As any new parent will agree, getting enough sleep is top priority. Meaning, getting baby to sleep better is top priority. But first, it’s important to remember that babies have different sleep cycles and different sleep needs than adults. Night-waking is inevitable for many months, and even has developmental benefits. But there are ways to make sleep more attractive for your baby, so that gradually he’ll start sleeping longer stretches.
1. Cool it down
Cooling your room down a bit, to around 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, may help baby sleep better. If you can’t adjust the temperature, just open the window or turn on the fan. If you want to shorten daytime naps, use this trick in reverse– just keep the room a little warmer. (But never put baby in an overheated room!)
2. Adjust the lights
Babies don’t know they should sleep through the night. Train your child’s internal body clock by dimming the lights towards bedtime, even if he’s not yet ready to sleep. This sends the signal that it’s time to slow down and prepare for sleep. Using the same principle, bring your baby out into the bright sunshine when she wakes up in the morning, and keep your baby’s room brightly lit in the daytime, even during naptime.
3. Use white noise
Is utter silence the only thing that keep baby asleep? Must you speak in whisper, turn off phone ringers, and tiptoe around once baby’s asleep? Actually, the sounds a baby is used to are womb sounds– the swoosh of fluids, digestive sounds, and even your voice, so a silent house can be disturbing. Instead, try playing soothing sounds, such as a nature music CD, a fan, or a TV turned to static. The bonus is, that if there are any sudden loud noises, your baby is less likely to be jolted awake!
4. Fill that tummy
Many babies naturally tend to cluster-feed toward the end of the day. This means that they want to eat more often. For example, if he tends to ask for milk every three hours, start feeding him every two hours after 5 p.m. Just don’t rush your baby to begin solids, thinking that this will fill his tummy better and cause him to sleep longer at night. The “stuffing baby at bedtime” syndrome does not work, and may backfire.
5. Try a massage
It would work for me, so why not baby? Studies show that babies fall asleep faster after a gentle massage. Just pour a little organic, baby-safe oil into your hands, rub palms together to warm it up, and slowly stroke his chest, limbs and back. Use moderate pressure, and try to maintain eye contact—not only is this a great sleep trick, it’s a wonderful way to build your parent-child bond.
Have you ever seen a newborn suddenly fling his arms and legs out, startling himself awake? Swaddling your baby makes him feel safe and snug, and helps him sleep better.
7. Resist the urge to play
Do pick up your baby when he starts to cry in the middle of the night. It’s a crucial stage for building his sense of safety and trust, knowing that when he calls for help, his needs are met. But here’s the secret: don’t make eye contact. Baby gets excited when he sees his mother’s face- his blood pressure and his heart rate increases. So comfort him but resist his efforts to play.
8. Avoid unnecessary wakings
Newborns will wake up at night to fill their tiny tummies. But well-meaning parents often wake them up unnecessarily. For example, it’s okay to skip diaper changes at night as long as your child is just wet and doesn’t have a rash. If it makes you feel better, use extra-absorbent diapers and a protective layer of cream. There’s also no great need to burp baby after feedings, since babies tend to drink more slowly and peacefully at night, thereby ingesting less air.
9. Get a swing
Babies love movement, and it does help to lull them back to sleep. But instead of rocking your baby to and fro all night long, get a baby swing to do the work for you. Many baby swings also have a “vibrate” function that is calming for colicky babies.
10. Keep baby close
Even if you use a baby monitor, having your little one sleeping down the hall creates difficulties in quick soothing. It’s best to have baby as close as possible, so that the moment he starts to fuss you can calm him down and everyone can get back to sleep. A bassinet by your bed, co-sleeper, or even having baby in bed with you are great for nighttime parenting. For the nursing mother, baby can easily latch on and everyone drifts off back to sleep, barely even waking at all!