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How Can I Trick My Baby To Sleep?

Getting a baby to sleep is not an easy feat. They're fussy, crying, and unwilling to get some shuteye and seem like they'll do whatever they can to stay awake. So it's time to pull out any tricks from your parenting arsenal and get that little one sleeping.

Ask any new parent what they crave more than anything else, and they'll probably say a good night's sleep'. While newborn babies are programmed (and need) to wake up several times in the night, there are some really easy tricks that you can do to help them towards the land of nod.

Whether it's setting the mood, getting your little one in the right mindset or receiving some assistance from a clever little gadget, here are a few ways to help you and your baby get some more shut-eye.

12 Baby-Sleep Tips For Exhausted New Parents

We asked the sleep experts to share their best tricks for newborn babies (and their parents!) to get some shut-eye.

  1. Invest in blackout curtains or make your own. You might not need them during the newborn stage, but they’ll be so worth it later on.
  2. Some parents swear by infant massage strokes and even gently wiping a tissue over baby’s face to help calm them down and make them sleep— hey, whatever works!
  3. Muffle that maddening door click by looping a thick rubber band between both door knobs to form an X shape over the latch. Stealthy!
  4. Move the baby to a crib without waking them: —Watch their eyes. If your baby’s eyes are darting under their lids, they’re in a deep sleep. Wait until their muscles are relaxed and they’re breathing deeply. Then administer the floppy-arm test: Lift an arm and drop it. If the baby doesn’t stir, you’re good to go. —As you ever-so-gently lay them in their crib, keep one hand on their back and the other on their tummy. That continued pressure will ease the transition. If they startle, try patting their belly before you slink away. —Try to maintain whatever position they’re in as you pick them up and put them down. Lay your baby flat (not head first) into the crib. Use a step-stool if you need the extra lift.
  5. Watch for newborns’ wakeful periods. They’re usually only 30 to 60 minutes in the first four months of life; put them to sleep as soon as they seem tired.
  6. Change your baby’s diaper before the nighttime feed to minimise arousing them. And unless your baby has pooped or soaked through their diaper, you probably don’t want to change them in the middle of the night to keep them in that sleepy state—especially if they’re only waking to feed.
  7. When you get up for a nighttime feed, don’t turn on the bright lights. Buy an LED push night light that operates on batteries (so you can put it wherever you need it) and turns it on with a quick touch. This also helps reduce the “wake-up” signals going to the parent and baby’s brains, so it’s easier to fall back to sleep after feeding.
  8. Put a hot water bottle in the bassinet or crib, which will warm it up and can sometimes make the transfer from your arms to bed a little easier. (Don’t forget to remove the hot water bottle before the baby is in!)
  9. Babies are born without a well-developed circadian rhythm— they’re awake in the middle of the night, and you can’t fix that, at least for the first few months. Plan for this by sleeping in shifts with your partner or support person.
  10. If your baby is sleeping in your room (as per the Canadian Paediatric Society recommendation), you’ll want to be able to get yourself into bed without waking them up. Use a white noise machine, and do all your bedtime prep out of the bedroom, “so you’re just ninja-ing in.”
  11. If they fall asleep in your arms during the day, don’t worry about putting them in a crib or bassinet. Put them down somewhere safe, which may even be the floor. (Not applicable if you have dogs or toddlers at home!) And if you’re feeling very tired, be careful you don’t fall asleep with a baby on you.
  12. Enjoy this period of portable naps. Sit at the coffee shop with your baby sleeping at your feet. “Enjoy your mobility while you can because there will be three years when you can’t.”

FAQs About Baby Sleep

Assuming your baby's circadian rhythm is scheduled at 6 A.M., wake up, then her body starts to secrete cortisol three hours before that. And at this point, the melatonin production has ceased for the night. So the baby hits the end of a sleep cycle around 3:00.

Later, frequent night wakings can be caused by anything from a growth spurt or teething pain to memories of an especially fun day. Night wakings are part of life with a baby and nothing to worry about, though there's plenty you can do to keep them brief and less frequent.

Around four months old. Your baby will usually be able to sleep through from 7 pm to 7 am at around four months old, weighing around 15-16lb, and you can drop the feed altogether.

