Almost every parent wonders, “How can I get my baby to sleep longer?” It is not uncommon for a baby, from birth to one year, to wake during the night, or to wake many times during the night. There are, however, a few tricks that can really help you, and your baby, get more sleep:
Tip #1: Change the way you are viewing your baby’s sleep
Instead of thinking, “Why, why, why?”, try thinking in a more positive light! “How great is it that my baby falls asleep really well?”, “My baby is really a great nurser.”, “My little one is very snugly, and I know that this might change one day”. It is easy to get caught up in the negative, especially when we are sleep deprived. Spending time every day focusing on what you love about your baby, will help build confidence and patience, which is key to peaceful sleep. As an added bonus, when you are looking for the positive in your child, you may find some positive traits about you!
Tip #2: Prioritize and make time to be a parent.
Instead of having a list of all the things you could be doing right now, focus on what you are doing. You are raising and caring for a new baby. You are developing the skills of a mother or father. You are building confidence, trust, and a bonding love between you and your little one. The dishes can wait, the work email can wait, be present in the NOW, be present with your baby. Most parents find that the duties of parenthood are most stressful when they feel like they should or could be doing something else. By simply making it okay with yourself to be in the room, helping your little one to fall asleep, you will make the whole process easier and happier. Your baby can sense your stress, and it will only make them feel stressed. We all know how hard it is to fall peacefully asleep when we are stressed.
Tip #3: Create a sleep ritual
I do not care for the word “routine”, it sounds so disconnected. The word ritual, however, sounds pleasant, and open to change. By creating a ritual, you are helping your little one to know and expect what comes next. Too many times parents wait until right at bedtime, or when their little one is already very sleepy, before they start putting them to sleep. Having a ritual that you follow encourages your baby’s natural sleep hormones to increase, allowing him or her to relax peacefully into sleep. You will also notice that sleep time no longer feels rushed and that you are not hurrying to get your little one to sleep. You are peacefully taking time to connect at the end of the day. A simple ritual can be a massage, a song or book, and then nursing or snuggling. This can work for older children as well.
Tip #4: Accept where your baby is at.
“Sleeping through the night” is considered a sleeping continuously for 5 hours at a time, or more. Not all babies will sleep through the night at 6 weeks. Most babies will need to feed at least once a night until around a year of age. Keeping this in perspective, you can better accept where your baby is at, and not try to push them to an unrealistic goal. Hoping your 4 month old will sleep 10 hours straight is not always realistic, in fact, most the time it is not.
Tip #5: Be flexible, every day may be different.
One day your baby may fall easily to sleep, and sleep 4 hours straight, the next they may fuss more and only sleep for 2. You need to be flexible with them, as well as with yourself. When you follow your sleep ritual, and your little one is still fussy, there may be another issue at play. Teething, growing, milestone developments, or a busy day can all create a desire for more contact with you! Holding your baby, rocking them to sleep or nursing them through the night, is not considered a failure, it is considered conscious parenting. In a schedule driven, competitive world, it is easy to get caught up in what other people tell you to do or expect. Stay true to yourself and your parenting beliefs, and allow room for change.
Tip #6: Closer is better, especially with a newborn.
There is no right or wrong place for all babies to sleep. Wherever you feel best about baby sleeping is usually the right place. For newborns, it is best to have them close by, so that you can respond to them quickly. For some parents, this means having them in the same bed and for others it is in a bassinet close by. Wherever your little one sleeps, be sure to respond to them each time, so that the bond of trust is there, helping them to know that you are there to care for them and protect them.
Tip #7: White noise is your friend.
It can be a noise maker, a fish tank, or the low hum of a fan. White noise, or background noise, has been shown to help babies fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. As your little one grows, the need for white noise will likely lessen.
Tip #8: Get your little one used to having your partner put them to sleep.
As wonderful as it is to know that you are the one who can quickly get your little one to sleep, it is helpful to have your partner be part of the bedtime routine often. This will help on nights/days when you are unavailable, or when someone else is caring for your baby. This also helps to build parenting confidence in your partner, helping them to see their strengths as a sleep inducer as well.