If 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:
- Set an early bedtime and age-appropriate sleep schedule.
- Use a sleep routine both at the beginning and during disruptions.
- Put your baby down awake.
- Don’t rush to your baby when they wake up.
- 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.