Nearly every parent struggles with getting a baby to sleep and stay asleep. Parents may be fortunate enough to experience periods where a baby drifts off easily and wakes several hours later. There are also times when a baby deviates from a sleep pattern due to growth spurts, teething, illness, and other developmental milestones.
Basic sleep tips are often all that is needed to get a baby to go to sleep and stay asleep.
Realizing that what works for one infant may not work for another is the first step in overcoming sleep troubles. Parents need to work on one sleep method instead of trying mixed techniques within a few days of each other.
Ideal Sleep Conditions
Some babies sleep regardless of the conditions of the surrounding environment. Babies still learning how to get to sleep and stay asleep may be bothered by various environmental characteristics. Parents can set the stage by creating a soothing environment every time the baby is put to bed. Low lighting, closing the shades, or turning on a night light signal to baby that it is time to sleep when done on a consistent basis. Parents will have to evaluate the infant’s response to darkness or light when sleeping. Some babies, even at a young age, prefer a little light while others need complete darkness even for a nap.
Complete silence is considered a necessity by some baby sleep gurus. However, others believe a baby who learns to sleep despite regular noise will be a better sleeper long-term. Parents can try a lullaby CD or similar white-noise machine that shuts off after 15 to 20 minutes. Allowing sounds to play for the duration of a baby’s sleep period can result in the baby waking as soon as silence occurs.
A baby should be dressed comfortably and allowed to sleep in a room that is neither hot nor cold. To prevent sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS, a baby should be in a sleeper or well-fitting pajama. Covering the infant with blankets or keeping the room too hot can increase the risk of SIDS.
Baby Bedtime Routine
A new baby will appreciate routines established by the caregivers. This includes a bedtime routine. In the beginning, it may seem as if the routine does not make getting baby to sleep any easier, but with repetition, the infant will learn. Try a routine that includes feeding the baby, giving her a bath, rubbing him with lotion, reading a book, snuggling for a few minutes, and then placing him in his sleep space. Tell him it is bedtime or uses some other verbal cue every time he is put to bed.
Baby Sleep Props
Some experts and even parents agree that a sleep prop can inhibit the development of a sleep routine for babies. Even if the intention is to use the props for only a short time, the baby may go back to having poor sleep habits when she loses her prop.
Examples of common baby sleep props include the pacifier, special blanket, or a stuffed toy. Some props are called “lovies” or “night-nights.” Early in life, a baby has trouble soothing herself. These props may help with that problem. Over time the baby may give the prop up on her own, or she may struggle a bit when parents decide the prop is no longer appropriate.
Sleep Training Methods
The number of sleep training methods available for babies is quite large. Some methods are very similar to one another, and others are outliers, or significantly different from the rest. A popular method of sleep training a baby is one that allows the baby to cry it out until sleep occurs. Other methods require the parents to set a period of time where the baby is allowed to cry before she is soothed again. Gradually the time of crying is increased, and soothing by the parents occurs less frequently.
A different variation of this method incorporates parental proximity. The parent may sit near the crib and wait for the baby to calm herself to sleep. With each passing night, the parent will move the chair further away from the crib but remain where the baby can see mom or dad. No one sleep method is superior to another. What works for one family or baby may not work for the next.
Getting an Over-Tired Baby to Sleep
When a baby becomes overtired, she isn’t likely to fall asleep easily. This is a lesson some parents learn the hard way. Skipping a nap or allowing the baby to stay up later than normal may seem like an easy fix for rough bedtime battles but allowing the baby to get this tired can have negative consequences.
Once a baby is over-tired, parents should opt to do whatever it takes to get her to sleep. The next day a regular routine should be established or re-established to prevent the infant from becoming over-tired again.