Sleep promotes your baby’s growth and development and has an overall positive impact on their health and well-being. However, most parents spend countless hours figuring out how to put their baby to sleep. The lack of sleep can negatively impact the baby’s physical and mental development and may even lead to sleep deprivation for the baby and parents.
Fortunately, there are time-tested and proven techniques to help your baby sleep through the night, thus keeping him or her healthy and happy.
Look no further than this article to know everything about baby sleep, which includes the reasons why infants wake up at night, as well as essential tips on how to put them to bed.
Common Factors Waking Babies at Night
1. Sleep Cycle
It's perfectly normal for babies to wake 4 to 5 times in the middle of the night because of their short sleep cycle.
Similar to adults, a baby’s sleep cycle is divided into an active sleep cycle (rapid eye movement sleep or REM) and a passive sleep cycle (non-rapid eye movement sleep or non-REM). During the night, your baby naturally moves from one stage of sleep to another and in this transition, they have a tendency to wake up.
However, unlike most adults who can fall back to sleep after waking up, most babies don't know how to settle back to rest by themselves. It’s also important to know that they don’t start sleeping through the night until they are at least 3 months of age.
2. Growth and Development
As babies grow older, they start to develop their gross and fine motor skills. They want to practice these newly-discovered skills and might become fussy if they cannot successfully carry out the task.
These physical milestones can excite infants, which makes it harder for you to settle them down at night.
3. Behavioural Changes
All babies, especially those around 6 or 9 months of age, experience natural behavioural changes. They start to become aware of their surroundings which makes them more likely to be active at night. They also develop separation anxiety during this time, so you can expect clingy behaviour when they realise you’re not at their side. All of these factors ultimately affect their sleep patterns.
Most parents think that a baby who is overtired can sleep better. However, the opposite is true.
When your baby is overtired, he or she is already past the period of sleep-readiness. During this time, your baby has difficulty calming down due to an activated stress response system. This allows the flow of stress hormones inside the baby’s body, which triggers overactivity.
Babies aged under 6 months may wake once or twice during the night when they experience hunger, this makes them uncomfortable. However, since babies’ small stomachs are designed for frequent feedings, it’s only natural for them to wake every three hours or so. Note that once they turn 6 months old, they don’t nutritionally require a night feed which means they can sleep through the night.
Medical conditions, such as acid reflux and teething, can also disrupt the sleep of your baby as they cause pain. Furthermore, cold weather can also have a bad effect on your baby’s sleep, as he or she still doesn’t know how to regulate their body temperature, which is crucial for a good night’s rest.
Overall, both simple (such as being cold) and complex (teething) discomforts can make it harder for your baby to fall asleep.
44 Essential Tips on How to Put a Baby to Sleep
Fortunately, there are time-tested and proven techniques to help both mums and dads put their babies to sleep that can last through the night. To learn more about them, you can consult this extensive list which contains 50 ways you can get your baby to sleep.
#1. Set a Routine for the Day
Consistency is key in putting your baby to sleep. Develop and follow a schedule to help your baby understand that it’s time to rest. This will help your baby learn what to expect next and feel secure.
Ideally, the routine starts after waking up. You need to feed your baby as soon as he or she wakes up then give them enough playtime to enjoy their surroundings. After a whole day of activities, your baby would be tired and ready to go back to sleep at around the same time each day.
By following a regular schedule, you can ultimately help your baby settle into a healthy sleep pattern that they can easily follow.
#2. Stick to an Early Bedtime
Know that timing is just as important as a routine. If you put your baby to bed late at night, you can increase the chance of overstimulation, which makes it harder for the baby to fall asleep. This can lead to sleep deprivation, which can negatively impact babies’ health.
To avoid this, it’s a must to stick to an early bedtime. Start slowly by putting your baby to bed 15 minutes earlier each night and examine if their sleeping habits improved.
#3. Avoid Eye Contact at Bedtime
You should avoid making prolonged eye contact with your baby at bedtime, as babies generally find this gesture to be too stimulating and exciting. When you’re putting your baby to sleep, avert your eyes as much as possible to minimise your newborn’s possible interest.
