13 Tips for Getting Baby to Sleep Through the Night
“You won’t have a good night’s sleep for a while!”
It’s the one thing that everyone tells you when you're pregnant. It gets to be a bit annoying to hear, if only because it’s pretty obvious, but on a deeper level, it lays the foundation for a real struggle—one that not only involves your rest, but your baby’s.
Of course, the struggle we're talking about is getting your baby to sleep through the night, the holy grain of baby sleep bliss. It’s a tough fight, one that can feel impossible to overcome at times.
However, it is a goal that’s very much achievable, and there are a few tricks you can deploy to make it a reality.
Here are 13 of our best tips for getting your baby to sleep through the night.
#1. Wean Your Baby Off the Binky
A pacifier can be your best friend. It can be a soothing agent for baby while they learn how to reign in their emotions, satisfies their inherent need to suckle, and allows your breasts to get some much needed recovery time from your baby’s eager mouth. It’s also been shown to help lower the risk of SIDS.
Yet there comes a time when that binky switches from an ally to an enemy – specifically, the time when the binky falls out of their mouth in the middle of the night. This unwitting act ends up to them letting you know said act occurred. Until they develop the ability to pop it back in their mouth – something that won’t happen until they’re 8 months – you’re in trouble.
The one solution to this is to exhibit tough love and letting your baby cry it out. This is not an easy task to accomplish; indeed, the first couple days of this step will break your heart and potentially crush your soul in your baby loudly fusses. However, in a few days, your baby will discover that waking up sans binky isn’t a big deal, and a restful night will be yours.
#2. Use a White Noise Machine
It almost seems counterintuitive to introduce some sort of noise to a situation where the end goal a quiet, restful slumber. But when we’re talking about a baby – particularly one that’s colicky - adding a bit of white noise to your baby’s nocturnal environment can be an essential part of getting them to sleep through the night.
When you think about it, adding white noise makes a good deal of sense. After all, your baby's time in the womb isn’t exactly a quiet environment, and they grow accustomed to going to sleep while being surrounded by the noise and bustle of your life during pregnancy. When they come out of the womb and into a quieter environ, it’s a bit freaky.
Adding a touch of white noise to your baby’s environment allows them to tap into that “home” quality that they grew accustomed to in the womb. There is a wide host of ways you can provide these crucial sounds to your baby, from running your vacuum to turning on a white noise machine. There are even online videos of white noise that you can use.
#3. Be Mindful of Nighttime Feedings
This one may be a tough one to wrap your head around. After all, making sure your baby is eating a healthy amount in order to assure proper development and nurturing. On some level, you may feel that you are letting your baby down by cutting off nocturnal access to your milk.
However, you can take comfort in knowing that weaning your baby off of nighttime feedings is completely natural. Typically, the process can start between 4 and 6 months. By this time, your baby should be receiving enough calories to satisfy them for a few hours during the night.
By no means should you look at this act of weaning as a sudden process. It’s really important that you wean your children off of nighttime feeding gradually, so they can get used to the paradigm shift without necessarily knowing they’re going through a paradigm shift. They’ll catch on rather quickly, and they’ll catch some z’s more efficiently.
#4. Don’t Give Into Your Baby’s Demands for Activity
We’ve all experienced this with a baby: it’s 4 a.m., and you’re dead tired to the point where you feel glued to your mattress. Suddenly, you hear your baby start making some noise – the kind of noise that lets you know that they’re ready to crank up their engine for a morning spin. You give into their whim and get up to soothe them, grumbling throughout.
Don’t allow your baby to turn this into the time to start the day. They may be stirring and making some noise, but if they aren’t unmistakably crying, they aren’t necessarily dealing with the kind of separation anxiety that would otherwise demand some serious attention. Your best bet is to ignore their cooing calls and let them go back to sleep themselves.
If your baby is letting loose with noticeable crying within a half-hour of their normal wake-up time, it’s okay to swoop in and soothe them. However, don’t let this happen for an extended period. Failure to do so may knock them off of the wake time routine that you’ve worked so hard to introduce into their lives.
#5. Stick to a Proper Sleep Schedule
Children thrive on routine, and this is especially the case for babies, who are still trying to figure out this whole “life” thing. Creating a consistent pattern and sticking to it will help your baby fall into a rhythm that will make it easier for them to develop. This is certainly the case when there is sleep involved.
Of course, this pattern does fluctuate as the child gets older. Interestingly enough, this pattern of required nighttime sleep actually increases as they get older throughout the first month of their lives. Knowing how much nocturnal sleep is needed, and knowing when this need changes, can play a huge part in getting your baby to sleep through the night.
It may be a good idea for you to interweave your baby’s sleep schedule with their feeding schedule, too. This further adds a level of consistent, pattern-based behaviors that can make it easier for your baby to sleep throughout the night. Bear in mind that just like the sleep schedule, your baby’s feeding schedule will fluctuate over time.
#6. Don’t Overdo Nap Time
The amount of sleep your baby gets during the day will have an effect on how much sleep. That almost goes without saying, but getting a bead on this could be a tricky proposition when you’re dealing with a baby and their seemingly ever-changing slumber needs.
As a rule of thumb, your baby should be falling into a more predictable sleep pattern at 3 to 4 months. When this happens, it’s important that you develop a napping schedule and adhere to its principles as much as you possibly can. If you keep this consistent, the results will manifest in other aspects of your baby’s sleeping patterns, including during the night.
