What I wish I knew about baby sleep BEFORE my baby moved in and tips on how to get your baby to sleep.
Disclosure 1: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. Using them only supports this blog, with no added cost to you. Thanks for your support! Disclosure 2: I am not a pediatrician, medical doctor or baby expert. I am a first time mom who has been doing a lot of primary and secondary research in the last year. Always consult with your pediatrician if you have any question about what is appropriate for your baby.
Let me just start by saying googling “how to get your baby to sleep” at 3 am while sleep deprived is not fun. Hopefully you are still pregnant and reading this, but if you are a sleep deprived Mom of a new baby I’m here to tell you that there is hope! I’m really not sure what I was thinking when I was pregant and did NO research on what to do once you actually brought your baby home.
I spent the majority of my pregnancy researching natural birth and the other half in a bathing suit at the beach. In truth I think I was a little naive and just assumed everything would come naturally and my baby would be perfect, never cry, and sleep like an angel. Well I got my butt handed to me those first few weeks.
By week 2 I finally read that copy of The Happiest Baby on the Block that a friend gifted me while I was pregnant. Things started to get better but sleep was still a struggle. Then I read a Breastfeeding book that basically said give your baby the boob anytime it made a noise. Fortunately (and unfortunately) I am a work from home Mom, not just a stay at home Mom. I have to spend a few hours every day “at the office” so to speak. So, after 3 weeks of cluster feeding it just wasn’t working with my lifestyle. A ton of sleep deprived research later I stumbled upon a recommendation to read Babywise. I checked it out from my library the next morning and read it front to back in 2 days. It was a total game changer!
I would say my style of baby mommin’ is somewhere in-between Happiest Baby and Babywise. Babywise says you shouldn’t use sleep aids like rocking and vibrating but when I read that I was already using a rocking, vibrating basinet to get Roam to sleep and I wasn’t about to take it away from her (or me).
Side Note: a lot of moms are “against” Babywise because it mentions the cry it out method. I did not want to ever use the crying out method to get Roam to sleep, and I never had to! All I did was follow the recommended feeding schedule as best as I could, did my best to implement an Eat, Wake, Sleep routine, and never let her nap longer than 2-2.5 hrs during the day. She started naturally sleeping through the night less than 2 weeks after I started this routine!
And remember, the books and these tips are just different ways that might work for you and your baby. You can ignore what you don’t agree with and use what you do. You will figure out what style of parenting works best for you.
Until then, here are a few Tips that may help you to get your baby to sleep better.
8 Tips to Help Your Newborn Sleep Better
WHITE NOISE IS YOUR NEW BESTIE!
Use white noise every time you put your baby down to sleep! You can get a machine or download a white noise track on your phone. Play it as soon as you start to get your baby ready to go down for a nap/the night. Seriously, I feel like we have white noise playing almost 24 hours a day in our house. At first this drove me crazy! Now it’s on so much I don’t even hear it anymore…but I notice when it stops.
We use our iPad and downloaded different white noise tracks until we found the one that helps Roam sleep the best. They also make little machines you can buy. If you don’t have a way to make white noise then simply make a “shhhhhhhh” sound for as long as you can right next to your baby’s face (try not to pass out from lightheadedness…I almost did that once in the middle of the night lol) I read somewhere that continuous white noise or pink noise works better than ones with breaks in them (like ocean waves or rain forest) I found this info to be true.
These are the white noise tracks that work the best for Roam.
1. SWADDLE YOUR BABY LIKE AN ADORABLE BURRITO
If your baby is an escape artist when it comes to swaddling there are special swaddles you can buy or you can use the double swaddle technique. It took me 5 weeks to learn about this one. If I could go back in time I would have done this swaddle from the begining. I also highly recommend you practice your swaddling skills on a doll before your baby arrives. I didn’t, and I paid the price the first few weeks. Swaddling can be complicated especially as a new, sleep deprived, parent. Roam was really good at escaping, but I also was a terrible swaddler. (is that a word?) You also want to make sure that your swaddle is tight and wont get loose and touch your babies face – because then your baby is guaranteed to wake up. When I look back on photos of her swaddled during those first weeks, I laugh at how terrible my skills were. I feel like a pro now. Practice makes perfect!
