Guest Blog | Tips for Getting Baby To Sleep

Struggling with getting your newborn to sleep, or worried your soon to be here baby will be up all night?  These tips for getting baby to sleep from Carmel Indianapolis Indiana newborn photographer Holly Marie Photography will be a huge help, and seemed like a great topic to share on my newborn photography blog.  Her tips for getting baby to sleep are from years of experience as a newborn photographer and a mom of 4.  Take a few minutes to read through her tips and come up with some tools to use when your baby is up at night and you need tips for getting baby to sleep through the night.

tips for getting baby to sleep

Who am I? |  Tips For Getting Baby To Sleep 

As a newborn photographer and mom of 4 boys ages 4.5 to 7 weeks I get asked all the time,  for tricks and tips for getting baby to sleep? Do you just make them cry it out? Absolutely not. Through the years my husband and I have tried just about every method for getting our newborns from waking every hour and napping for only 30 minutes to sleeping 12-13 hours every night without waking and taking a solid 2-3 hour nap every single day by the time they are 1 to 1 and a half. Our family motto is ‘good sleep begets more good sleep’. We place a very high emphasis on our daily routines as well as establishing circadian rhythms, wake times and sleep habits as infants.  Hopefully these tips for getting baby to sleep will help new parents too.

Phase 1 Circadian Rhythm,  Schedule: Wake Eat Play Nap, Sleep Tips | Tips for Getting Baby To Sleep

Circadian Rhythm

More often than not when babies are born their days and nights are completely mixed up or they are simply on a round the clock schedule and do not differentiate between daytime and night time at all. This is problematic because we obviously like to sleep at night and be awake during the day like the rest of society. One of the best tips for getting baby to sleep is to help your baby know the difference between night time and day time by making sure they are very different. During the day your baby should be exposed to sunlight, dressed in proper clothes, not swaddled as much, left to sleep in the noisy living room, baby worn and involved in your day time life. You should attempt to keep them awake for very short amounts of time every feeding cycle.

Wake , Eat , Play or be Awake (during the day only), Nap.

Why is this order so important? Well infants like to fall asleep to bottles. Which is convenient because then you don’t have to rock them to sleep which can be very tedious. However, breaking a baby from falling asleep with a bottle is a very very difficult habit. You don’t want your baby associating sleeping with eating because then they will wake up just because they enjoy snuggling you and drinking a bottle. Instead you want your baby only eating when they need to eat because they are actually hungry.  They won’t associate the need to eat and sleep together if you follow these tips for getting baby to sleep.

Playing or having a wake period is important because it helps establish circadian rhythm and an overtired baby will sleep SO MUCH WORSE than a baby who  has basically ‘napped all day’. Newborns need 14-19 hours of sleep per day according to https://kidshealth.org/. Which means your baby may only be awake for 5 hours in a 24 hour period and that is totally ok.

At night time you should do as little as possible to disturb your baby. Tips for getting baby to sleep at night are to have only a small night light on, don’t turn on the tv, only change their diaper if the need to be changed, leave them swaddled if possible, as cute as they are don’t talk to your baby at night (kiss, snuggle, nuzzle, pat or caress instead).

tips for getting baby to sleep

Sleep Tips | Tips For Getting Baby To Sleep

While your baby is a newborn it’s important to have a positive relationship with sleep and help them sleep as much as they can and need. It’s good for them and it helps save your sanity during the days where sleep is hard to find. Below are helpful tips for getting baby to sleep and sleep ‘crutches’.

Tips For Getting Baby To Sleep 1: Just because your baby fusses, grunts or opens their eyes does NOT mean they are “awake”. I refuse to accept a 30 minutes nap. If my babies wake up after 30 minutes I try to get them back to sleep for 5-10 minutes. Babies often stir at 30 minutes due to their natural sleep cycle but oftentimes they are fussy and need more sleep. Usually they will go back to sleep and wake up once they are hungry. If my baby wakes up happy I allow them to stay awake.

Tips For Getting Baby To Sleep 2: Motion: Parents always say this tips for getting baby to sleep is one of the most successful things to try. Graco has a lay flat bassinet attachment for this swing. Which means your baby can be rocking all night while safely laying flat on their back.

Tips For Getting Baby To Sleep 3: Swaddling: It should not come as a surprise that as a newborn photographer I heavily advocate swaddling your baby. I like using 2 huge muslin swaddles. You can watch youtube videos for specific techniques but the important parts are to swaddle tightly, and properly secure their arms down.  Swaddling tight with their arms tucked in is a great tips for getting baby to sleep.

Tips For Getting Baby To Sleep 4: I find pacifiers to be a godsend for fussy babies. Do with this opinion what you will.

Tips For Getting Baby To Sleep 5: BURP BURP BURP BURP BURP your baby: Gassy babies are fussy babies. Babies are gassy because there is air traveling through their GI that causes them pain, burping them frequently throughout their feeds can help them be more comfortable.

Tips For Getting Baby To Sleep 6: If your baby screams a lot or is constantly fussy call your pediatrician and demand to be seen. You know your baby best. If the crying seems excessive, get help as soon as possible. 2 of my 4 sons had milk protein intolerance and reflux. They screamed a ton from pain and I so desperately wish I had taken them to the pediatrician for help sooner.

Tips For Getting Baby To Sleep 7: Stand and Rock. Babies are high maintenance. They like to be held by you constantly and rocked while you stand. My boys always loved being rocked in the bathroom with the fan on in the dark.

