If you’ve spent any time online searching for ways to get your baby some longer stretches of sleep, you’ve probably already read about various sleep training methods, how important an appropriate sleep environment is in your baby’s nursery, and how creating a consistent bedtime routine can help your little one fall asleep more quickly. But did you know there are other things you can do to help baby sleep through the night?
Here’s some more good news: You don’t have to wait until your little one reaches a certain age to implement these tips. That’s right, there are strategies you can start when baby is as young as 6 weeks old. And remember, whichever strategy you use, you’ll have better success by being consistent. Let’s take a look at them.
Differentiate between daytime and nighttime feeds
Infant sleep expert Natalie Willes suggests families keep daytime feeds that occur after 7:00 or 8:00am until bedtime in rooms with as much direct sunlight as possible. “When you are feeding your baby, try to keep them alert if possible, then have some active play time,” says Natalie. “Younger babies and newborns may be ready to nap as soon as 50-60 minutes after waking up, so aim to get them back to sleep using any method other than feeding as soon as they start showing signs of tiredness, like yawning or eye rubbing. If baby is eating overnight, keep those feeds happening in a room with little to no light and maintain the white noise if you’re using it. If baby requires a diaper change, put on a fresh diaper before the night feeding begins.”
Practice letting baby fall asleep on their own
From as early as 6 to 8 weeks, you can help your baby learn to doze off on their own by putting them down when they are calm and awake. Once you know your baby is ready to sleep, walk into the room they’ll be sleeping in, turn off the lights, turn on a white noise machine, and walk calmly around the room for about 30-45 seconds. Then, place baby down in their crib and keep your hand on their chest for a few minutes. If they begin to fuss, see if you can calm them without picking them up. With enough practice and consistency, this strategy can train baby to fall asleep without needing you to rock or breastfeed them. They can then access this skill set to put themselves back to sleep when they wake overnight.
Enlist some help from your partner
When your baby is old enough to skip a 3am feed (or even earlier if you’re bottle feeding), you can enlist your partner to help soothe your little one back to sleep when they wake up. If your kiddo has become dependent on a feeding to fall back asleep, even though they’re old enough to not need it, this can be a great strategy to help break that habit.
Get to know your baby so you can identify and fix problems quickly
The sooner you can figure out why your baby is awake and solve the issue, the sooner you’ll both be back in dreamland. So, try to spend as much time as you can during the day connecting with them and learning their needs and how they communicate them to you. Also, spend time deciphering what signs baby gives when they are ready to sleep. Knowing their sleep cues will help you get them down to sleep easily for bedtime and for naps.
If you and your pediatrician have identified that baby is old enough to learn to fall asleep completely on their own for both naps and bedtime (aka sleep training), explore the different methods and options available to help you learn how to help baby learn this new skill. “While you may have read about the term ‘Cry It Out’ (CIO) online or in books, keep in mind that it is not synonymous with the term ‘sleep training,’” says Natalie. Put simply, sleep training involves putting a child down awake for naps and bedtime without any sleep props and allowing them to fall asleep on their own. “Learning this new skill isn’t easy for most babies, and most babies will often cry to express their frustration. However, done properly and with the guidance of widely available resources online or with the help of a sleep coach, sleep training can help your baby learn to sleep soundly through the night in less time and with fewer tears than you fear.”
We sincerely hope one or more of these strategies help your baby sleep through the night, every night. But remember, your little one’s ability to sleep through the night will have a lot to do with his age—the older they are, the longer they’ll sleep. So, whichever approach or approaches you use, it’s important to pack your patience and match your expectations to your baby’s stage of development.