What IS the magic solution for getting your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep? Unfortunately, there isn't one. Really, really, there isn't. The baby sleep Holy Grail, the magic answer, the quick fix ... it's a myth (and one that can lead new parents to feel like failures that they can't get it RIGHT). The key is finding what works for you and your baby ... and that can mean trying a lot of different strategies.
So when the new parents of the CanDo Kiddo Facebook page shared their TOP sleep tips, I definitely wanted to share. While there are many different perspectives, some common themes definitely emerge that can be very helpful!
The Importance of Naps for Baby's Night Sleep
"Protect the naps. It is so important that babies get good naps so make sure to plan things around naps. Sleep begets sleep so the better naps my little one takes the better he sleeps at night. If we miss a nap or it is shorter than usual, he is one cranky baby!"
"One thing I got from Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child is the idea of 'offering' sleep just like you would offer a feeding. We watch for signs of sleepiness during the day and 'offer' her sleep as soon as we spot them. [...] What I've found -- and what Weissbluth says, too -- is that if we catch her sleepiness early, it's much easier to get her to sleep than if we let it go too long and she gets cranky and overtired."
"Had I been more aware of her awake window, I would have tried to get her on a 'schedule' earlier and laid down routines for nap and bedtime earlier."
"Learning our baby's sleepy cues helped SO much. We realized he couldn't handle staying awake longer than 1.25-1.5 hrs long after the gurus said he should be able to do 2+."
"I learned that a period of wakefulness and soothing shouldn't last longer than 2 hours during the day (for infants). It worked really well for my daughter."
"If you can, really let your kids have a nap schedule and keep it quiet. I don't do chores while they sleep that are noisy. Maybe some laundry. Rested babies sleep better at night and don't get to the cranky point that makes bedtime a problem."
"I tried to not to travel at sleep time, within reason. It resonated with me that she was sleeping because she needed rest - and how well can one really sleep when in a mall. etc.?
Tricks For Helping Your Baby Fall Asleep
"Sometimes all it takes is being put in her crib, other times she wants to eat first or needs to be rocked a little before she can calm down enough to sleep."
"Swaddling has been so helpful."
"We also used the paci (had to hold it in his mouth, he wouldn't do it), swaddle, and rapid jiggling (the 5 S's - from The Happiest Baby on the Block) to help him be able to fall asleep without being held at 6 weeks. [...] We struggled a ton with sleep, but once he was able to fall asleep on his own, number and length of naps improved dramatically."
"Following the same routine every night (not a schedule). Baby chooses when to go to sleep (within the 7:30-9:30 window). I nurse 30 minutes before bedtime routine. We follow the same routine every night: dim lights, put on PJ's and sleep sack, read one bedtime story, say prayers, turn off light, one lullaby while slowly rocking on ball, followed by one lullaby while walking the room (if needed), baby placed in bed while still awake (barely so). Routine takes 15-20 minutes."
"Settling with a combo of Lavender and lullabies from Spotify does help (the more classical the better). Or put him in our bed where he can smell mum and dad, [...] then move back at 11pm feeding."
"Routines! We eat when daddy comes home from work, baby gets a bath, a bottle, then sleep. He knows the schedule and looks forward to it."
"We didn't do a lot of rocking or attention at bedtime. Babies were put into pajamas, fed, and put straight to be while awake. If they fussed, we patted them until they calmed down and left the room. If they fussed again, we repeated the patting. It only took a month or so before they could go to sleep without much effort. We dealt with night wakings by providing diapers and food in a dark room and put them right back to sleep (with patting if necessary). It worked to prevent major sleep problems at our house."
"Build 'sleep associations' from early on. We use white noise, swaddle, and his soft toy dog. [...]
Be aware of sleep cycles and be on hand to help transition to the next period of sleep in daytime naps (by rocking, etc. if needed)."
"When all else fails, calm with skin-to-skin. Have a bedtime routine, including pajamas for infants. Day sleeps in daylight and save dark rooms for night sleeps."
Dealing With Baby's Nighttime Wakings
"No night time diaper changes unless there is a poop."
"Learn the difference between her cries. Some crying is her trying to settle herself, other crying is distress / needs help to get to sleep."
"Allowing my little one to sleep in the exact same environment in which he'll wake helped him get back to sleep in the middle of the night. We wake twice to nurse at night. When I go in to nurse, I am loving and comforting, but I don't talk. I also don't turn on any lights."
"I recently figured out how to nurse sidelying, and that has helped a TON. I couldn't do it at first because twisting like that hurt after my C-section, but I wish I would have tried it again sooner."
Favorite Baby Sleep Products
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"Baby Merlin's Magic Sleepsuit for transitioning out of the swaddle."
"LOVE our sound machine. Runs all night. Tried the Sleep Sheep, but baby would wake when it turned off."
"Sleep sacks and sound machines!!!"
"Lavender and wild orange essential oils (diluted with coconut oil) rubbed on their feet at night! I use this on my 17mo twins!" **Check with your child's doctor about using essential oils with an infant. Some sources advise not to use oils topically on babies less than 3 months old due to the sensitivity of their skin.
"In New Zealand we have a homeopathic remedy called 'Sleep Drops' that I swear by [...] safe enough to use on a newborn!"
"Once S. was old enough, introducing a 'lovey' was one key thing we did that made his crib more appealing, allowed him to self soothe, and get us all longer stretches."
Most Helpful Baby Sleep Books
Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth
Moms On Call Basic Baby Care 0-6 Months by Laura Hunter and Jennifer Walker
The Wonder Weeks by Franz Plooij
The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp
Remember that reading a baby sleep book doesn't mean that you have to follow any or all of its recommendations. I found reading many different approaches to be extremely helpful for coming up with the approach that finally pulled us out of our baby sleep despair! As it turns out, even the approaches we typically think of as the most opposite don't disagree on everything and finding those commonalities where experts agree is hugely reassuring.
Keeping Flexibility and Perspective
"Sleep is always changing so go with the flow!"
"Being flexible. Our daughter's needs have changed with each developmental leap. Knowing when and how to recognize a leap has helped our sanity - so I highly recommend the book and app The Wonder Weeks."
"Being flexible - what worked once might not work again. So just staying in tune with baby's needs and not trying to force things helped me so much. And being nighttime partners with my spouse! I wake him up when I want him to help. He told me to, so I do, and it brings a little solidarity to the whole thing when you are in it together."
"Co-sleeping has been a godsend for us. My daughter has been sleeping through the night for a long time now, with an occasional midnight wake, but we all sleep very well until sunrise!"
"Not perhaps sound advice (haha) but when all else fails - BOOB!"
"The best advice I got was to not feel like you need to defend your choices or what works for your family. Unless you are coming over to manage bedtimes at our house, you may keep your opinions to yourself."
"I am pretty sure that most of the reasons she sleeps well are beyond our control - we've just gotten really lucky!"
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