Getting Your Baby To Sleep Through The Night
One thing I know I thought about a lot as I got closer and closer to becoming a first-time mom was, “But what about sleep? How am I going to get this baby to sleep?” After all, we hear so much about how you should “sleep all you can before the baby comes, because you won’t sleep after she’s here!” and other not-especially encouraging pieces of unsolicited advice.
And of course, there’s truth to it. (Well, not the sleeping as much as possible before the baby arrives, because A. that becomes much harder as your pregnancy progresses and B. there’s no such thing as storing up sleep.) But it is indeed true that newborns don’t sleep all that much at first, and eventually parents need to put thought against how to get their baby to fall asleep AND how to get their baby to sleep through the night.
As with so many things parenting and baby related, there are several schools of thought when it comes to getting a newborn to sleep. In my experience as a parent, it’s helpful to be aware of many options so then you have a toolkit of sorts to pull from. Try one approach for a while and if that doesn’t work, move on to something else (remembering that every baby is different, and so what worked for your best friend’s kiddo might fail miserably with yours).
Focusing on some general best practices for getting a baby to sleep is a helpful starting point, though. With that in mind, here are some tips on how to get your baby to fall asleep – working up to getting your baby to sleep through the night. (It WILL eventually happen. You’ve got this! And in the meantime, thank goodness for coffee.):
INITIATE A CALMING ROUTINE
Just like with adults, it’s easier to put a newborn to sleep when there’s an established and familiar bedtime routine. And, just like adults, it’s helpful for babies to have their environments adjusted to become quieter and calmer as bedtime approaches. About half an hour before you want your baby to fall asleep, get your baby changed and in some comfy pajamas (Zulily always has some adorable choices on that front!). Start dimming lights and minimizing noises to cue their bodies that it’s time to sleep. This brings down your baby’s cortisol levels, helping them to feel sleepy. Other routines you might find helpful introducing at bedtime to help get your baby ready to fall asleep include massage, swaddling, rocking, playing soft music or turning on a white noise machine, and singing.
DON’T ROCK YOUR BABY (ALL THE WAY) TO SLEEP
By putting your baby to bed before they’re fully asleep, you’re helping them learn how to soothe themselves, which is an important skill in getting your baby to sleep through the night. As adults, we wake many times throughout the night (often without remembering that we do) and soothe ourselves and go right back to sleep. As parents, we want to work to teach our kiddos that same skill so babies can fall asleep all on their own (both initially and throughout the night). Another tip on this front: Don’t rush to your baby’s crib at the first sound of a cry in the night. Give your baby time to self soothe and get themselves back to sleep. If your baby can develop this skill, before you know it they’ll be sleeping through the night!
PAY ATTENTION TO BABY’S FEEDING SCHEDULE
During the first few weeks of your baby’s life, it’s true that you won’t be getting much sleep at night. That’s because brand new babies have to eat every two hours or so. But after they’re about two months or three months old, babies should be able to sleep for much longer stretches. Try to start spacing out their feedings (you can distract them with a paci or a toy to help avoid snacking) so that at each feeding they eat well. If you notice nighttime feedings last longer than daytime ones, that’s a good indicator that they’re snacking more during the day (making it so that their bellies aren’t full enough to sleep through the night). It’s also recommended to avoid adding cereal or thickener to your baby’s bottle before getting your baby to fall asleep. The theory there is that it makes baby’s belly fuller, but it can also cause gas and increased restlessness – not what makes for a good night’s sleep.
DON’T SKIP NAPS
This was something I learned only recently, and I found it fascinating: A tired baby – one who’s missed a nap during the day – does NOT sleep better at night than a baby who’s napped on schedule throughout the day. Overly tired babies have higher stress hormones, making it harder for them to fall asleep and to sleep through the night, because their sleep won’t be as deep and restful.
GO WITH THE FLOW ON OFF NIGHTS
It can be so discouraging when your baby starts sleeping through the night for a few nights in a row…and then you run into a challenging night of much less sleep. Give yourself and your baby some grace in those situations, and remember that doesn’t mean you have a bad sleeper on your hands, but just means your baby is going through a rough patch and needs you a bit more. Keep your routine intact and, eventually (hopefully sooner than later!) you’ll be getting your baby to sleep like a pro again.
You’ve got this, Mama!!!