Fewer topics are more controversial than baby sleeping. You’ll find all sorts of experts – and non-experts – who give you suggestions on how to get your baby to sleep through the night at two months old and others who swear that all it takes is a magical swaddle to get your baby to sleep. In reality, every baby is different, and the best baby sleeping tips come from real moms who have been there and done that.
All of my babies slept differently, but since I breastfed, my babies typically only slept two to three hour stretches at a time. When I had my first child, I thought I may be doing something wrong because he wasn’t sleeping through the night at four months old like my friend’s baby.
After the third baby, I knew all babies eventually sleep well; it just takes time and establishing the best routines to get them to success when they’re developmentally read. Here are some realistic baby sleeping tips that I used to help my babies sleep the best they could.
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Related: A Parent’s Guide to the 4 Month Sleep Regression
12 Best Baby Sleeping Tips
1. Start a Routine from the Beginning
One of my best baby sleeping tips is to have a consistent bedtime routine from the start. This is a routine you’ll work on every night to help your baby wind down and go to sleep. Your baby’s body will recognize the signs that it’s time to go to bed.
A routine can be something simple, such as giving your baby a quick massage with lotion, putting pajamas on your baby, reading a book, turning down and lights and having the final feeding for the day.
Make sure you quiet down your house beforehand. We always turned down the lights an hour or two before bedtime in our home for all of our kids to help their bodies prepare for bedtime. Keep the activity and sounds down as well!
2. Don’t Make Baths Part of the Routine
However, despite what people may say, I don’t suggest having bath time as part of your bedtime routine. As the seasons change, you may find that you are busy and can’t do nightly baths.
Plus, some babies cannot have a bath every day due to skin sensitivity issues. You don’t want to put anything on the routine that you aren’t sure you can maintain each week.
3. Keep Middle of the Night Care Quiet and Dark
Babies aren’t born with the same day and night clock that we have, so we have to teach them that nighttime is for sleeping.
One of the best ways to do this is to keep the middle of the night feedings as quiet and boring as possible. Yes, boring – you don’t want to engage even if it’s tempting to squeeze cheeks and give tons of kisses.
It’s a bit difficult because babies find their parents fascinating, and even eye contact is enough to get your baby excited. Some evidence shows that the thing that arouses babies the most is their mother’s voice.
So, be quiet and avoid conversation and avoid eye contact. Trust me, it’s not cruel, and your baby will eventually figure out that nighttime is for sleep and daytime is when they get all the eye contact, songs, tickles and more.
4. Don’t Let Your Baby Get Too Sleepy
Despite what anyone tells you, keeping your baby up longer doesn’t result in your baby sleeping longer. Chances are the people telling you this either aren’t parents or their mind blocked out the horrors of baby sleeping from their mind.
Instead, get tuned into your baby’s natural rhythms and learn her signs of sleepiness. This is the best time to get your baby to go to bed.
If you wait too long, your baby is overtired, she ends up with lower melatonin levels, and her brain will release cortisol and adrenaline to help her stay awake. This makes it harder for your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep, leading to the dreaded cycle of not enough sleep for your baby.
5. Sound Machines Are A Must!
Despite what you may think, a silent environment is not ideal for getting your baby to sleep. The womb was not silent; your baby was used to hearing the beating of your heart, the sloshing of your blood, and all of the other bloodily sounds.
Silence is foreign to her.
So, running a noise machine not only drowns out the background sounds of your house, but it also makes her feel like she’s back in her favorite place. It also helps stop your baby from being scared awake from the vacuum cleaner, your phone ringing, or the dogs barking.
6. Don’t Stop Swaddling Too Soon
Some parents give up swaddling after a day or so, saying that their baby hated it. Chances are your baby didn’t hate it, and since your baby is changing so rapidly, all it takes is a few days and some adjustments to make it work for everyone.
You might swaddle too loosely because your baby is crying. That’s why I love swaddles with zippers because you can’t mess them up in the middle of the night. They even have different swaddles that help your baby transition out when they start to roll over.
Related: 10 Baby Sleeping Tips: How to Get Your Baby to Sleep
7. Keep Their Room Comfy
Babies sleep best in a cool room; this is true for most people. We don’t sleep well when we are too hot.
Try keeping your baby’s nursery between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure your baby is comfortable while sleeping. As long as your baby’s chest feels warm, then all is good.
8. Invest in Good Blackout Curtains
Another way to create a better sleeping environment is to invest in blackout curtains for your baby’s nursery. Babies sleep best in a dark room, and blackout curtains are best way to create this for them.
9. Don’t Get All Upset About Where Your Baby Naps
Consistency matters, and while the safest place for babies to sleep is on the back in a crib, where your baby naps is less important if you are monitoring their sleep. Babies tend to nap the best in your arms, while baby wearing, in a stroller, or in their baby swing.
What’s most important is that your baby gets the right amount of sleep and is never overtired for bedtime. Most babies don’t develop a true nap routine until closer to six months old, so keep that in mind and try to relax about their nap schedule.
10. Watch Out for Those Long Afternoon Naps
If you’re having trouble with your baby’s sleep schedule, one of the best baby sleeping tips I’ve received is to look closely at their naps and their timing.
Naps are vital for babies, but late naps can postpone when your baby feels drowsy for bedtime. The times that babies go down for naps are not static; they’ll change as your baby gets older, so be prepared to adapt and change as needed.
If your baby is struggling to go to bed at night, it may be due to a late afternoon nap. Try adjusting that time by either shortening the nap or moving it earlier. Another option is to try to drop the afternoon nap as he gets older by stretching out his active period.
11. Go for the Dream Feed
If you’re like me, chances are you won’t go to sleep the your baby goes to bed – we all need some time alone and to wind before we go to be.
Dream feeding is a way to get your baby to “tank up” on milk before you fall asleep, hopefully giving yourself a longer interval of sleep at night.
12. Be Realistic about Your Baby’s Sleep
My last and most important of the baby sleeping tips is that you need to be realistic about your baby’s sleep, even if this isn’t your first baby.
The truth is that babies wake up a lot. Breastfed babies wake up every two to three hours for months to feed, and your formula fed baby may not be far off that as well.
Some parents expect their babies to sleep through the night until they’re close to a year old. Setting up the expectation that your baby is going to sleep through the night early makes you feel like you are doing something wrong, but remember, sleep is developmental. You can’t force babies to sleep better.
Figuring out the key to getting your baby to sleep takes time, but once you do, remember that consistency matters. Create a comfortable environment and adjust the naps as added to match your baby’s growth.