#4. Let Your Baby Burp
It’s important to know that some babies can sleep without having the need to burp. However, you still need to burp your baby while he or she is asleep to release air that can make them spit up and cranky. This can eventually wake the baby at night in pain due to trapped gas.
By burping your baby, you can be ensured that they will have a comfortable rest through the night.
#5. Stretch Out Feeding Time
A baby’s digestive system is fit for small and frequent feedings, and this is why you need to feed your newborn every three hours or so.
However, when babies turn 3 months old, you can start stretching out your baby’s feeding time, especially during the night. Try adding a half-hour in between feedings to help the baby have longer stretches of sleep during the night. This will eventually turn into a healthy habit and help the baby become less dependent on you to fall asleep.
#6. Limit Caffeine When Breastfeeding
You should cut your coffee consumption if you're breastfeeding, as caffeine can be passed to your baby through breast milk. This can wake them up and even make them fussy. However, the results are not instantaneous, as it may take a few days to a week after you eliminate the caffeine from your breast milk.
Tip: Limit your daily caffeine intake to less than 300 milligrams, as excessive amounts can stimulate the baby.
#7. Avoid Rushing to Feed
Most newborns find it difficult to sleep through the night because their bodies need food to aid in their growth and development. You can feed your baby to calm them down. However, you should avoid rushing to this method at night, especially if your baby only emits a small sound. Give him or her enough space and time to doze off on their own, as babies are often capable of self-soothing actions.
The sooner you teach your baby that waking up at night won’t result in instant feedings, the more likely he or she be able to sleep through the night.
#8. Co-Sleep with Your Baby
Numerous experts stated that co-sleeping can help your child develop positive qualities. This includes comfort with physical affection and confidence in one’s own sexual gender identity. Furthermore, it also develops an optimistic perspective on life.
However, co-sleeping doesn’t necessarily mean you have to share the bed with your newborn. In fact, bed-sharing is dangerous as you can roll over onto the baby or even suffocate your baby with the bedding. Instead, try placing your hand on your baby while he or she is in a bassinet. This method is far more effective and safer to help your newborn fall asleep. Don’t forget, co-sleeping is sharing the room with your baby and not sharing the bed.
#9. Try Warming up the Sheets
Placing the baby on cold sheets, especially in the wintertime, is not going to help your little one drift off to sleep faster. To help your newborn feel more relaxed and fall asleep, you can warm up their sheets using the dryer or a hot water bottle, creating a warm and cozy environment to help him or her feel sleepy. However, it is important to check that the sheets are at a safe, warm temperature for your baby and not too hot, before placing your baby on them.
#10. Give a Warm Bath
Give your baby a warm bath before putting them to sleep. You may even find it surprising that your newborn loves the sensation of warm water against their skin, as it can remind him or her of being inside a womb. With this, you can also raise your baby’s body temperature, which helps them to relax and eventually fall asleep.
Tip: Do not incorporate toys in the bath and keep the activity low to avoid overstimulating your baby.
#11. Offer a Massage
After giving your baby a warm bath, you can follow it up with a good massage. It can soothe your baby and relax his tense muscles, promoting tiredness and sleepiness.
Just make sure to keep it gentle with rhythmic strokes and use oils and moisturizers as necessary to help your hands glide smoothly over your baby’s skin. You can also hum softly while massaging to make it even more reassuring for the baby.
Did You Know? The best time to give your baby a massage is between feeding times as they are awake but already settled in and ready for sleep.
#12. Try Yoga
For many babies, sleep can come naturally. However, factors such as home environment and sunlight exposure can make it harder to get your newborn into a sleeping routine. Fortunately, yoga can help your baby sleep at regular intervals. It also develops the baby’s gross and fine motor skills. Furthermore, it can effectively prevent constipation, promote better digestion, and alleviate typical baby crankiness. This ultimately leads to a good night’s rest.
#13. Drive Around
You can carry and put your baby in the car seat and drive around the neighbourhood until he or she falls asleep. The motion and sound of the car remind your baby of the tranquillity inside the womb.
Once your newborn has his fists unclenched and facial muscles relaxed to indicate that he or she is in a deep slumber, you can now carefully carry your baby back to their own bed.