Of course, you need to be mindful of how these patterns can change as your baby grows. While your baby may be good with 4 to 5 naps during the day as a 3- to 4-month old, this number may cut down to 2 to 3 maps when they hit 9 months.
#7. Don’t Send Your Baby to Bed on an Empty Stomach
If your baby isn’t fussing for food or isn’t making it obvious he wants to suckle, you may think that they don’t need to eat before being laid down. However, this could be a mistake that you won’t realize you’ve made until your baby wakes you up and demands to be fed in the middle of the night.
As such, it’s important that you’re not sending your baby to bed with any smidgen of concern that they may be just a tad bit puckish. However, ensuring this does not necessarily equate to “topping them off” via breast or bottle right before you’re ready to put them down. While that does have its advantages, it’s best to keep on track with your baby’s feeding schedule throughout the day.
Naturally, this precise sleeping schedule fluctuates depending on the stage of your baby. And you need to be mindful of these changes in the schedule as they get older. After six months, your baby may forget to feed, as their they may be too busy playing around with new motor functions or things of that nature to remember the importance of food.
#8. Create a Comfortable Sleep Environment
You may be so focused on some of the big picture stuff when it comes to getting your baby to sleep, it may be easy to overlook some of the minor details that accompany their slumber. However, these can make all the difference in the world sometimes.
For instance, temperature regulation is a big deal when it comes to your baby. Your best bet here is to keep your infant’s sleeping environment between 65 and 70 degrees. This is easy to do with a thermostat, but you can pull it off with the use of cracked windows and fans if you need to.
If you do have to resort to a fan to achieve this level of comfort, make sure you put the fan in a place where your baby’s curiosity can’t put them in a position of potential harm. You should also note that a fan in the room can also create the white noise that can be so important to helping your baby sleep through the night.
#9. Dress for Sleep Success
There are two components to proper sleepwear when it comes to babies: comfort and safety. Ideally, you should be dressing your baby in soft, breathable cotton clothing, since it helps to keep their body temperature at an ideal level during their slumber. In turn, this extra comfort will make it easier for them to sleep through the evening.
You should also make sure that the clothes your baby’s wearing is snug and not too loose. SIDS can happen to a baby until they’re a year old, and one of the reasons this occurs is due to suffocation. Making sure clothes that have a little tightness to them can act as a preventative measure against this happening.
#10. Train Your Baby to be a Self-Sufficient Sleeper
Parenting is all about teaching, and sleeping is no difference. While there is only so much you can do – remember, we humans don’t sleep through the night so much as we know how to fall back asleep in the middle of the night – you can at the very least deploy methods to teach them how to fall back asleep without getting you involved.
This starts with establishing a proper bedtime routine, and making sure the routine is age-appropriate. After the routine is complete, you can check in your baby periodically to assure sleeping is happening. If you catch your baby awake, don’t engage them with either eye contact or verbal cues.
#11. Don’t Send a Sleeping Baby to Bed
This is another step that may sound counterintuitive to the uninitiated, but it’s better to send your baby to bed when they’re drowsy but still awake. This is one of the key steps to training your baby to sleep on their own, but there are also other practical reasons to do this.
For one thing, if your baby goes to sleep ahead of their sleeping schedule, this means their sleep pattern for the night will be disrupted. This could lead to an earlier morning that you’d like. If they’re still learning the ropes on how to be a self-sufficient sleeper, this could be problematic for you.
Secondly, putting your baby to sleep after they’ve knocked out essentially means that you’ve put the onus on them to call the sleeping shots. This may not seem like a huge deal, but if this builds up over time, this could unwittingly lead to your baby’s development of some pretty poor sleeping habits – habits that could come back to haunt you.
#12. The “Cry It Out” Method
One of the most controversial tips that you can deploy to help your baby sleep through the night is to use the “cry it out” or “crying it out” method. The source of controversy regarding this method is pretty straightforward. Specifically, it involves letting your baby cry and wail for a while until they fall back asleep on their own.
We’re not going to mince words here: If you use this method, things are going to get ugly for a couple of nights. It’s not just that your baby will make a whole bunch of unpleasant noise, but you may find yourself lying in bed, wide awake, feeling like you’re the worst, cruelest parent in the world.
However, if it’s any consolation, the cry-it-out method hurts you way more than it hurts your baby. Studies have shown that a baby in the throes of the cry it out method don’t exhibit stress like one may think they do upon observing loud howls. What’s more, these studies indicated that they tend learn how to sleep through the night at a faster pace.
#13. (Or, Just Ease Your Way In)
While the cry it out method has been shown to be an effective method of getting your child to sleep through the night, it’s still one that can cause great anguish. If you don’t feel comfortable with the methodology, or if you simply can’t bear the thought of hearing your baby wail for an extended period of time, don’t use the method.
Instead, you can choose to put together and adhere to a consistent sleep schedule. This is a more gradual process and you may find that it will train your baby to sleep through the night at a slower pace. However, this is perfectly okay if it means you’re not going to feel stressed out about things.
We hope you have enjoyed a look at some of the ways you can get your baby to sleep through the night. It’s important that these methodologies are shared, simply because trying to get your baby to not wake in bursts of loud slumber is one of the toughest aspects of new parenthood.
Even though everyone knows this, without support, it could be easy to feel alone.