How to Put Your Baby To Sleep: 5 Keys to a Sleeping Baby

5 keys to a sleeping babyIf your baby wakes up as soon as you put them down or wakes frequently at night, you’ve landed in the right place! Having a baby who won’t sleep is exhausting and we’re here to help. This post will teach you how to put your baby to sleep based on my experience of 15+ years as a sleep consultant.

Quite simply, here’s how to put your baby to sleep, and then I’ll go over each in more detail:

  1. Set an early bedtime and age-appropriate sleep schedule.
  2. Use a sleep routine both at the beginning and during disruptions.
  3. Put your baby down awake.
  4. Don’t rush to your baby when they wake up.
  5. Consider sleep training.

1. Set an Early Bedtime and Age-Appropriate Sleep Schedule

Can you imagine going to bed at midnight and getting up for work at 6 a.m. every single day? Or, can you imagine going to bed at 7 p.m. every night? Both have their problems.

The time you put your baby down for naps and bedtime can make a huge difference to how they fall asleep and stay asleep!

We need to set up babies for success in sleeping before we can expect them to sleep through the night and take long naps. No matter what you do, if your baby’s sleep schedule is off, your baby may wake up at night, take short naps, and/or cry a lot. Overtired babies tend to cry a lot, wake frequently, and take short naps. Our bodies release hormones to fight fatigue and this process makes babies restless.

Most babies up to 12 months old will go to sleep for the night between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. and sleep 11-12 hours. Set your baby up for success with an appropriate sleep schedule.

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2. Use a Sleep Routine Both at the Beginning and During Disruptions

Before you go to bed, do you put on your pajamas or nightshirt, brush your teeth, and do a little reading, or something similar? We all have our routines before we go to sleep and these cues can help us mentally prepare.

Babies thrive on routine and this can be another key to successfully put your baby to sleep. A good sleep routine doesn’t have to be long and complicated. It only needs to be consistent (small variations are okay.)

What is a typical bedtime routine?

A bedtime routine typically includes closing the curtains/blinds, a diaper change, pajamas, swaddle or sleep sack, feeding, reading a book or two, turning off the light, snuggling for a few minutes, and saying a keyphrase when you put your baby down.

What does a keyphrase do?

It signals the end of the routine which can be sometimes just as important as the beginning. You want your baby to know when they are expected to fall asleep.

What else can you do with your sleep routine?

Use it in the middle of the night! If your baby wakes up and it’s not time to wake up or feed, it’s a good idea to signal your baby it’s still time to sleep. You wouldn’t do your entire bedtime routine again in the middle of the night, but you can repeat the last 1-2 steps to signal it’s still time to sleep. Having clear sleep cues for your baby reduces confusion.

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3. Put Your Baby Down Awake

When you feed your baby to sleep, rock your baby to sleep, or bounce your baby to sleep, this sets expectations for what they should expect when they wake up. These are called sleep associations and are the most common reason for babies to wake at night (besides hunger).

Newborns need help falling asleep but once your baby hits the 4-month sleep regression, it’s important for your baby to know how to fall asleep on their own. When your baby can fall asleep on their own, they can learn how to go back back to sleep on their own. This is the cornerstone of sleeping through the night.

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4. Don’t Rush to Your Baby When They Wake Up

Have you ever heard your partner or spouse talk in their sleep?

That’s called a ‘confusional event’ and babies have them, too! Only instead of talking, they sometimes cry between sleep cycles.

Dr. Richard Ferber, the creator of The Ferber Method, defines confusional events in detail but succinctly, these happen because part of your brain is trying to wake up and part of your brain is trying to stay asleep. Most of the time, we drift right back to sleep quickly.

If your baby starts to cry between sleep cycles, you might think they need your attention. But, if it’s simply a confusional event, they may drift back to sleep after just a few minutes. Unfortunately, every minute of crying feels like 20 minutes! Watch the clock and try to give your baby a few minutes to get back to sleep on their own. Even if this has failed many times before if you are also doing the other things on this list, your baby will learn to sleep in longer stretches.

5. Put Baby to Sleep With Sleep Training

Once you’ve set the stage for sleep and started putting your baby down awake, your baby should start sleeping in longer stretches at night. But, what if your baby keeps waking up?

In some cases, babies decide they have preferences. They will only sleep in your arms or on your chest, for example. Many babies want to be nursed to sleep. And, others, love bed- sharing and co-sleeping. These sleep associations are simply habits that can be changed.

