An uncredited saying promises us that “babies smile in their sleep because they are listening to the whispering of angels.” That is a beautiful image, indeed, if only we could make them sleep! As parents, we know they need their rest – it is essential for their neurological development. But we can’t explain that to them, so we learn to use various tricks to help them get their vital repose.
I put together a short list with my favorite sleeping subterfuges for babies, after having tried most of them. Keep in mind, though, that babies are unique and you have to understand and respect their personalities; still, these notable gimmicks may do the job even in the case of the most tenacious little non-sleepers!
Play white noise
Experts say that white noise helps everyone go to sleep. Does this method work for babies as well? Some say it does. The explanation is simple: while being in the womb, babies hear the sound of blood rushing through the mother’s veins. Some white noises may have a similar tone. Thus, trying various kinds of white noises may lead to finding the one that calms the child. It can be random noise, such as vacuum, radio static or a coffee grinder or rhythmic sounds, like a heartbeat toy, a train or falling rain.
Play with light
An outspread theory suggests that total darkness helps inducing sleep. But some voices argue that belief, saying that babies are biologically adapted for sleeping outdoors. Thus, a lighting set-up that mimics the night sky may be more helpful than pitch dark. Projecting stars on the ceiling will give the babies something interesting to look at, while flickering lights imitating candles will help them relax. So don’t be afraid to experiment with lights. It may just be the right trick for your child.
Try a new bed
Sometimes, even if you do everything by the book, the baby just doesn’t seem to feel comfortable enough to go to sleep. Maybe he’s trying to tell you that he doesn’t like the bed. Remember that he can’t use words to let you know what the problem is, but refusing to go to sleep may be his way of telling you to make a change. Try something else than the current bedding situation: a hammock bed, a crib with a dedicated crib mattress or various other solutions, until you find the one which seems to please him.
Maintain the right temperature in the room
All sleep specialists recommend lowering the temperature in the room before going to sleep – and this stands for both children and grown-ups. You can turn down the thermostat (one or two degrees would be enough) or open a window, especially if it’s nice outside. The evening chill may calm down your hyperactive baby.
Any type of motion is beneficial when you struggle to put the baby to bed. One good exercise is to lie him down on the floor and let him stretch and discover his toes and fingers. When he’s a bit older, help him learn how to crawl, even if that means for you to do that along! If you usually bounce or rock him in your arms, alternate between those two: swing the baby back and forth (similar to the motion of a cradle) and then shift to a delicate up-and-down bounce. This change in action will distract and relax the baby, making it easier for sleep to kick in.
Avoid direct eye contact
Eye contact with the parent is stimulating for the baby, so looking straight into his eyes when trying to put him to bed will have the exact opposite effect. It’s best to avert your eyes from your little love, even if it feels wrong and hard to do so. Or you can try closing your eyes to show your child that you expect him to do the same.
A bedtime story and a massage
One of my favorite baby sleeping tricks is a rescuing combination consisting of a gentle massage and a bedtime story. Studies show that a tender 10 – 15 minutes massage will help the baby fall asleep faster. While massaging him, read or tell a story in a soothing voice. If the baby is older than six months, you can try adding fragrance to this evening moment: drip off one or two drops of lavender oil on a tissue and place it near the crib. All those combined will help the baby relax and go to sleep.