As a mom of three, I’ve spent most of the last eight years thinking about how to get my kids to sleep. I’ll never forget how poorly I slept when I was pregnant because of the dancing baby in my belly. I longed for the first night of sleep after the baby was born. HA! Eight years later I’m still waiting for that full night of uninterrupted slumber, but I have some good hacks that get us pretty close.
My three children have very different sleep patterns. Some tactics that worked for one of them didn’t work for the other two. However, there are a few tips that really helped me throughout all of their infancies.
The most important piece of advice I can offer a new mom trying to figure out how to get her baby to sleep is this: The minute you think you have your baby’s sleep figured out and she is sleeping through the night, something will change, so be prepared! Maybe it’s a new tooth. Maybe she is overtired or sick. Or maybe she is growing. So go back to the basics and make sure you are using the following tools. They will maximize the chances that your baby may get some zzz’s which mean you, too, can actually sleep!!
The first step in baby’s sleep process is to make her feel comfortable before going to bed. My favorite way to do this is to swaddle. Nurses in the hospital are swaddling experts and can teach any new parent how to swaddle an infant. You will notice that once you cuddle a baby inside a soft swaddle blanket, the infant relaxes immediately. There several really good blankets on the market designed specifically for swaddling. As the child gets older, they can transition into a sleep sack.
This is important because the baby will recognize when bedtime is about to happen. You can read books, sing, rock the baby, or try any other relaxing activities that will encourage a peaceful setting. There are so many benefits to bedtime routines. They can be special times with your baby to connect after a busy day. Another added benefit is that bedtime routines carry on into the toddler and even preschool/school years. My daughters are seven and five and our sleep routine from infancy has not changed much. We start the process of preparing for bed in the same exact ways, at the same time, every night: change into pajamas, brush teeth, go potty, read books, sing songs, and lie down. Children love routines and routines help kids sleep.
A baby’s nursery is ideal when it’s a place they want to be. There are many ways to make a nursery peaceful. A dark room with a sound machine help our kids fall and stay, asleep. Ways to darken a room include installing blackout shades; a cheaper option is to hang black construction paper or even black garbage bags over the windows behind whatever regular blinds or curtains you have. This made a huge difference for us when the sun was still beating through the window as our babies slept.
Infants are not generally born with the ability to self-soothe, however, you can begin to teach them this immediately. Our three children all loved pacifiers and we found them super helpful in terms of getting the babies to calm themselves. Once they can grab the pacifier and put it back in their own mouth, it means that you do not have to get out of bed to soothe them! Our youngest baby didn’t have an immediate love for the paci but we continued to give it to him and now, at eleven months, it helps him sleep immensely. A lot of parents are worried about “how do you get rid of the pacifier.” That topic is for another post, but there are many tactics ranging from a “pacifier fairy” to going cold turkey. Bottom line: the paci is worth it! Don’t worry. Added tip: there are some new ones on the market that glow in the dark so you can find them easily in a dark room.
For older babies—over 4 to 6 months who can roll over—a small, sleep-safe stuffed animal or blankie can be another great self-soothing option. Be sure to double check the American Academy of Pediatrics safe sleep guidelines or your family doctor before introducing anything into your baby's sleep environment.
When your baby is sleeping, new parents often want to check on them. The two things that worked for our family to help this process was a night light (so you can see) and a door latch cover. The last thing you want to happen is to finally have your baby sleeping soundly and the latch of the door wake them up on your way out. You can duct tape the door latch or there are some covers on the market that work well, too. A night light that is out of sight of the child (maybe around the corner or on an opposite wall) can help you see in the dark while they sleep. And don’t forget about a monitor with night vision!
These tips have helped our children grow into very good sleepers as infants and now into childhood. Hope they help you, too!
Watch a live interview with Rebecca, as she discusses this very topic:
Rebecca Dixon is the General Manager of Mommybites, responsible for securing experts for classes, collaborations with brands, strategic planning, and business development. Prior to Mommybites, Rebecca co-founded BE Designs, a fashion design, and marketing company. Rebecca also worked in media advertising at CBS Television, Turner Broadcasting, and Carat USA for 8 years following her graduation from Vanderbilt University. Rebecca lives with her husband, their daughters, Eva and Lily Anise, and their son Major in Greenwich Village. She is also the co-chair of the Brooklyn affiliate of Horizons, an educational enrichment program serving low-income public school students.
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