Our favorite swaddle brand is definitely Copper Pearl (pictured above) The fabric has just enough stretch to it and is so soft….plus they come in beautiful prints.
But seriously, the double swaddle technique works just as good and is WAYYYYY cheaper than fancy swaddles. Watch this video to learn how to do it. Roam NEVER escaped and slept like a baby when I would use this trick.
2. ROCK THAT BABY LIKE A WAGON WHEEL
Okay, so not really like a wagon wheel but rocking/ swinging is another great tool to get your baby to sleep. When white noise and swaddling aren’t doing the trick add swinging to the combo. Swing the baby in your arms or put them in a swinging device to help relax them into sleep. I personally just swing Roam back and forth and kinda do a little dance with her to the white noise and after a few minutes she starts to get drowsy.
3. Have your baby practice falling asleep independently
Once your baby starts sleeping for longer stretches make sure when you are putting her (or him) to sleep that you place them in their bassinet (or wherever you want them to get use to sleeping at) when they are still awake, but drowsy.
Imagine if you fell asleep in your bed and then woke up a few minutes later on your kitchen floor. You would probably freak out, right? Same goes for your baby. If they fall asleep in your arms and then wake up somewhere else…they wont be happy about it. Plus getting them use to falling asleep on their own is suppose to be really beneficial when they start to get a little bit older and have sleep regressions. I can’t speak from experience on this one, but fingers crossed all this work I’m putting in now with Roam holds up in a few months.
*Update: Roam started the 4 month sleep regression at 3 month..Yes, that can happen. I will write a blog on that experience soon. *
4. SET THE RIGHT VIBE
Once your baby figures out the difference between night and day you will want to keep the room dark, quiet (with white noise playing) and cool temps every time you try to get them to sleep. I also like to diffuse or spritz lavender to add another sense association into the mix. Setting the right environment helps your baby to associate said environment with sleep. It’s never too early to start a sleep time routine. I made ours super simple so that I could do it anywhere and anytime.
Our Bedtime Routine
- I turn on the white noise
- I dim the lights
- I get her in a fresh diaper
- I rub some coconut oil on her bum and legs/feet (at bedtime I give her a “baby massage” for a few minutes )
- I swaddle her (at 13 weeks she didn’t want to be swaddled anymore so I put her in a Nested Bean sleep sack)
- I pick her up and start rocking her
- I pop her pacifier in her mouth
- I turn off the lights
- I spritz a mixture of lavender essential oil and water into the air
- I softly sing “You are my Sunshine” while rocking and shhhing
- I put her in her sleep spot drowsy, but still awake
- I wait a few seconds and if she is content then I leave the room
Simple and efficient. I do this for every nap and then at bed time as well. By week 6 Roam had it mostly figured out and I think it was because of doing the aforementioned. For the first month I had her take naps in a bright, noisy enviroment to help her figure out nights and days. In hindsight I’m not sure that was such a great idea. After attending a sleep workshop it was mentioned that you should always try to have your baby sleep in a dark room. Roam napped fine during the first month but around week 6 I noticed her nap times got shorter. After adding black out curtains to her room she started napping for 1.5 – 2.5 hours and going to sleep quickly *almost* every time.
5. GOOD VIBRATIONS!
Will discover that by tapping his fingers quickly on Roam’s back it creates a vibrating sensation and helped soothe her. Invest in some type of a device that vibrates. Almost every baby bassinet/ lounger on the market these days has a vibration option. A few that we like are the rock and play (also good to use if your baby has reflux), the pack and play, and this tranquilo mat which can go anywhere with you and be added to any sleeping spot.
6. SUCKING IS A GOOD THING
Did you know babies have a sucking reflex that soothes them…oh and it keeps them alive! It’s how they eat all their meals and it’s also very comforting to them. If you are going to introduce a pacifier to your baby they say wait until weeks 3/4, or once you have a good nursing/feeding relationship. Some Moms are anti-pacifier. The boob works just as well for comfort but not for your ability to get sleep. This choice is completely up to you to make as a parent. I gave in after week 4 and introduce Roam to a pacifier. Thank God she took it! We had no issues with nipple confusion and the pacifier has been a God send! If you are on the fence about a pacifier do some research. There is evidence that babies who sleep with a pacifier have a lower risk of SID. Some babies will find their thumb but so far Roam hasn’t figured that one out, so a pacy it is!
