How to get a baby to sleep sounds quite simple really. All we need to do is follow these easy steps:
- Create a sleep-inducing environment in your room or the nursery.
- Follow a short sleep routine of steps you will follow before each sleep period.
- Feed your baby.
- End your sleep routine consistently.
- Lay your baby down in his or her sleep space slightly awake.
- Allow your baby to try to fall asleep independently.
Simple, right? If only it was that simple. For some babies, it will be, but others aren’t so easy. Let’s get into the nitty gritty about what needs to happen in each step to make sure you are successful in putting your baby to sleep.
What is a sleep-inducing environment for your baby? Your baby will sleep best in a room that is 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit and not over-dressed in too many layers. Your baby’s skin should be cool to the touch, but not frigid. Your baby should not be sweaty nor clammy. Being too warm can lead to more waking at night. In addition, you may want to consider turning on white noise for your baby to promote sleeping longer at night. Darkening the room at nap time could also help.
A consistent sleep routine can also help your baby fall asleep easier and faster. The sleep routine doesn’t have to be long, usually. 10-15 minutes is typical until your baby is a toddler. Toddlers ironically tend to lengthen routines rather than shorten them. The sleep routine typically involves changing their diaper, putting on pajamas, putting on a sleep sack, a feeding, read a book or two, and some soothing. The important part of the sleep routine is that it’s about the same each time, not the specific steps. You can make your sleep routine unique to your baby.
Feeding Your Baby
Most bedtime routines include a feeding, which helps tank your baby up at night and reduces night feedings until your baby is ready to night-wean. If you are breastfeeding, keep in mind that many mothers have a lower supply at the end of the day, so you may want to cluster feed in the hours leading up to bedtime, depending on the age of your baby. The important part about the feeding portion of your bedtime routine is, ideally, you do NOT feed your baby to sleep.
The last thing to keep in mind about your sleep routine and putting your baby to sleep is that your routine should end the same way each time, ideally with your baby awake. The end of the routine can be a feeding, but ideally, it would be something you can repeat, if necessary, such as saying “Time to sleep sweet angel. Mommy loves you. Night night.” or by turning on a projection or crib toy or sining a certain lullaby. Whatever you do is probably fine, just make sure it is something you can repeat 5-10 minutes later if your baby happens to struggle with falling asleep that particular time, even if it’s weeks after you’ve finished sleep training your baby. Everyone has an “off” day.
Lay Your Baby Down Awake
You’ve probably read it several times: Lay your baby down drowsy, but awake. If your baby is awake when laid down, he or she will be able to master the skill of going TO sleep, so they can learn to go BACK to sleep, which is what enables them to sleep through the night. If your baby is asleep when you lay him or her down, they are much more likely to wake frequently at night to be put back to sleep over and over again. This is the #1 reason babies wake up at night.
Not sure why your baby wakes at night? Learn 15 Reasons Your Baby Wakes at Night.
Falling Asleep Independently (aka self-soothing or self-settling)
Once you’ve laid your baby down drowsy, but awake, you want to let him or her try to fall asleep independently. This is also known as allowing your baby to learn how to self-soothe or self-settle. It’s at this point that many babies begin to fuss or cry. With practice, your baby can learn how to fall asleep on their own, though it’s not always a quick and easy process. This is what we help families with every single day, developing a unique strategy for your baby in one of our Personalized Sleep Plans®. How you approach sleep training depends on your baby’s temperament and personality, your parenting philosophy and tolerance for crying, and other factors. Decide on a strategy and stick with it for 3-4 nights and then re-evaluate.
How you put your baby to sleep doesn’t have to be complicated, though it’s not easy for all babies, of course. Otherwise, The Baby Sleep Site® wouldn’t exist!