The number one thing all new parents want to know is how to get their baby to sleep through the night.
Am I right?!
If you’re a new parent and have landed here then, chances are, you too are scrambling to figure out how to get your teeny tiny human to go to sleep and stay asleep for longer periods of time.
Sleep deprivation is no joke and can leave even the toughest, most resilient of individuals feeling mentally, physically and emotionally depleted.
Whether this is your first, second or third child, you’ve come to the right place!
Full disclosure: I am not a sleep expert, doctor nor a child physiologist.
But… I am a mother of three who had all her babies sleeping 11 to 12 hours straight through the night and in their own crib by the 12 week mark.
If that sounds like something you’d like too then read on as I share 5 easy and practical tips that will lead to better sleep for baby and better rest for the whole family.
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This advice will not only get your baby sleeping through the night ASAP but will lay the foundation for better, longer sleep throughout their toddler, preschool and elementary years, as well.
My kids, currently ages 8, 7 and 5 are all still really good sleepers both at home and on vacation.
How to Get Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night
Establish a Daytime Routine
Children and adults alike love a routine. They crave structure and feel safe when schedules are set and boundaries and rules are established and followed.
Think about your own self. Do you have a morning routine? Do you like to know, for the most part, what your day is going to look like? Doesn’t life feel so much more organized and calm when you have a plan in place?
For most of us, the answer to those questions is YES. Of course we do!
Likewise, providing a mostly consistent routine from day to day for your infant will help them know what to expect and what is expected of them.
This will allow them and you to be more relaxed throughout the day.
No schedule is perfect and what works for the family next door may not work for you. But take some time to sit down and decide what YOU want YOUR day to look like.
I recommend writing it out. Then, do your best to stick with it.
Keep in mind that there always needs to be room for flexibility. Babies (and life in general) are unpredictable and sometimes even the best-laid plans need to be forgotten or reworked due to unforeseen circumstances.
Plus, the more kids you have, the harder it is to stick to a concrete schedule.
That’s okay. If today gets totally derailed then there is always tomorrow. Just wake up and try again.
For the most part, I tried to stick with a feed, play, sleep cycle with the following tips in mind.
Tips for Establishing a Daytime Routine
- Start and end each day around the same time (give or take 30 minutes)
- Do your best to stick to a feeding schedule, every 2 to 3 hours to start
- It’s okay to let baby fuss some in order to get to the next feeding time
- Try and put them down for at least one nap in their own room/crib
- Know that some naps will be in a stroller or car seat
- Try to put them down for their naps around the same time each day
- Establish a nighttime routine that sets the evening apart from the rest of the day (see below)
Establish a Nighttime Routine
Set the stage for nighttime by consistently practicing a sequence of events that lets baby know it is time for bed.
Give them a warm bath, read them a story, sing them a song and/or say prayers before laying them down for the night.
You do not need to do all of these things to be successful. Pick maybe one or two and start them at a certain time each evening (give or take 30 minutes) to better regulate the child’s circadian rhythm.
Again, this allows baby to know what to expect and what’s expected of them when nighttime rolls around.
My nighttime schedule began around 6 or 6:30 pm each night and looked like this:
- Feed the baby table food (if old enough)
- Warm bubble bath with calming lavender soap
- New diaper and pajamas (swaddle if appropriate)
- Nurse or give baby a bottle in rocker with lights off/dimmed
- Read a book (I started this around 1 year of age)
- Sing a quick night-night song
- Put baby down in their crib
Side note: I also recommend a miniature version of this for daytime napping. Maybe change the baby into pajamas and sing them the same nighttime song before their nap. It’s not nearly as involved as the evening routine but still enough to let baby know it’s time to sleep.
You may be thinking, that seems like an awful long bedtime routine.
And… you are correct!
For one child, it was fine and precious. Once the second and third rolled around, however, we realized the routine was way too much to do for all three kids every night.
Thus, we started doing baths every other night and made an effort to read more during the day so we could cut out the nighttime story.
Whatever you choose, having a bedtime routine cues kids that it’s time to settle down and rest for the night. The key is to be consistent in what you do and when you start doing it.
Leave Room for Flexibility
With that being said, it is important to know that you need to leave room for flexibility. Plans will change, routines will get interrupted, kids will be sick and cranky.
The key is to just do your best. Being more scheduled and regimented in the beginning is more important to lay the foundation for good, consistent sleep in the long run.
Don’t fret, parents… you will not be trapped in your homes starting at 6 pm forever.