Tips For Getting Baby To Sleep 8: How can I get my toddler to stay asleep in their bed and not get up a thousand times? 1. Tell them it is bedtime and they are not to get out of bed unless they have to pee. 2. If they get up and do not have to pee, take them back and do not talk to them at all. Any reinforcement, positive or negative, will encourage them to get out of bed. Your goal is to get out of bed BORING. If you unceremoniously take your child back to bed without a word every time they get up they won’t bother anymore because there won’t be a reason to. The trick is to be consistent. If getting out of bed is ever fun, allowed or encouraged it will be much harder to break the habit of getting out of bed at night.

tips for getting baby to sleep

Phase 2 Naps & Wake periods | Tips For Getting Baby To Sleep

Overtired babies have a hard time going to sleep. It’s best to start trying to get your baby to sleep BEFORE they seem super tired. How is that possible? By loosely knowing your babies wake time for their age and putting them down for a nap or helping them fall asleep during these recommended wake windows.  That right, one of the tips for getting baby to sleep is to also train you for sucessful sleep patterns.

Once your baby is a little older and they have a regular nap schedule try and keep to their schedule as much as possible.

Average Baby Wake Periods

0-5 weeks 40-60 minutes (-+ 15-30 minutes)
2 months 1 hour              (-+ 15-30 minutes)
3 Months 1 to 1.5 Hours (-+ 15-30 minutes)
4 Months 1.3-1.75 Hours (-+ 15-30 minutes)
5 Months 1.5-2.5 Hours (-+ 15-30 minutes)
6 Months 2-2.5 Hours (-+ 15-30 minutes)
7-9 Months 2-2.75 Hours (-+ 15-30 minutes)
10 Months 3-3.5 Hours (-+ 15-30 minutes)
11-12 Months 3-4 Hours (-+ 15-30 minutes)

Phase 3: Removing Sleep Crutches | Tips For Getting Baby To Sleep

Here is where the real “sleep training” comes in. First, what is a sleep crutch? When your baby is a newborn and infant there are many things we end up doing to help our babies sleep that are necessary in the short term but long term will prevent your baby from going to sleep by themselves and sleeping all the way through the night, alone, without your help. There are many sleep crutches but the two main ones for our family are motion (from the swing and rocking) as well as swaddling. Other sleep crutches might include feeding to sleep, cosleeping, or holding for all naps.

This process is not meant to be instant but a gradual removal of sleep crutches until your baby adjusts. It is important to be consistent and make slow progress forward even if it is harder now your goal is to make your life better in the future. It requires discipline but is so worth it. When you decide to start removing sleep crutches is up to your baby and your family. We generally start the process around 8-10 weeks old. We want the process started BEFORE they can roll and have to be broken from their swaddle. You don’t want to remove sleep crutches all at once, you want to remove each one slowly by itself.

Removing the Sleep crutch of Motion: The first crutch ending tips for getting baby to sleep is to get your baby sleeping on their own without being held. We used the graco lay flat bassinet swing. As a young newborn we would hold or rock our babies to sleep and then place them in the swing. When we wanted to start gradually transitioning them away from being held for naps we would lay them in the swing at the end of their recommended wake period as they just started showing signs of being tired. If they fuss instead of picking them up we will pat them. If they start screaming we will pick them up, calm them down (not get them to sleep) and lay them back down awake. We repeat this process until we are able to lay them down swaddled and drowsy and they fall asleep on their own.

Once they are successfully falling asleep in the swing without your intervention for a few days, turn off the swing after they have been asleep for 40 minutes. After a day, turn the swing off immediately after they have fallen. This may shorten naps a little bit as they adjust. If they wake up, sooth them and place them back down in the moving swing. Once their naps are back to the length they were when the swing was always on, lay them in the swing without it being on when they are drowsy to fall asleep for naps. If they cry, do your best to sooth them with a pacifier or patting. Don’t pick up unless they escalate their crying. If you must pick them up, soothe them till they’re calm and put them back down.

Removing the swaddle: Once your baby is rolling over it is time to remove the swaddle. Ideally you will have completely broken them from falling asleep with movement and they will be sleeping well in the swing without it moving. We usually transition from the swing swaddled straight to their stomachs in their crib. At this point we move them out of our bedroom into the nursery. This transition is often the hardest for our boys. To aid in the swaddle free transition we rock them until they are drowsy but awake and lay them on their stomachs in their crib. Do your very best to leave them in their crib and soothe them with a pacifier or firm butt patts. If they aren’t calming down, pick them up and calm them down but don’t let them fall asleep unless they are in their crib. Do this for naps first because you will have more time and energy during the day. Once they are falling asleep on their own with a little help during naps start doing this same song and dance at night for bedtime and for nightly feeds.

tips for getting baby to sleep

Phase 4: Dad’s up! Cutting Night Time Feeds | Tips For Getting Baby To Sleep

Due to the nature of breastfeeding and newborns being obsessed with their mama’s typically I will be the one doing all of the sleep training steps up until this point. I will wake during the night to feed the babies and soothe them back to sleep. But once the pediatrician gives you the ok to remove all night time feeds my husband steps in to perform the last sleep training step. Since my baby’s were never really fed and soothed at nighttime by my husband they truly don’t expect him to give them food. This is helpful. When my baby wakes up to feed like normal instead of feeding him my husband will go in and soothe him back to sleep instead. After a few nights being stuck with daddy and no food all my babies started sleeping through the night. Until they started teething anyway.

Best of luck in your sleep training endeavors!

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