#14. Set the Right Bedroom Temperature
It’s important to set keep your home and the baby’s room at a suitable temperature for an infant, as they do not have enough body fat to insulate themselves during the winter months. Keep your baby’s room temperature between 16-20°C to make him or her comfortable, which will promote better sleep.
#15. Give Your Baby a Cosy Blanket
During their early months, most newborns find it difficult to adjust to their new environment and stay warm to get proper rest.
To aid your baby get good sleep, you should try different ways of swaddling them. Keep the little one secure and warm by wrapping a cosy blanket around him or her. However, you should also be aware that not every infant is fond of swaddling. For instance, older babies like to sleep with loose coverings, as it allows them to move with more freedom.
Tip: Adjust the amount of layering you use according to the sleep habits of your baby and the temperature in their room.
#16. Let Your Baby Sleep on Their Back
Avoid putting your baby to sleep on his or her side, as the infant can accidentally roll over on their tummy. With this position, the baby is more likely to feel hot and breathe in exhaled air, which can eventually wake them up at night.
Let your baby sleep on their back instead for a night of healthy and longer sleep. Back-sleeping is also a proven way to lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.
Did You Know? Stomach sleeping increases the risk of SIDS by 1.7% to 12.9%.
#17. Warm the Bed
Make sure to place your baby in a warm bed, as they can’t regulate their own body temperature as effectively as adults during the cold weather. Try using flannel sheets to protect your baby from the cold. You can also place a hot towel on the bed to warm the sheets, but make sure to remove it before you place the baby in the crib.
#18. Avoid Irritating Sleepwear
You should avoid sleepwear made with synthetic materials, as this can irritate your baby and hinder sleep. Be especially wary of polyester pyjamas because this material can cause allergies and rashes for your baby. Instead, switch to cotton sleepwear to eliminate the risk of discomfort.
#19. Consider Fragrances
Some toddlers can be lulled to sleep with refreshing scents, such as lavender and chamomile. These oils provide essential benefits that can help relax and relieve anxiety in infants.
Tip: Avoid using fragrances around babies less than 12 months old, as their noses and skin are more sensitive to chemicals.
#20. Stay Quiet
Most babies can block out disturbing noises while they are asleep. However, you should still avoid making sudden noises, as these can easily startle and wake your baby up. Make it a point to put your phone in silent mode and turn off other noisy electronic devices before getting your infant to sleep.
#21. Speak in Soft Tones
If you need to wake your baby for their regular night-time feeds, you should do it in the softest way. Speak in calm, soothing tones to help baby stay at a drowsy state. Your voice is a powerful stimulus for your baby, and comforts them since it lets them know they are safe, eventually helping them drift to sleep peacefully.
#22. Play White Noise
Since white noise is similar to the sounds of their mum’s womb, most babies find it calming and relaxing.
Try playing repetitive sounds, such as a fan turning, water pouring, and clock ticking, to help your baby fall asleep. You can even record the loud sounds of a running vacuum cleaner or a spinning washing machine to comfort your baby and help him or her fall sleep.
Tip: Keep white noise levels between 50-65dB to ensure your baby gets a good night’s rest.
#23. Sing Lullabies
Music is an excellent way to lull your infant to sleep. It helps regulate emotions and stimulate positive reactions. In fact, a study has shown that singing can calm babies more effectively compared to talking. It can relieve your baby’s stress levels, helping him or her to fall asleep easily.
Furthermore, the use of lullabies releases a hormone called oxytocin which helps you create a stronger bond with your child. It also establishes a routine for your newborn that fosters familiarity in sleeping methods.
#24. Turn Off the Lights
According to an article published by the Physiological Reports, children’s eyes let in more light compared to adults. As a result, this makes it more difficult for them to fall asleep with a light source on.
To avoid this, keep your baby’s room dark and block out all possible light to help them get a good night’s rest. By doing this, you can ultimately teach your baby the difference between day and night. So, make sure to turn the lights off during his night time sleep and keep things bright during daytime naps. This can help him establish a good sleep routine.
Tip: Avoid putting a television in your baby’s room as exposure to blue light which has a bad effect on sleep.
