How To Put Your Baby To Sleep at Night In 6 Easy Steps

How to Put Your Baby to SleepIt seems like it would be simple, but I remember being clueless when my baby was first born. How do you hold a baby or, (gasp!) change a diaper? How do you feed a baby? And, yes, how do you get or put your baby to sleep at night? This article will be a simple guide to this way-more-complicated-than-you-thought task a new parent has to figure out: How to put your baby to sleep.

When your baby is first born, you actually marvel at how instinctual it is, in a way. At first, most of us probably flail a bit until you realize the car or walking your baby around starts to soothe him. Or, woah, when I breastfeed him, he just falls right to sleep! Or, pop in the pacifier and he sucks a bit and off to sleep my baby goes. How easy! Hopefully…

What many people don’t realize is that in the near future, you may find that the very thing that was instinctual now takes way too long (I’m talking hours, not 10 minutes) or you’re up way too many times per night (I mean every 2 hours, not once a night). After all, your baby won’t sleep and it’s your fault (not in a bad way). Months down the line you may still be wondering, when will my baby sleep through the night? It varies, just like our babies, but it doesn’t hurt to try to follow these steps on how to put your baby to sleep and try to avoid the many pitfalls many of us fall into, from the very beginning.

How to put your baby to sleep

1. Time your baby’s sleep right

When your baby is a newborn, watch for sleepy cues (yawning, staring off in space, but before cranky!), and when your baby is older (around 6+ months), you may want to follow a sleep schedule (even if it’s not a rigid sleep schedule). If your baby is too over-tired, that generally works against you, even though you think it might be opposite (I heard many times “Keep him up and he’ll sleep at night.” Seriously? That made it worse!).

2. Tell your baby it’s time to sleep

Don’t underestimate your baby and believe he won’t be able to understand you from a young age. Sure, your newborn might not understand much, but say the same key phrase over and over for 6 months? 10 months? He’ll know. So, talk to your baby and tell your baby “Time to go to sleep. Night night. I love you.” or something similar, and always use the same phrase right before sleep.

3. Cue your baby it’s time to sleep

Start your bedtime or naptime routine. The value of a routine is that your baby will begin to anticipate sleep and begin to relax before you even finish it. The content of your routine isn’t as important as your consistency of using it. If you can’t do a bath every night, that’s okay. With younger babies, the routine can be very simple: Draw the blinds/curtains, read 1 or 2 books, diaper, pajamas, and turn on music or white noise. Always in the same order. We made our LeapFrog Baby Tad an integral part of our routine and once I turned the music on, I saw a yawn and droopy eyes. It didn’t happen the first time, it was the consistency of using him as my cue that mommy would leave after the music was over. As your baby grows older, the routine doesn’t necessarily get more complicated, but it does start to take longer, so don’t make it too many steps.

4. Soothe your baby, but NOT to sleep

After your routine, you will want to soothe your baby to be relaxed and sleepy. Different babies respond to different soothing methods. Many/most babies tend to like some type of movement like when they were in your womb. They may like being bounced, rocked, or walked around the room (in arms or the stroller). My eldest son not only liked movement, but it had to be pretty strong movement. None of this Level 1 in the swing. He had to be on Level 8 or so. Yeah we got jokes he would get “drunk” but that’s the only thing that worked when he was young! 😀 Experiment with what works best for YOUR baby. What worked for your friend may or may not work for you. This is often when you’d also feed your baby, but NOT all the way to sleep!

5. Watch for drowsy, but awake

This is the MOST important part! Ideally, you will put your baby down in his bassinet or crib or your bed (for safety, a co-sleeper is much better), if you are co-sleeping, while he is still awake. You want to soothe him, but NOT all the way to sleep as that’s what leads to sleep associations. Unfortunately, for some babies this is a magic trick to find the point your baby is sleepy, still awake, and doesn’t scream his head off once you lay him down. Finding the perfect point of drowsy, but awake can take some practice, so be patient with yourself if you don’t get it right the first few times you try it. Keep trying. And, if your baby is very young, honestly, it might not work!! Only some babies can “self-soothe” from a very young age. My boys were SCREAMERS, so they simply could NOT do this step until I taught them how, but not until they were about 4 months old (and some need closer to 6 months).

