How to Put a Baby to Sleep
One of the most exhausting parts of becoming a new parent is the lack of sleep that generally comes with having a newborn. While those first few weeks and months may be overwhelming and leave you feeling out of control, the sooner you can get into a bedtime routine when you put a baby to sleep, the sooner that baby will develop good nighttime habits that benefit both her and her parents. Start with these tips for a good night’s sleep for both of you:
1. Create a Soothing Environment
Think about how much better you sleep when the conditions in your bedroom are just right. With this in mind, you want to put a baby to sleep in a nursery that is soothing and comfortable. Before you start your new bedtime routine, follow this checklist to ensure your nursery is a place that promotes sleeping:
- Make sure the room is at a comfortable temperature — not too hot and not too cold.
- Some babies sleep better with a little background noise, so consider adding a white noise machine, radio, or fan.
- The room doesn’t have to be completely dark, but any bright lights should be dimmed. You may consider adding a small nightlight.
- Your baby should have a new high-quality mattress that is firm yet comfortable in her crib.
- Make sure the mattress is covered with a clean fitted sheet. You shouldn’t put a baby to sleep with a blanket or other bedding until after the first year.
- Don’t add any toys or stuffed animals to the crib. It’s not only a safety hazard, but it can distract your baby.
2. Don’t Rock Your Baby to Sleep
It’s temping to snuggle up with your little one in a rocking chair before bed, and while that’s fine, you should never put a baby to sleep while she is still outside of the bed. You can rock her until she’s drowsy, but make sure she’s actually in the crib when she falls asleep. Otherwise, she’ll come to expect you to rock her every night. If she does accidentally fall asleep while rocking, playing, or riding in a stroller, place her in her crib immediately.
3. Consider a Nighttime Bath
Need a little extra help soothing your baby at night? Consider a bath just before bedtime. The water and the touch that comes along with bathing is soothing enough to help your baby wind down at the end of the day. Some say using chamomile or lavender bath products can help calm your little one even more during bath time.
4. Make Sure She is Comfortable
After that bath, make sure you dress her in comfortable clothing. Never put a baby to sleep in anything that is too tight or too lose. You’ll also want to consider the temperature in the nursery. Babies who get overheated at night don’t sleep well, and more importantly, they are at a greater risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
5. Don’t Get a Late Start
Some parents assume that they shouldn’t put a baby to sleep unless she is exhausted, and this couldn’t be further from the truth. Unfortunately, this idea leads to behaviors such as staying up too late, being more active at night, and waiting until the baby is overly cranky for bedtime. All of these can make it nearly impossible to put a baby to sleep without a fight. Instead, provide your baby with a full and active day, and stick to a daily and nightly routine for good sleep results.
6. Never Go to Bed Hungry
If you’ve ever awoken in the night to a growling stomach, you know just how painful and miserable it can be to go to bed hungry. This feeling applies to infants too. Never put a baby to sleep without feeding her first. A warm bottle or time spent breastfeeding can easily be a part of your soothing nighttime routine. However, don’t let your baby fall asleep while she’s eating. Just like rocking her to sleep, she’ll come to expect it each night and won’t be able to fall asleep without it.
7. Create a Bedtime Ritual
Baths, bottles, a story, a quiet activity — whatever you choose to do to help your little one wind down at night, keep it up. Use the same words and phrases while you do it. This provides clues to your baby that it’s time for bed. Eventually, she’ll come to associate certain activities with going to bed, and that may help her fall asleep and stay asleep easily.
8. Avoid Too Much Excitement at Night
Just don’t get too excited during that bedtime ritual. Keep your voice lowered, avoid noisy toys, and again, dim the lights. During your last few waking moments together before you put a baby to sleep, read a story or listen to quiet music instead. it’s also best to avoid eye contact when holding your little one just before bedtime. When you look into each other’s eyes, your baby may feel persuaded to stay awake to play and spend more time with you. Nighttime should always be calm and peaceful — you may even find that you sleep better when you create this type of environment in your home.
9. What to Do If She Cries
You’ve followed all of the tips so far, but no matter what you do, your baby still cries when you put her into her crib. Start by leaving the room. Give her a few minutes to clam down. Much of the time, you’ll find that when you put a baby to sleep, she’ll cry for a minute and then drift off into dreamland. If she is still crying after three to four minutes, step back into the nursery and console her without holding her. Rub her stomach (you should always put a baby to sleep on her back to help prevent SIDS). Make soothing sounds. Allow her to see you standing there. Stick around for a few minutes and then leave again. Try it a few more times if necessary.
10. Be Consistent and Realistic
No matter what routine you create to put a baby to sleep, the key is to be consistent and don’t expect magic to happen on the first or even the second night. While babies are quick to learn routines, it may still take a few days or weeks to get there. And if your baby is under three months old, remember that the need to eat frequently will prevent her from sleeping through the night. The best thing you can do it keep up that routine until it works and be willing to make any necessary adjustments along the way.
If you’re conflicted about what type of routine to create, think about what you like when you go to bed. A calm environment, comfortable clothing, a full stomach, quiet time, a few minutes spent reading or listening to music, and a good mood are all usually a part of that. At the end of the day, your baby is just a smaller version of you who appreciates the same conditions. Learning what they are can set you both up for a lifetime of healthy sleeping patterns.