#25. Limit Light Sources
When you need to feed your baby in the middle of the night, you should avoid turning all the lights, since this can be disruptive of the baby’s sleep. Instead, keep light sources minimal to avoid overstimulation.
#26. Relieve Pain from Teething
Teething can start as early as at three months and continue until your toddler turns two. This can cause discomfort and pain, which ultimately result in sleeping problems.
You should look out for obvious teething indicators, such as drool on the bedsheets, swollen and tender gums, and even fever. You can try adding cold pressure to distract your baby from the sensation of pain. If he or she desperately needs relief from immense pain, you can give your baby appropriate doses of painkillers, such as acetaminophen.
Tip: Get a doctor’s permission first before administering analgesics, as some drugs can irritate your baby’s stomach.
#27. Check Your Baby’s Nose
Keep your baby’s nasal passages clear to ensure normal, unobstructed breathing at night to keep the little one asleep. Make sure to remove items that can cause allergies, such as feather pillow, fuzzy blankets, and stuffed toys from the baby’s crib to avoid congested breathing passages.
If your infant is prone to allergies, you can invest in a HEPA-type air filter. Such filters not only remove airborne irritants, but it also provide “white noise” (the natural hum of the air filter) that can help your baby sleep.
#28. Change Soiled Nappies
You can simply leave wet diapers alone at night, especially if it doesn’t bother your baby and he or she is able to sleep through the night.
However, it’s a must to change soiled nappies as soon as possible because poop irritates your baby’s skin and can even cause rashes and bladder infections.
After changing the soiled diaper, it’s your goal to put your baby back to sleep so you should avert your eyes away from him or her to avoid possible overstimulation. You should also get in and out of his room as quickly as possible.
Tip: Use a barrier ointment that contains petroleum jelly or zinc oxide to protect your baby’s bottom and minimise irritation.
#29. Hold Your Baby’s Hand
The simple act of holding your baby’s hand lets them know that you’re there which makes your little one more likely to doze off to sleep. It also keeps your baby’s body temperature warm and helps regulate their breathing and heart rates. Furthermore, this intimacy and closeness reduces crankiness and crying, which leads to a peaceful rest at night.
#30. Give Your Baby Hugs and Kisses
Making your baby feel loved and cherished helps them feel calm and comfortable. Snuggle with your newborn before bedtime and shower them with little kisses to make them feel safe and secure in your arms. This loving act ultimately allows your baby to sleep longer and deeper.
#31. Give Your Baby a Pacifier
Sucking on a pacifier has a soothing and calming effect to help your baby sleep easily. It can be used at both naptime and bedtime and can even help your little one settle back to sleep. It’s also safe when left out in your baby’s mouth. Just make sure it’s soft enough to prevent pain if he or she rolls onto it.
#32. Read a Book
Although your newborn is too young to understand what you’re saying, reading should be all about the bonding formed between you and your baby.
Cap off the long day by reading a bedtime story for your infant. You should use a soothing voice to relax and persuade him or her to sleep. Make sure to do this every day to give your baby a sense of familiarity in the routine, which provides certain expectations regarding the ideal time for bed.
#33. Have Someone to Put Baby to Bed
For most babies, their mum’s mere presence is enough to stimulate and excite them, preventing them from falling asleep. If this continues to be a persistent problem, try having someone else put your baby to bed. Sometimes, dads can be the perfect solution to babies’ daily night-time waking.
#34. Know the Right Time to Move Your Baby
It’s perfectly normal to have your baby inside your room to immediately attend to their needs during the night without having to walk down the hallway. However, you should know the right time when to transition your baby from their bassinet to crib.
Ideally, you can move him to a crib at around 3 months, as he or she will eventually be too big for their bassinet. With this, you can give your baby enough freedom to move around and ultimately provide a good night’s rest.
#35. Avoid Clutter in the Room
The presence of mess in a baby’s room can disorient him and makes it harder for your baby to fall asleep. Prevent this from happening by getting rid of all the clutter found in the room. You should also remove unnecessary bedding in the crib, as it increases the chances of choking and suffocation.
#36. Give Your Baby Enough Naps
Most parents think that when they let their babies skip naps, they increase the chances of the baby sleeping longer at night. However, the opposite is true.