6. Lay your baby down to sleep

Lay your baby down to fall asleep on her BACK for the first year, as recommended by the AAP (download a SIDS safe sleep brochure by clicking here). Your baby will likely sleep on his tummy, as he gets older. For young babies, you may need to soothe your baby all the way to sleep as I mentioned above, but ideally, your baby will be semi-awake and fall asleep on her own. This will limit further sleep problems down the line. If your baby is older, this is when you’d teach her how to fall asleep on her own without you helping her all the way to sleep. Helping her all the way to sleep is the same as trying to walk for her. She may learn eventually, but it will take longer if she doesn’t try (and fail) for herself. It takes practice, practice, and practice!

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.

How do you put your baby to sleep?

How Crib Toys Affect Your Baby’s Sleep, Maybe

Do Crib Toys Affect Baby's Sleep?A very common question is whether it’s okay to put toys or aquariums in your baby’s crib. The concern is that baby won’t sleep and would rather play with her toys. This article will discuss whether there is concern about having toys in your baby’s crib and how it may or may not affect your baby’s sleep.

Last week, I talked about how you can develop positive sleep associations with your baby by giving them a toy such as The Leap Frog Hug and Learn or a Crib Aquarium. But, will your baby or toddler play with it too much rather than sleep?

Once again, I’m sure I will go against the grain compared to other sleep consultants and say that crib toys and aquariums can be GOOD for your baby’s crib. It is obvious that we don’t want our babies treating their cribs like a playground and it’s true that we don’t want to stimulate them too much to the point they are not soothed to sleep. We want them to associate bed with sleep, not playtime. And, “they” say if you, an adult, are having trouble sleeping in your own bed to make sure you don’t do anything but sleep in your bed. No TV, reading, etc. if you have insomnia.

So, how is it good for your baby to have toys in his crib?

The way I view it is that we WANT our babies to feel comfortable in their crib. We WANT them to be able to “unwind” in bed before they sleep. We WANT them to play for a little bit when they wake up at the crack of dawn. Imagine your 10 month old baby waking up at 6:30 a.m., rolling over and finding a little toy and playing for 30 minutes while you snooze in bed. Sounds good, right?

A mobile, for example, is a good toy to put above the baby’s crib, away from her face. A mobile provides visual stimulation and promotes brain development. Keep in mind, though, that some mobiles are meant to stimulate baby and others are meant to soothe baby to sleep. Make sure you use it at appropriate times. If your baby gets too excited by the mobile, he might take longer to fall asleep or have trouble settling down.

Remember that crib aquarium my son used? There was a time in his life that he’d play with it for over 30 minutes before he fell asleep. I took it out. Guess what? He still took a long time to fall asleep. It’s not that he was playing too much. I was putting him down too early! His younger brother has played with his fingers, feet, imagination, blankie, toy cars, books, and now his “bad guys” (super hero figures) for 5 to 30 minutes before he falls asleep since he was a little baby. Once he feels sleepy, he simply stops playing and goes to sleep.

So, how are toys in the crib NOT a problem?

Have you ever noticed just how short our baby’s attention spans are? They can hardly play with the same toy for a few minutes let alone hours. A baby who is sleepy is not usually going to play with the same toy for too long before drifting off to sleep. Again, we want them to feel comfortable and happy to unwind before sleep, not lonely and bored, especially if we happen to put them down a little too early for their nap (it’s usually better to err on the earlier side than later, for most babies). Will there be some babies who truly WILL themselves out of sleep and play with a toy, instead? Probably. But, I’d say most of our babies would love to unwind before sleep just like we might watch a little TV, read a book, or our favorite magazine before we drift off to slumberland. Why not let them do it too?

But, are crib toys safe?