If your child is waking at 5 am, it is very likely she is still tired and can barely make it 1.5-2 hours before she needs a nap. If you are putting her down before 7:30/8 am for a nap, her first nap of the day is essentially being lumped in with what should have been nighttime sleep.

As long as your child is getting enough sleep (check out our age-by-stage sleep chart), an early or late bedtime is fine as long as it suits your family's schedule. Sleeping from 9 pm to 8 am might be perfectly normal for a baby in one family while sleeping from 6 pm to 5 am is the norm in another.

The Best Baby Sleep Tips Ever

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Sleep experts share their top tricks for putting your little one to bed. Get ready: You're about to take back your nights.

So you've stepped past delirium and are about to completely lose your mind from lack of sleep. Don't worry. All the new parents have been there. Here are our top expert-approved baby sleep tips.

Spring Into Action At The First Sign Of Sleepiness.

Timing is critical. Tuning into your baby's natural biological rhythms—by reading her telltale drowsy signs—ensures that when she's placed in her crib, melatonin (the powerful sleep hormone) is elevated in her system, and her brain and body will be primed to drift off with little fuss. 

If you wait too long, however, your infant can become overtired so that she will have lower melatonin levels. Still, her brain will begin to release wakefulness hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. This makes it difficult for your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep and can lead to early wake-ups.

So don't miss these cues: When your little one is still, quiet, disinterested in her surroundings, and staring off into space, melatonin is peaking in her system, and it's time to go to bed.

Drown Out Sound...With Sound.

Blackout shades and a white-noise machine transform a nursery into a womb-like environment—and muffle the noise and light from outside. Half of a baby's sleep is REM, or rapid eye movement. 

This is the light-sleep stage in which dreams occur, so it can seem as if almost anything will wake him: Your phone rings in the living room, you laugh too loudly at your Netflix show, you pull a tissue out of the box. 

But that is less likely to happen with a white-noise machine running because the background noise covers it all. Some have timers, but we prefer the plugin ones, so they stay on all night. 

We tell parents to test the volume by having one person stand outside the doors and talk. The white machine should silence the voice but not drown it completely.

Don't Give Up On Swaddling.

It's the first piece of advice we give to new parents, and they often say, 'I tried swaddling, and my baby hated it.' But sleep changes so rapidly in those early weeks that what she hates at four days might work at four weeks. 

And you'll get better with practice too. It's common to swaddle the first few times loosely or feel flustered if your baby is wailing. It's worth another shot, as long as she is still too young to roll over. 

Try different swaddles, which wrap snugly around, or the Swaddle Up, which lets your baby keep her hands up by her face–and maybe make it a little tighter to leave one of her arms out.

Drop The Temp.

We all sleep best in a cool room, including babies. Aim to keep your thermostat between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit to give your baby the most comfortable sleep. If her fingers feel chilly, that's normal. To reassure yourself, put your hand on her chest. If it's warm, she's warm enough. 

Prepare For Quick Changes.

Hunting for a fresh crib sheet after your baby soaks his diaper or spits up is miserable in the middle of the night, and turning on the lights can wake him up more fully, meaning getting him back to sleep can take an eternity. 

Instead, double layer ahead of time: Use a regular crib sheet, a disposable waterproof pad, and another sheet on top. You can peel away the top layer and pad, throw the sheet in the hamper, and toss the waterproof pad. 

Also, keep a one-piece, a swaddle, or asleep sack nearby–whatever it is your baby needs to continue the night comfortably–so you're not hunting through drawers every time your baby's diaper leaks.

Take Turns.

If you have a partner, there's no reason both of you need to be awake every time the baby is. Maybe you go to bed at 10 p.m. and sleep until 2 a.m., and your partner sleeps the early-morning shift. 

Even if you wake up to nurse, let your partner handle the diaper change before and soothe the baby. This way, you'll get four or five hours of uninterrupted sleep–which makes all the difference.

Send An Early Riser To A New Time Zone.

Waking at 5 a.m. is rough, and it's one of the hardest things to fix. Parents often try making their baby's bedtime later, but you need to shift his circadian rhythm as if he's flying to Bermuda and needs to function in a new time zone. 

That means everything (lunch, the afternoon nap, bathtime) needs to move to later. If you shift by 15 minutes each day, you can adjust his body clock in about a week.

Help Her Find Her Pacifier.

