Sleep. Oh, how we take this for granted before we have kids. Waking up every 2 hours to feed is tough in the beginning, but after a couple of months that gets old QUICK.
That’s why I’m sharing my best SLEEP TRAINING TIPS. So if you’re wondering how to get your baby to sleep through the night, keep on reading!
With my first child I assumed she would settle into her own natural schedule and eventually start sleeping through the night when she was ready.
We didn’t want to follow an intense schedule, put our babies through any traumatic crying, or be “those parents” that had to manipulate every minute of their baby’s day.
After what felt like a trillion sleepless nights, we realized that we needed to provide more structure than anticipated. Luckily, once we learned about sleep training and gave it a go, we found it was MUCH more simple than we thought.
It got each of my children sleeping through the night in less than a week! Any sleep-deprived mama knows: that’s about as close to winning the lottery as you can get…
Here are my top sleep training tips to get your baby sleeping through the night:
1 | HAVE A CONSISTENT BEDTIME ROUTINE
Having a consistent bedtime routine is important for setting your baby’s internal clock.
Babies love routines, and a good bedtime routine will help them wind down and get ready for a long night’s rest.
Babies typically have day and night mixed up at first. THIS ROUTINE will be what teaches them that bedtime is for long stretches of sleep, rather than a short nap.
Try winding down with bath-time, reading a story, feeding in a calm and dark environment, snuggling in the rocking chair, whatever you prefer.
Keep it simple, because this will likely be their bedtime routine for a while.
Don’t commit to anything you wouldn’t want to do consistently down the road. Make this a calm and enjoyable experience for both of you.
- PRO TIP: Avoid anything that ONLY mom can do. This will allow anyone to be able to put the baby to sleep, even when mom needs a break or isn’t home.
2 | FOCUS ON QUALITY NAPS
My daughter used to fall asleep at random times in her swing or my arms. It was adorable, and we counted these as naps.
She would sleep for about 30-45 minutes tops, and always be fussy when we put her down at bedtime.
We learned that if you wait to put them down until they are exhausted enough to randomly fall asleep on their own, they’re already over-tired and will not get quality sleep (thus only napping for 30-45 minutes.)
We started putting her down for a nap 2 hours after she woke up from the previous sleep.
(She always seemed to be wide awake at these times, so I never thought it would work.)
We also started putting her down in her crib at these times and that was a game-changer. She started going down without a second thought.
After a few days of getting used to her new routine, she started to rub her eyes at these times, and sleep for 2-3 hours!
Before using these new strategies, we made the mistake of thinking the more she slept during the day, the less she would sleep at night.
WRONG. SO VERY WRONG.
Babies need A LOT of sleep. If they’re over-tired, they don’t get quality sleep. Not having good naps throughout the day WILL leave them overtired at bedtime and not sleeping well through the night.
- Better quality naps = better quality sleep through the night.
3 | CRY IT OUT
This part is tough.
We never want to hear our sweet innocent babies cry. And when we do, we want to rush to their side and comfort them immediately.
Not doing that goes against all motherly instincts.
I will say: I’m a total softie, and I would NEVER be capable of doing anything harsh, extreme, or traumatizing to my child. EVER. I’m simply not capable of it. This is nothing extreme, I PROMISE.
It is hard, however, it’s effective for teaching them to self-soothe.
(Don’t worry, if you’re not interested in this part of sleep training I have an alternative method for you below!)
Moral of the story: Babies need to learn how to self-soothe.
It’s extremely important for:
- Overall health & well-being
BUT HOW DO YOU TEACH THEM TO SELF-SOOTHE?!
Rule of thumb: whatever initially got them to sleep will be what gets them back to sleep when they wake up in the night.
If you’re rocking them to sleep, feeding them to sleep, etc. then that is what they will need to get them back to sleep when they randomly wake up.
Give them the tools to self-soothe and confidently put THEMSELVES back to sleep quickly and easily.
- Rule number one: PUT THEM DOWN “DROWSY BUT AWAKE“.
Help them wind down with your new bedtime routine, get them sleepy and ready for bed, but give them the opportunity to put themselves to sleep.
IF YOU’RE FEELING OVERWHELMED AND NOT SURE HOW TO IMPLEMENT ALL OF THESE NEW STRATEGIES:
- Start with naps. Make sure they’re fed, changed, clean, comfortable, and content.
- Do your routine, place them in their crib and allow them to cry only for as many minutes as weeks old they are.
For example, if they are 8 weeks old, put them down for a nap and let them cry for 8 minutes before going in to comfort them.
Once the 8 minutes are up, go in, comfort them, let them know they are safe.
Repeat this step until they either fall asleep or an hour passes by.
- Keep them in their crib for a minimum of 1 hour during nap time. If they cry the entire time, that’s okay, go in to comfort them every 8 minutes (or however long depending on their age.)
- If you’re starting sleep training past the age of 15 weeks, start with 15-minute increments regardless of how many weeks they are.
Take them out after the hour is up and try again next time. If they cry for 45 minutes and sleep for 15 that is fine too, as long as they are in there for at least an hour.
Eventually, sleep time will increase and crying will decrease.
If you stay consistent, they WILL put themselves back to sleep before having to go through this cycle very many times.
WHAT IF I’M NOT COMFORTABLE WITH CRY IT OUT?!
If you are opposed to the cry it out method, that is completely okay!
All you need to do is take things much slower. Big changes all at once can cause a majority of the crying.
Many believe getting it over with all at once, or the “cold turkey” approach can be easier and more effective, but it is not the only way.
Taking it step by step, and slowly incorporating new routines and expectations can work just as well.
Start by having a calm bedtime routine that will let baby wind down, get sleepy, and begin to associate this routine with bedtime.
Next, begin to phase out any “crutches” for falling asleep such as nursing or rocking. Cut down the time little by little each night until baby has adjusted to no longer need these things.
Eventually, baby will be drowsy at bedtime and won’t need to rely on anything to get to sleep. This is the goal!
Their crib will be their familiar space for sleeping, and falling asleep on their own won’t be such a scary task.
Whatever situation they are used to falling asleep with initially will be what will gets them back to sleep during middle of the night wake-ups.
- Again: If you are rocking or nursing, this is what they will need. If they are able to fall asleep on their own, they will be able to get back to sleep on their own as well!
4 | TRANSITION TO THE CRIB
Get them familiar with sleeping in their crib as soon as it is safe and possible. In the early weeks, naps in the swing, bassinet, or in your arms are fine.
They’re sleeping what seems to be all day, they’re learning how to survive in this big scary world, and your snuggles and comfort means more to them than anything. Soak in these precious moments. Don’t put too much pressure on either of you. Do what feels right, and take it day by day.
After those first couple of months, it’s important to get them comfortable sleeping in their crib and having a place that’s solely for sleep.
We started with naps in the crib at around 2 months old and both of my kids slept better there than anywhere else. Soon after, we made the full transition to the crib for naps and bedtime.
Having a nice calm and dark environment helps tremendously in getting better quality sleep.
- Remember: Until the startle reflex is gone (around 4 months) it’s best to swaddle them any time they are sleeping in the crib. If you don’t, when they startle, they will jerk their arms and wake themselves up.