At this point, it might be time to consider sleep training. Sleep training is the act of helping your baby learn to put themselves to sleep and back to sleep throughout the night. There are different sleep training methods you can use at various ages. You don’t have to let your baby Cry It Out necessarily. There are gentle sleep coaching techniques, too. Always remember to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics Safe Sleep Recommendations first and foremost.

I hope this has helped you figure out how to put your baby to sleep. And, if you’re looking for more ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine, please be sure to pick up your FREE copy of 5 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night, our e-Book with tear-free tips to help your baby sleep better. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using a unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night, when they don’t respond to the “easier” fixes. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan® you can feel good about! Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a plan. Sometimes you’re just too tired to.

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44 thoughts on “How to Put Your Baby To Sleep: 5 Keys to a Sleeping Baby”

  1. Our 6 month old son will spend up to 2 hours just kicking around in his crib fussing and whining (not crying) instead of going to sleep. We’ve experimented with different nap/bed times and are just completely unsure of what to do. His naps are so short (30-40 minutes) and we’re kind of losing our minds.
    Your advice is greatly appreciated!

    • Hi @Abby – Thanks for writing, and I am sorry that you have been struggling with your baby’s sleep and schedule! it does sound like he may not be the right amount of tired! he may need a little more time to “unwind” for bed, and a solid routine may help that! Keep trying! Have you checked out our free sample schedules? here is a link to access all of them, and you can use them as a guide:
      Please contact us if you’d like more help and good luck!

  2. New born baby is used to sleep with mom. Getting baby sleep in crib really difficult for mom. Thank for a guide to put baby sleep in crib. Really helpful guideline.

    • Thank you for writing @Marria! We are happy to hear that this article has been helpful! Keep reading!

  3. As parents, I think this is something you get better at with more experience, as you learn to read the sleep cues from your baby. That being said, there are always various phases and changes your baby goes through that can cause problems at night e.g sleep regression, changes to her nap routine etc.
    Only recently my baby, who’s 19 months, decided to wake up at 2:30am and think that’s the start of the day. She eventually went back to sleep at 6:30am! However, she’d been napping twice a day up until this point, so since this awful night she now just has one long nap a day, with a slightly later bedtime. This has definitely helped!

    • Sasha, you have absolutelly right! I have read different theories on how to put babies to sleep, some advise not to rock, just put on cot, some said can rock… but like you say, the best thig is experience when we learn to read the sleep cues from our baby, but…

      Few months ago I was trying to put my girl (12 Month) to sleep by going thru bedtime ritual which include bath, milk, book…then I was putting her in her cot awake and sit by the cot. She was getting up and stand in the cot, then I was putting her down and we were “wrestle” like that for 45 mins, 30 mins, 20 mins etc.. (wow, it was tiring!). And I was questioning myself am I doing the right thing? Will I make my baby detest sleeping?

      But, my friend told me about HWL method. It is easy, fast, and not harmful to my baby girl. I recomend also a book How to teach a baby to fall asleep alone by Susan Urban. If someone of you dear moms try, share with your experience for help another moms <3 we should be more helpfull for each others :))


      Diana M.

      • Could you tell a little bit more, about this? I’m interested 😀 i’m in 7th month in pregnant with first baby, so now I searching for tips and advice for near future <3

      • Sleep training is the best thing what parents can do for a baby and for themselves! I also used Susan Urban’s guide ‘how to teach a baby to fall asleep alone’ and after 5 days we got rid of rocking to sleep and night feedings. This method is without CIO so I can recommend it to anyone who wants to start baby sleep training. Life is much better when your baby sleeps trough the night! You can use the HWL method from the guide also to solve problems like short naps, early morning or night awakenings and transitioning to a crib.. Your welcome 😉

      • Indeed! The HWL method fulfills the two most important functions: brings up babies and gives the right amount of love, which is really important in the infant and child period. Im a pediatrician, I know what Im talking about 😉 I read a book from Susan Urban about how to put children to sleep and problems related to this “How to teach a baby to fall asleep alone” and I must say that it is a translation of the language of science into one, that goes to a tired and overworked parent 😉

      • Yeah, I also have the same experience with this guide. My child after 7 days slept ALONE in his crib and I and my husband have the whole bed and night for us. The problem with colic is also solved! In principle, I have all guides from Susan Urban so I can honestly recommend them, I know them almost by heart;)

  4. Our 6 week old daughter is tricky to get to sleep. She takes awhile to go down for naps (usually 40 minutes or so) and is not able to do the awake but tired approach but does eventually go down. Our main concern is her “witching hours” from 4/5 to 8/9.” she is super fussy during this time and often very gassy. Will only sleep for a short periods while being held or rocked. We suspect she also has some acid reflux and pooping is quite an ordeal. She is a twin and born 4 weeks early. Any ideas on how to help her get in a nap during this time period or shift it to an earlier time in the day… Or do we just have to wait for this time period to pass.

