14 Steps to Get Your Baby to Sleep - Every Time!
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- Set specific times for naps and bedtime – and stick to it! Routine is comforting for babies. Their little internal clocks grow used to the familiarity. At first, it may not seem like it’s going to happen, but it will. Eventually, he will be telling YOU when nap time is, and when you check the clock, it may very well be spot on. Sleep is a necessity, and even more so for the babes. Do not wait until he is overly tired, because once he reaches that point it is much harder to get him to relax and catch any zzz’s.
- Fresh diaper + a full tummy. Going to sleep is very hard without these two total baby essentials. Once these things have been accomplished, you can move forward towards rest.
- A soothing nap playlist. My baby prefers some nice, slow classical, deep tone music. Yours may not. But once you figure out what soothes them the best, don’t make them a new mixed tape every week. Stick with what works. And what works? Familiarity. The same thing they hear every time they are going down for a nap. It is comforting and they associate it with sleep.
- A healthy napping environment. A dark room, with some white noise (I highly recommend a box fan, this one I like a lot. Fans are super effective at creating just enough ambiance, and they aren’t annoying like some baby noise makers can be…) and sights and smells that are familiar are a recipe for comfort. This is where your baby will prefer to be during nap time. While we cant assure that we are home every day during every nap time, we can also take steps for having a good PORTABLE napping environment. THIS car seat cover (which also works as a nursing cover, infinity scarf and, my favorite, for throwing over you and babe while you wear him in your baby carrier) is so helpful. Whether you’re in the car, the bank, the library, where the heck ever, blocking out the sensory overload of the world will aid to taking that nap.
- Assure he’s dressed properly. If it’s 60 degrees Fahrenheit, he will likely need a bodysuit with footies on top. If its 90 degrees Fahrenheit… go buy an air conditioner. Just kidding (kinda). Let him cool off in a diaper and with a cold damp cloth to hold if he would like. In other words, dress him in a way that will assure he is neither too hot or cold. Comfort is key. Do you sleep well when you’re freezing or sweating?
- Offer a pacifier. No, I’m not going to try to convince you to give up your anti-binky stance. It used to my viewpoint, too, until I realized it really is a familiar comfort that both of my boys loved to have with them when they were little. My oldest willingly wanted nothing more to do with it after about 6 months. My youngest is still going strong. (When my sister finally reached an age that my mother thought was too old to continue the pacifier, we made a big deal about going out late one night and allowing her to toss it onto the moon. She felt like she had graduated from babyhood to big girl life. Too stinkin’ cute.)
- Rock. Don’t hold back from rocking your baby, swaying gently either in a glider (Love THIS one) or on your feet. The rhythmic movement is relaxing. And relaxation is KEY to sleep. Some will try to tell you not to rock her, but TOBO (they’re only babies once), and the wise tale that they will become spoiled is only relevant if you began to rock them and don’t put them down throughout their 2-hour-or-however-long nap. And even then, they aren’t spoiled. They’ve simply grown accustomed to the circumstances that you have provided to them. SO. The key here is to aaaaalways lay them down when they are drowsy, but not yet asleep! If you wait until they’re asleep, in my experience they will more often than not wake right back up as they feel you lay them down. When you lay them down sleepy instead of asleep, you are helping them learn how to be at peace in your absence… a skill they must learn eventually, so it’s wise to help them in tiny ways from the get go. 🙂
- Lay baby down. Do its very softly, she ain’t a bag of potatoes. 😉 And while I totally support co-sleeping, we use a bassinet (THIS is the one I have. It’s simple, elegant, and folds up to store very nicely). Because we use it so often, it is familiar to him, and he is comfortable in it. Sad will be the day he outgrows it 🙁
- Rub her back. My little guy really like THIS blanket. It’s velvety soft, with just enough weight to it to feel secure, and well, it’s FAMILIAR (that word, again. I hope that if you only remember one thing from this list, it is that word!). So, I drape his favorite blanket over him, and gently (but not tickle-y. He is SO ticklish…) rub his arms, back, belly, and legs using swift, comforting motions, not broken, jagged, bothersome touches, because that seems to frustrate my picky little guy. (I suppose I also would likely push my hubbies hand away if his mini-fall-asleep-Maddie massage was frustrating me and keeping me awake. Ha!) Again, long, swift, comforting hand motions. practice on your forearm to assure you are applying the right amount of touch in the right way.
- No more talking. When you have proceeded deeply into the sleepy time process, nix the talking. It will confuse the stinker into thinking it’s time to chat, or at least be alert listening to you. Try to only using familiar, soothing noises. Some light shhhh-ing is what I use, while offering the pacifier again.
- When baby is relaxed, leave. Even if he isn’t completely asleep, politely take your leave without hesitation. You may stick close by, listening to make sure he does not start screaming. But really do try to wait a few minutes before returning, because sometimes babies just need to let out a little bit of noise before giving into all of the great comforts you have provided, because their though process may very well be this: “Well, heck! I’m alone! And I’m not a fan of that. But… I am ultra comfortable and happy, so I don’t reeealllly feel like crying… so I think I will stop now because I can hardly keep my eyes open… in fact, I feel like resting… Zzz.”
- You may need to start again. If he isn’t quieting down after a few minutes, perhaps you overlooked something. Maybe he’s too warm. Maybe his diaper is wet. Again. Who knows. Just continue the minimal talking thing, offer his pacifier again, and start from the very beginning again if you feel as if you should.
- Multiple pacifiers? I read about a mom whose baby would fuss every time she would drop her pacifier in her crib. So, her mom decided she would put a good amount of pacifiers in with her babe, so that, in theory, a pacifier was consistently within arm’s reach. Clever mama, huh? I haven’t had to exercise this idea (Yet?), but I can see, with my mind’s eye, this being a successful tactic. If you try it, will you let me know how it goes? 🙂
- When it doubt, wear him out. If none of this seems to be working, I slap on my Ergo Baby Carrier (THIS model is my favorite! Also, so many colors. Woohoo!) and we go for a walk. He’s usually asleep by the end of it. And I can gently detach him onto the bed and let him continue to rest. Yay!
There you have it! I hope this helped you out a little! Somehow, I finished writing this before my babe woke up from his nap. Impressive, eh? You got this, mama. Print this out for grandparents/partner/babysitter. Err’body can be successful together.
My biggest tip: Be patient, and establish familiarity and routine. This will all pass by soooo quickly. All too soon, you will be walking your baby to her first day of kindergarten, and feeling your heart swell and long for a bit of the old times. Savor those late night rocking and feedings. Treasure them as if they’re gold, because they are.