the routine, this one is super under-rated so get researching.
Storytime: Even if your baby can’t understand the story yet, reading a short book in a calming voice can become a comforting ritual.
Feeding: If your baby is still on night feeds, offer a feeding as part of the routine – there’s absolutely nothing wrong with feeding baby to sleep at this time of the day! So keep going if this is working for you!
Cuddles: Spend some quiet time cuddling with your baby before putting them down, singing some songs or rhymes. These becomes sleepy cues your babe recognises.
Remember, the key here is consistency. Eventually, your baby will associate these activities with sleep and start to wind down as you go through the routine.
Sleep Training Methods
Sleep training is a hot topic among parents, don’t we know it! However, we reaaaaally want to preface that the use of any strategy is actually the LAST piece of your sleep puzzle. You have to know your child and know that every other piece of your sleep puzzle is in the right place before even attempting to sleep train – without this, you will likely experience a very unhappy baby and zero progress. If you’ve tried something for a few nights and had no luck, then please please stop and reach out to us for support! Sleep training should be a very short-term intervention with the LEAST amount of crying possible.
Now, in this blog we are only going to talk about a strategy called Habit Stacking. This may work for you and your baby or it may not, but this is one of our favourite ways to create positive change very gradually. You can use this at any age.
Habit stacking involves introducing new sleep associations gradually, with the ultimate goal of reducing reliance on feeding or rocking your baby to sleep. Here’s how it works: As you feed your baby to sleep, you can start incorporating patting and shushing into their bedtime routine. While you’re feeding them, gently pat their back and make soothing shushing sounds to help them ease into sleep. Over time, your baby will begin to link these new sleep cues with bedtime, making it easier to phase out feeding to sleep.
When you’re ready you may shift the feed to an earlier point in the bedtime routine or another environment, like the lounge (although, keep it quiet and dimly lit!) You might feed your baby until they’re calm and then gently rock them to sleep, all while maintaining the same patting and shushing you’ve been using while feeding to sleep. From here, you gradually reduce the rocking motion (but keep the patting and shushing going) until you find yourself simply cuddling your baby to sleep.
Once your baby is comfortable with the new sleep associations and being cuddled to sleep, the next step is getting them accustomed to settling in their cot. Begin by cuddling your baby until they’re calm but still awake. Then, gently place them in their cot while continuing to pat and shush. If your little one becomes upset, you can pick them up for another cuddle session until they’re calm, then attempt the cot transition once more. Over time, your baby will learn to settle down in the cot without the need for constant cuddling or feeding. Another hot tip is to do some quiet play in the cot during the day, building positive association with their sleep space is super important!
Now, here’s the part where patience and discipline come into play. Habit stacking isn’t a quick fix; it’s a gradual process that might take up to six weeks or longer before you start seeing consistent results. You’ll need to stay committed to moving forward and avoid reverting to old habits.
If you’ve got a determined little bundle of joy who doesn’t shy away from making their nighttime preferences known, habit stacking can bring about remarkable results without all the sleep-training fuss. It’s can be a win-win for both you and your baby!
Getting your baby to sleep is undoubtedly one of the most challenging aspects of parenthood. But with a consistent routine, a sleep environment that’s on point, a healthy dose of humour and realistic expectations, you can help your little one develop healthy sleep habits.
Remember, every parent has been there and lived to tell the tale!
Our expertly designed, easy-to-read Sleep Guides give you the tools and knowledge you need to help nail healthy sleep so everyone is getting the rest they need (you’re getting everythingggg I WISH I’d known sooner…)
Grab a Sleep Guide now and figure out your first steps today… while you’re rocking your babe to sleep for the fifty billionth time or stuck in your toddlers bedroom waiting to ninja your way out.