To keep SIDS risks low, you should refrain from putting any soft objects in your baby’s crib, and that includes soft plush toys, blankets, pillows, etc. Make sure you read all information to reduce SIDS risks. You do not want to put any crib toys that can potentially cover your baby’s face or suffocate them and, of course, nothing that has little pieces that can fall off and your baby can choke on. But, if you add a mobile, crib aquarium, or other safe toy to your baby’s crib, it can be perfectly safe. If you are concerned, always talk to your doctor.

What toys do you have in your baby’s crib and have you had trouble with sleep related to them?

Getting Your Baby to Sleep in the Crib

When you were pregnant, you probably took great care in designing your baby’s nursery and carefully selected the best items for your baby registry. One of the most important things in the nursery is your baby’s crib. After all, she will sleep in her crib for 2 to 4 years, right?

Unfortunately, for some of us, sleeping in the crib is just a nice dream. After you had your baby, you might have purposely decided to keep baby in your room in a co-sleeper bassinet and imagined transitioning her to her own room and crib around 6 months old when she was sleeping through the night. When she turned 6 months, you might have learned it’s not that easy to transition baby to sleep in her crib and I’m here to help!

One thing I want to emphasize is that only some people can sleep anytime, anywhere. My husband happens to be that way (as I’m typing this, he just started snoozing on the couch next to me). Only some of our babies will sleep in a stroller (my boys are NOT among them!) and only a few will transition to sleep in a crib without a hitch. For three days my younger son slept in a Close and Secure Sleeper in our bed and then we put it into the crib and it was an easy transition. My older son (who inspired this site) was not so adaptable, which is why I did make a whole site about baby sleep. 😀

When your baby is a newborn, she might not sleep in her crib because it’s far away from anyone who she seeks comfort from, mommy and daddy. And, it might seem too big compared to the womb, especially if she isn’t swaddled.

Months later, now your baby won’t sleep in the crib because it’s the equivalent of you going to sleep in the guest room. It is only her bed because you said it’s her bed. Your nursery might be beautiful, but to her, she may as well be in a different house when she’s trying to sleep in “her room”. Some adults can’t sleep well in a hotel (even the nice ones) for the same reason: It’s not your bed.

Once again, sleep associations come into play in how your baby knows how to fall asleep. Does she need to move to sleep (via rocking chair, bouncing ball, or bouncy seat)? Does she need to suck to sleep (via pacifier, nursing, or bottle)? And, is she in a comfortable place to sleep? Up until now she hasn’t slept in her crib, so why would that be a comfortable place today just because she turned 5 or 6 months old?

How to Get Your Baby to Sleep in the Crib

The #1 goal in helping your baby sleep in the crib is to make it feel like HER room and HER bed. Here are a few tips you might consider:

• Consider putting YOUR bed in HIS room for a few days.
• Make sure you spend non-sleep time in HIS room
• Have him sleep on his own crib sheet for a few days, so it has his scent
• YOU sleep on his crib sheet for a few days, so it has YOUR scent
• Give it time. Don’t expect it to go perfectly the first day. It might take a few days to a couple of weeks, but the first few nights will most likely be the most difficult. Expect it to be rough and he might just surprise you, but do expect it to take work. Only some will have an easy transition.

One thing you want to do is make sure your baby knows how to fall asleep on his own, FIRST. Otherwise, you are simply going back and forth from your room to his all night, instead of reaching over a foot or two (or if you are co-sleeping, maybe just a few inches). Even if your baby is sleeping great in your room, if she has trouble adjusting, make sure you are sensitive to the fact that this is a new place for her and don’t just let her cry it out. Some babies actually sleep BETTER, immediately, once they are in their own space, not smelling Mommy’s milk or hearing Daddy’s snoring all night long.

If you need help in getting your baby to sleep, please consider our 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep e-Book (plus bonus materials) or our baby sleep consultations, where I will work with you on a personalized sleep plan that you can feel good about for your unique baby and your unique situation. If you have a toddler and are looking to transition from co-sleeping to crib or co-sleeping to bed, please see our 5 Step System to Better Toddler Sleep.

How Did You Get Your Baby to Sleep in the Crib?