When your baby skips naps, their stress hormones increase, leading to overtiredness. You should give your baby the proper amount of naps he or she requires for mental and physical growth. Furthermore, by letting your baby nap, you have enough time to do other things, such as taking a shower and checking emails.
#37. Play During the Day
Playtime is an important part of childhood development. It allows children to use their creativity and imagination. It also contributes to their social, cognitive, physical, and emotional well-being. Furthermore, it provides a good bonding experience for both parent and child.
It’s important to know that the schedule of your baby’s playtime can affect his or her sleep. Therefore, you should make sure to play with your baby during the day to help lengthen his awake time. This will ultimately help him sleep longer periods during the night.
Tip: Avoid playtime during the night as this can stimulate your baby. Instead, focus on settling your baby straight back to sleep after feeding him at night.
#38. Let Your Partner Comfort the Baby
Give your baby time with your partner to let them nurture a loving relationship with your infant as well.
You may even find it helpful to have your partner participate during night-time waking periods to comfort the baby without having to resort to feeding. By doing this, you are letting your infant know that nursing isn’t available all the time, thus preventing bad habits to form.
#39. Put Your Baby to Bed When Fully Awake
Most parenting blogs and community advise parents to put their babies to bed when they are drowsy. However, doing so as this causes sleep associations which ultimately prevents babies from self-settling at a young age.
Always put babies to sleep when they’re fully awake.
#40. Invest in Baby Sleep Books
Baby sleep books contain hundreds of relevant information to help your baby sleep. Consider investing in them to learn other facts you haven’t known yet. You might even be surprised when you find that the one new trick you learned about can solve your baby’s problem.
#41. Look for Signs of Tiredness
Look out for cues that indicate your baby is tired so you can immediately put him or her to bed. Some tell-tale signs are yawns, whines, and rubbing of eyes. If you miss these signs, your child can become overtired and his or her body will be overstimulated with a stress-related hormone called cortisol.
It’s a must to pay careful attention to your baby’s “tired cues” to avoid overtiredness and eventually make it easier for them to sleep at night.
#42. Consider Your Baby’s Moods
In order to help your baby sleep through the night, consider his night-time temperaments. Determine whether your baby is a natural self-soother who has no problems sleeping at night or one who constantly needs attention. Adjust the sleeping methods you use according to your baby’s behaviours as there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to baby sleep.
For instance, a baby with self-soothing sleep temperament can easily drift off to sleep once you put him down to his bed. In contrast, a baby who’s a “signaller” has a tendency to wake up during the night and can even cry out.
Fortunately, your baby’s sleep skills are learned behaviour. They will eventually learn to adapt and sleep without your help, so it’s a must to start them early.
#43. Hire a Baby Sleep Consultant
Raising a baby on your own is no easy feat, so whether you’re a new mum or a mum of three, consider hiring a baby sleep consultant to help your baby sleep. Working with an expert will not only improve your child’s sleeping pattern, but can also have a positive impact on your family’s overall well-being.
Want to reap these numerous benefits of having a consultant work with you and your baby to ensure optimal sleep for your little one? Nurture Parenting, the baby sleep consultants in Sydney, offers a holistic approach to baby sleep that can take him from sleepless to slumber in just 7 easy lessons through their Nurture Sleep Program.
#44. Consult a Doctor
If you’ve tried every possible technique listed above and you still find your infant waking up regularly and seemingly in pain, you should have your baby checked by a doctor.
Your baby’s night waking might be caused by a common condition known as gastroesophageal reflux, or GER. It happens when stomach contents come back up into the oesophagus due to a malfunction in the muscle, which causes pain similar to heartburn. In worst cases, it may even prevent your infant from feeding. It’s important to look out for the other symptoms such as:
- chest pain
- chronic cough
- difficulty swallowing
- lump in throat
As a parent, it’s important to educate yourself on common medical conditions seen in children and consult a doctor as soon as possible to keep your baby safe and give everyone in the family a more peaceful night’s sleep.
With this extensive list of time-tested and proven techniques, you can certainly find a way to get your baby to sleep, thus improving the well-being of the whole family.
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