If your baby cries because she's hungry or wet, that's understandable, but waking up in the middle of the night because she can't find her pacifier is frustrating. You can teach her to find it on her own: Put a couple of pacifiers in one corner of the crib, and every time she loses one in the night, go in and help her reach for it herself by bringing to hand to that corner. 

This shows her where the pacifiers are, so she can find another and get back to sleep if one goes missing. She should figure it out in about a week.

Don't Worry If Naps Are A Hot Mess.

Yes, consistency is key, and the safest place for your baby to sleep is on her back in a crib. But many babies under six months don't nap best there, so don't beat yourself up if she falls asleep on your chest or in a carrier or a car seat (as long as you are alert and watching her), or if you wind up pushing a stroller around the block for 40 minutes so she'll get some shut-eye. 

In the first six months, you're not wrecking night sleep by letting naps be a little more haphazard. Most babies don't start developing a real nap schedule until 5 or 6 months, and even then, some nappers will fight, and others will be way more flexible about napping on the go.

Master The Four B's: Bath, Book, Bed, Bottle.

A consistent bedtime routine can work wonders. The order is up to you, but it usually involves a soothing bath, a story, and one last feeding. We like to add a quick message with lotion, gently squeezing and releasing the baby's knees, wrist, elbows, and shoulders, wherever there's a joint. 

Then you might do a final 'closing up' of the nursery: Now we turn out the light, now we start the white-noise machine, now we sway beside the crib, now I lay you down–and that's the signal that it's time to sleep.

Give Yourself A Break.

If you listen to your best friend, a cousin, or a neighbour talk about how their baby was sleeping through the night at two months, you'll get stressed. Tune out the unhelpful comparisons as much as you can. To solve your own baby's sleep issues, you'll need a bit of observation, trial and error, and a lot of flexibility. 

It's so easy to feel that sleep will never get better, but it constantly changes. Just because you have a terrible sleeper at two months does not mean you're fated to have a terrible sleeper at two years.

Set The Mood

You need to make your baby realise that it's sleep time now, so creating the right atmosphere is crucial. Keep the lights – and your voice – low, and don't play with your baby or over-stimulate them. Ironically it's, therefore, best to save those bedtime stories for earlier in the evening. Make sure they've been recently changed and fed, and then put them into bed when they are drowsy BUT still awake. 

Counter-intuitive though it may seem, this will help your baby learn how to fall asleep on their own or 'self-settle'. Rocking, feeding or holding them till they are completely asleep might be tempting, but, lovely as it is, it will make it harder for them to fall asleep without you if they wake up in the middle of the night and you are not there. 

Temperature Control

Before they go to bed, you need to make sure that your baby is comfortable, and a big part of that involves temperature. Babies (and younger children in general) are less able than adults to control their body temperature. Being too hot or too cold will disturb a baby's sleep, making them wake up prematurely. 

Get the room temperature just right by investing in a Grogg. This nifty gadget turns blue if it's too cold, red if it's too hot and yellow when it's just right. It also acts as a very useful night light.

If They Wake, Wait

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It's tempting to check on a baby as soon as you hear them wake up, but it's worth giving it a couple of minutes to see if they can fall back to sleep independently. If they continue to cry, check on them but don’t turn on the light, pick them up or talk loudly to them. 

If they seem unsettled, make sure they aren't unwell, or have wind or a wet or soiled nappy. If they don't, pat their stomach or mute them for a few minutes to see if they can work out what's wrong and settle themselves. If that doesn't work, see if they are hungry, but try to put them back to bed again as soon as you've fed them. 

Keep Quiet

When your baby wakes in the night (and they will, however good they are), keep things calm and quiet. If you're feeding, keep lights low and do it with the minimum of fuss; if you're changing their nappy, stay silent with a gentle smile and pat. Try not to wake them up any more than you need to. 

Consider Swaddling

Many newborns sleep better when they are swaddled as they feel secure with their arms and legs kept snugly to their sides. However, it would help if you referred to guidelines before trying swaddling, as you must do it right to reduce the risk of SIDS. 

Some lovely designs are available from Aden and Anais, or you may prefer the easy-peasy swaddles from Swaddle Me, which use Velcro fasteners.

Conclusion

Getting your baby to sleep can be a challenge for any new parent. And then keeping them asleep can feel like an uphill battle. But there are sleep hacks that parents have shared that work for their babies and may be worth a try.

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