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10 Ways to Help Your Baby Settle to Sleep


Can you imagine how amazing it would be to have a magic sleep fairy, who could wave a magic wand to get your little one to sleep right away?  Unfortunately, that will never be reality, but we have some tried and true ways to settle your baby to sleep so everyone can get the rest they need.  

Your baby’s age will determine what the best methods are, so here are ten tips for each age group:

Tips To Get a 0-3 Months Old Baby To Sleep

Your baby’s sleep needs: A newborn baby needs to sleep around 16-17 hours each day (not consecutively), around three months, that will drop to around 15 hours.

1. Handling feedings

Your baby will likely need night time feedings, at least until they are 3-6 months old.  It’s important to keep that in mind and work to respond to your baby’s demands for food quickly and quietly: even though it will be exhausting.  When you respond quickly, your baby will hopefully drop off back to sleep afterwards and so will you. A baby who knows they will be fed when they need it, will feel secure.  A secure baby is more likely to be able to soothe themselves to sleep later. As a parent, this can be a tough job, but it remember it won’t last forever.

2. Become an investigator

You’ve fed them and changed them, so why isn’t your little one sleeping?  Take a moment to run through a quick checklist of what else might be wrong: maybe colic?  Colic can be identified by the high-pitched scream, their red face and drawn-up legs. How is your baby’s temperature? Could they be too cold or too hot?

3. Comfort and cuddle

When your baby is crying and upset, of course you’ll want to cuddle and comfort them. Some nights you won’t be able to figure out why your little one doesn’t want to sleep. But, after you comfort them,  always place your baby back in the crib when they’re drowsy but still awake. This will help them to learn to self soothe. If needed you can stroke their cheek until they settle more.   

4. Swaddle

Swaddling your newborn can make them feel more secure.  To swaddle your baby you can use a sheet, light blanket, or a swaddling blanket. Swaddling can be a like a miracle for some babies, while others hate it- but it’s worth a try.  

5. Stroke their nose

This may seem like a strange suggestion, but using a gentle stroking motion, run you finger gently down between your baby’s eyes.  This can help them to relax and encourages them to close their eyes. 

6. Watch for signs of sleepiness 

Two hours is about the limit that a newborn can stay awake.  If your little one is getting close to that mark, you will see them yawning and their eyes may glaze over.  At this point, you will want to remove them from the stimulating environment to a more soothing one so they can sleep.

7. Use a blanket

It can be a hard transition for some babies, to go from your warm arms to a cold crib.  To help this, put a blanket under your baby when feeding or cuddling.  Before placing them in the crib, put it under them so that you have transferred your smell and warmth along with them.

8. Check on their stuffy nose

If your baby has a cold or is congested they will have some trouble sleeping.  You can consult your doctor or pharmacist about using saline nasal drops.  You can also try to slightly raise the head end of their crib by placing some rolled up towels under the mattress.  Make sure you don’t raise it too high, or they may slip down. 

9. Try some noise

Have you ever tried using the vacuum cleaner while trying to get your little one to sleep? This may seem like an odd suggestion, but some parents swear that putting on the washing machine, clothes dryer, or vacuum cleaner near where their baby’s sleeping helps them to get to sleep faster. It’s likely this helps  because it mimics the constant “white noise” they experienced in the womb. You can’t move your washing machine to their bedroom, but you can download free white noise apps, buy CDs, or get a nice white noise machine (some even have night lights that can be used with them).

10. Rocking

It can be an opportunity for some extra cuddle time when you take some time to rock your little one to sleep, or maybe you have a swing or bouncy seat that can do the rocking. Rocking is effective, but you want to be careful when using this method to get your little one to sleep, as it’s easy easy for your begin to need to be rocked to sleep every night. The same applies for those times when it’s tempting to take them for a car ride to get them to sleep. 

Tips To Get a 3-6 Months Old Baby To Sleep

Your baby’s sleep needs: They will still need about 14-16 hours of sleep, but hopefully- most of that is happening at night.  Most babies will take three naps a day, totaling around three hours. 

1. Handling feedings

Until about 6 months, your baby will probably still be doing at least one night feed. It’s important to keep the feedings “boring”: no excitement, no lights on, no playing. Refrain from engaging them with eye contact so they understand that night time is for sleeping, and they will settle back to sleep quickly.

2. Don’t wait until they are asleep to lay them down

It sounds counter productive, but pediatricians recommend making sure your little one is slightly awake (even if that means waking them up a little after falling asleep for a feeding), before laying your baby down to bed.  When you place them in bed while sleeping, if they wake- they wake in a panic, not realizing that you had left.  It also helps them to learn to sleep on their own if they can fall asleep without you there. 

3. Provide a favorite toy/“lovie”

After your baby has hit the 6 month milestone, you can put down a soft toy or blanket next to them for comfort. This really helps some babies to settle.