However, making personal sacrifices as a parent early on to ensure your child gets the rest they need sets the stage for a lifetime of healthy sleep habits. Not to mention, the entire home will be more peaceful and refreshed because of it.
Use a Sound Machine
On the list of top ten practical things all parents need for their baby is a sound machine. In fact, it may be number one in my book.
Sound machines are a life saver. From the first day home from the hospital, I used them on all three of my kids with great success.
Why are they so awesome?
The white noise of a sound machine drowns out other sudden and disturbing noises coming from both inside the house (rowdy siblings, barking dogs, clanging pots and pans) and outside the house (honking cars, garbage trucks, lawnmowers, construction workers).
It also provides a steady stream of gentle sound that helps babies fall asleep and slay asleep by neutralizing all those other small, potentially disturbing noises. For example, a mom creeping into the nursery to get the phone she forgot, an air conditioning unit buzzing to life or a thunderstorm in the distance.
My kids, now all older and in elementary school, still use a sound machine at night. My husband and I got so accustomed to hearing the white noise through the baby monitor that we, too, now use a sound machine app on our phones at night.
You can even take the white noise on-the-go with a portable sound machine that can clip to a car seat or stroller.
Offer a Dream Feed
With all my children, I would try my best to put them down for the night around 7 pm and then offer them a dream feed around 10 pm (or three hours later) before my husband and I went to bed.
A dream feed is when you feed your baby without fully waking them up. With the help of a soft night light and a sound machine, you tiptoe into their room, gently pick them up, and attempt to nurse or bottle feed them while they are still sleeping.
I would quietly change their diaper and swaddle them again before offering a feeding to rouse them enough to eat but not enough to be completely awake.
That way, when the feeding is over, they are dry, snuggled in tight and ready to be placed back in their crib.
How do you know when to drop the dream feed?
My kids always got to a point close to the 3 month mark where I would attempt a dream feed but, no matter what I did, they would not be receptive. They would not latch or suck or would make a very weak attempt to drink.
At that point I knew it was time to attempt skipping it. I would continue to try dream feeding for about a week following this pattern but, if they continued to be uninterested and they were sleeping through the night, I knew we were done with the dream feed.
Encourage Self Soothing
Perhaps the most controversial topic in the parenting world is whether or not to let your baby cry when trying to fall asleep.
It’s a tough one, I know. Mothers especially have an extremely difficult time hearing their baby cry and not responding. It sets our heart racing and sends us into panic mode.
But… if your worn out and downright exhausted, perhaps it may help to look at it from another angle.
Babies cry. That’s normal. In the beginning, they have virtually no other way of communicating with us. They cry when they are hungry, wet, soiled, startled, gassy, cold, and sometimes for no good reason at all. They also cry when they are tired.
Don’t think of it as you abandoning your child in a time of need. Think of it as you providing your child with the opportunity to fall asleep on their own.
Does that mean you let them cry forever?
No, absolutely not. Everyone has their limit. Mine was 20 minutes. That probably seems like an eternity to some. I get it. But, usually after 20 minutes, I could tell whether or not my baby’s cries were calming down or ramping up.
If the cry was staying the same or getting more persistent, I went in and tried soothing them.
If the cry was slowing down or showing a pattern of starting and stopping, I would let them continue.
Way more often than not, they fell asleep shortly thereafter!
Of course, this was all being done with the help of a video monitor to ensure baby was safe.
Also, I highly recommend keeping yourself busy while keeping an eye on the monitor.
Fold that laundry, wash those dishes, attempt to read a book to your other child(ren). Do anything except sit and stare at the monitor. That will make 20 minutes seem like 20 hours.
Think Long Term
It helps to think long term in this scenario, too. In fact, it helps to think bigger picture in all aspects of parenting.
Sleep training is tough. But, if you stick with it and power through, it typically does not take very long at all. Plus, what you gain from it is priceless. Better sleep for baby means more rest for you and your household.
I have used and referenced all the sleep books in the above links but perhaps Babywise and The Sleepeasy Solution the most.
Last, if you need to hear it from a mom who has been through it three times… all my children are just fine. They do not feel neglected or unloved because I let them cry when they were newborns.
Not at all. In fact, them sleeping longer made me a more rested, relaxed and happier mama. It gave me more energy and patience during the day to be more interactive and attentive when they were awake.
Is it easy?
But is it worth it?
I would love to hear your comments on this subject and be more than happy to answer any questions!