    • @Meredith Bowman, Thank you for using the Baby Sleep Site as a resource for sleep. I am sorry to hear you are struggling with your daughter’s sleep. Since you mentioned she was 4 weeks premature, developmentally she is only about 2 weeks old, and this all sounds very normal! (I’m sorry there’s not a quick fix!) Hopefully as she gets older it will pass, and that she is able to find some relief for her gas. If you haven’t yet, I’d mention it to her doctor as they may have some tips for you to try to help ease her discomfort. Don’t let yourself get too hung up on the fact that she can’t self soothe at this age, she is still very young and will get this ability over time as you continue to practice and encourage these skills.
      Something I’ve found helpful (although I do not have twins so I know that adds a whole other dimension to it!) is baby wearing during those fussy times when they just want to be close. She may squeeze in a quick nap in the carrier too.
      Here is a link to a newborn schedule that you may find helpful:
      If you find any problems persist, our sleep consultants would love to help! Thanks for commenting!

  5. Thanks for the advice. It seems to be a veryyyy slow process, but I guess that’s normal?

    Also, my son’s napping seems to be going better than nighttime sleep. I think it’s because life is not as consistent in the evening due to work meetings,going to the gym, or other things that come up in life. I’m trying to get it to be more consistent and put everything to the side for awhile. Should the nap routine and bedtime routine be the same? different? similar? What about for putting him back to sleep after night wakings/feedings?

    Thanks again!

  6. Hi Carolyn,
    Putting baby to sleep “drowsy but awake” is a process, and not many of us are lucky enough to have a baby who cooperated right away! I would recommend doing the same as when you put him in his crib all the way asleep, but begin to start that transition just a moment earlier. Starting with an alomst aleep baby is a good start too, and if he stirs when you put him down, go ahead and soothe him to sleep. Pat or otherwise soothe him in his crib, and yes, he may get upset during this learning period, but you will be there to soothe him and help him through it.
    Good luck! 🙂

  7. I’m not sure I understand how to put your baby down when they’re drowsy but not asleep. When I put my 9 month old son down, unless he’s out of it he wakes right up, fusses, cries, tries to sit or stand or roll around. Even when he IS asleep and I put him down I have to pat his back a little to get him to settle into being in the crib rather than in my arms. Am I supposed to just let him wake up and soothe him while he’s in the crib? Honestly when I’ve tried it does nothing to calm him down. What are realistic expectations? I know this is a key step in sleep training and I’m having a hard time understanding how to implement it. Any input would be great, thanks!!

    • This is my experience with my eight-month-old daughter. As soon as she wakes (early) from a nap or when I put her in the cot drowsy she just wants to crawl and stand in her cot.

      She constantly shattered poor love.

  8. Hi Kat-
    It sounds like you are doing everything right in trying to teach your daughter how to fall asleep on her own, and working on finding the right schedule and a good routine. Since she is able to fall back to sleep when she wakes at about 8:00 at night, have you tried leaving her for 5 minutes or so before going in to help her back to sleep at midnight? Often, a baby is just used to you coming in and helping, and is relying on that to fall back to sleep. Many times, just given that 5 minutes or so, a baby learns that she can fall back to sleep on her own.
    Sleep problems are VERY common at this age. Here is a link to an article that may help. It explains more about this “sleep regression.”
    And that 4:00 waking sounds like she is over tired. Working on the night time wakings may help with that too early waking, and you may want to try a bit of an earlier bedtime while you are working on helping her sleep better in the night, to help combat the over tiredness. Here is a link to our sample 10 month schedule, to use as reference:
    Since you sound like you have been struggling with this for a while, if you find that you just need more support, please consider a sleep consultation package.
    You can read about all of our sleep consultation packages here:
    I hope that you will not need our services, and that sleep improves soon!
    Best wishes!

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