4. Don’t rush to them

If you know your baby is not hungry, wet/dirt, or uncomfortable due to their temperature; but they’re not settling, resist the urge to run in and comfort them. You never want to leave your baby in distress, but you can wait 5-10 minutes to see if they will settle themselves down.  Being able to “self comfort” is a great skill for them to learn as well.

5. Cuddling and rocking

No matter what methods you use, there are going to be those nights where nothing seems to work apart from cuddling and/or rocking your baby to sleep. The key is to try not to make it a nightly habit.  If it becomes a regular thing, they will expect it and won’t learn to settle to sleep by themselves.

6. Pat to comfort them

If you’ve checked the obvious symptoms- like hunger, dirty diaper, and room temperature, and they’re still not going to sleep, try bending over the crib, to pat them and “shush” them quietly. After a few minutes, leave the room. If needed, you can head back in and try it again, but make sure you leave longer gaps between each session until they (hopefully) settle.

7. Are you seeing symptoms of teething?

Not all babies, but your baby may have first teeth at four or five months.  Those teeth can cause some real discomfort- making it hard to sleep. To help ease the pain, you can try massaging your baby’s face around the jawline and under the chin.  Teething gel can also be a comfort sometimes.

8. Try a sleep sack

Is your baby having a hard time settling and wiggle their way out of the covers?  A sleep sack may be the answer.  

9. Move up bedtime

When we stay up too late as adults, we often get a second wind of energy, and that can make it hard to finally fall asleep.  Your baby is no different- if they are overtired, it may be harder for them to settle.  Move bedtime up a little to see if that helps. 

10. Keep a bedtime routine

Don’t feel like you have to have a strict daytime routine going with your baby in order to start a night time one. This age is a great time to start getting a bedtime routine going. A good routine will signal to your baby that bedtime it coming and it’s time to get ready to sleep. The routine shouldn’t be complicated and should only last about 30 minutes. Make sure most of the routine takes place in their bedroom/bathroom- not in a room where playtime happens.  A routine can include a warm bath, bedtime massage, a feeding, and a story. 

Tips To Get a 6-12 Months Old Baby To Sleep

Your baby’s sleep needs: A 6-12 month old baby will need about 13-15 hours of sleep a day, for starters, they should take three naps a day totaling three hours. After a year old those naps will probably fall to two naps a day, totaling 2-2 and a half hours.

1. Handling feedings

Keep in mind that each baby is unique, but generally speaking, babies over six months can sleep through the night without having to be fed.  If you think that your baby could do without a feeding, you can try to gradually move the feeding earlier in the night- lengthening the number of hours your baby is sleeping without food. 

2. Put them to bed while awake 

Hopefully your baby will be sleepy and relaxed but awake when you put them down in their crib. To avoid your little one falling asleep during a feeding and waking up as you lay them down, try feeding them a little earlier in the bedtime routine.  Read a story right before putting your baby down, instead of doing a feeding.  

3. Rocking

It’s important to not get into the habit of rocking your little one every night.  Allowing your baby to learn to settle themselves to sleep ensures they sleep longer and they learn to sleep without needing you right there.  

4. Consistency is important

After you have a solid 30-45 minute bedtime routine established, keep this routine the same each night.  As best you can, keep the time you start the routine the same as well.  The routine gives your baby cues that it’s time for sleep.

5. Separation anxiety

At 8 months of age, your baby may go through a separation anxiety phase.  You can help ease this phase by trying to stick to the normal bedtime routine.  If your baby has some trouble getting to sleep and is fussing, go back into the room; but try to avoid picking your little one up.  Instead gently stroke their face/pat her and say, comforting words softly to them. Keep everything quiet, calm and reassuring. Gradually increase the time between visits. 

6. Growth spurt

If your baby had given up feedings in the past, but now is suddenly starting to wake for a feeding - it may be because they are going through a growth spurt. You may want to adjust the amount of solids you are giving them in a day if this is happening. 

7. Teething

At this age, your baby probably has several teeth coming in. Try massaging the irritated gums with a toothbrush, the end of a plastic spoon that’s been in the fridge, or use your (clean) finger.

8. Standing up in the crib

In the past few months, your baby has been learning several new skills- including sitting and standing, but it can be difficult for them to lie down again after they get up.  This can leave your little one standing up, holding on to the bars of the crib- feeling very upset. You should go in, settle your baby back down quickly, kiss them goodnight and retreat fast. Repeat this as needed, while trying to stay calm. This is a short phase, that will pass and you can help by working with them during the day to learn to get down from standing.   

9. Move them to their own room

If your baby is still sleeping in your bedroom, it might be a good idea to move them into their own room.  Even just turning over in bed can disrupt your little one’s sleep. 

10. Co-sleeping

Sleep experts do not advise that you co-sleep, as it sets the expectation for your baby that they can get into your bed every time they wake up. Don’t overly worry about having to do it occasionally. Sometimes it’s the only way you will be able to get some rest.  

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