This is the pacifier we use! It’s hand made from natural rubber trees…oh, and super adorable. If you are going to use a pacifier it’s recommended that you buy one that is all one piece so you don’t have to worry about cleaning or choking hazards.
7. MAKE YOUR LIFE E.A.S.Y WITH THIS ROUTINE
Do your best to follow an Eat, Active, Sleep cycle with your baby and then indulge in some “YOU” time while they sleep…even if that just means taking a nap. As soon as your baby wakes up you feed her/him. Eating is followed by some activity. My Chiropractor recommends that there always be a tummy time during each wake period, even if it’s for a minute. Tummy time also helps them burn off some of their baby energy. Then once you catch your baby’s first yawn, “pack ‘em up!” aka do your sleep time routine and get them to bed.
BE PATIENT AND GIVE YOURSELF GRACE
Those first few weeks are HARD. Be patient with yourself and your baby and go easy on yourself. I remember feeling so frustrated those first weeks. 1. because I wasn’t aware of these tools and so I felt (and was) clueless which made me feel like a failure. and 2. because every baby is different …sometimes even your own baby is different from day to day. What one person swore worked for their baby. my baby hated. It’s all trial and error, but eventually you will figure out what works best for you and your babe.
A FEW OTHER FUN FACTS I LEARNED ABOUT BABY SLEEP FROM 3AM GOOGLE SEARCHES
- The longest a baby can sleep without eating is congruent to how many weeks old they are, so in theory if your baby is 5 weeks old it should be able to give you at least one 5 hour sleep stretch a day (hopefully at night). If your baby is 12 weeks old it should be able to sleep for 12 hour at a time. (this is for babies with no health issues) If you are breast feeding you might want to wake your baby for a dream feed to help keep your supply up. (that’s what we do)
- Most babies don’t start sleeping through the night without waking until at least 3 months old. However, I think that if you read Babywise and Happiest Baby and follow some of their suggestions you can get your baby to sleep through the night by 7 weeks. I think this because Roam did it.
- “Sleep through the night” in baby terms means sleeping for 6-8 hours (at night time)
- Pay attention to your babies sleep cues and put them to sleep as soon as you catch them and they will go down easier. Sleep cues are; Rubbing eyes, yawning, gazing off/avoiding eye contact, fussiness.
- Staring into your baby’s eyes is pretty much like giving them a shot of espresso…so try to avoid direct eye contact when you are trying to get them to sleep.
- There are 4 sleep cycles and newborns (0-3mo) only experience 2 of them. Here is some good info about the science behind the sleep cycles.
- Babies don’t like silence because the womb was a noisy place. That is why they sleep better with white noise and swaddled. It simulates the womb and makes them feel comfortable.
- The saying, “Never wake a sleeping baby!” is bad advice. You should wake your baby up if they are napping for too long during the day. Otherwise they will not sleep at night.
- When it comes to babies there is no such thing as a bad sleeper, just bad sleeping habits and you can reverse them with patience and effort.
I KNOW YOU’VE HEARD THIS 100 TIMES, BUT IT GETS BETTER MOMMA…I PROMISE!
If I had a dollar for every time someone said that to me during the first 3 months I would be rich! But, it’s true! It really does get better, it gets easier, things start to feel more natural, and you will sleep again! By week 7 were were getting 5-7 hours stretches every night and 1-2 hour naps every time she went down for a nap. By week 8 she was consistently sleeping through the night every night. I honestly felt like a new woman and I wish I would have had these tools in my pocket from day one. Around weeks 13/14 we experienced the dreaded Sleep Regression period. I am happy to say that with a few adjustments to what we were already doing Roam’s regression only lasted for about a week and a half and then she was sleeping through the night again! Hopefully you are reading this before your baby gets here! If not, I promise it gets better…eventually. You’re doing a great job momma, hang in there! Stay patient and try your best to enjoy them being this tiny, because they really do grow-up so fast!