“Sleep” is the most important word in a new parent’s vocabulary. Indeed, those first few months of parenthood are spent obsessing over how to get your newborn to fall asleep — and then actually get enough shuteye for you to catch a few winks, too. Of course, easier said than done. But while getting your baby to sleep can be a chore, it’s certainly just as crucial for your own health and well-being.
As you may be intimately aware, the effects of sleep deprivation are real and can compound the desperation many new parents feel when their new bundle of joy refuses to close their eyes. You can certainly develop your own strategies, but you’re also likely to get advice from every parent you know, who will swear by their sleep method as the Holy Grail of baby sleep.
Just remember: Every child is different, so don’t panic when the sleep strategy that works for one family is a total failure for yours. Babies are like Goldilocks — they will reject every effort you make until you find the one that’s “just right” for them. Here are four long-term strategies and three quick-fix solutions to help put your new bundle joy to sleep at night.
While it’s hard to do when your brain is half functioning from a lack of sleep, look at getting your baby to sleep as part of a long-end strategy. Of course, you want to help your baby to develop good sleep habits now in order for them to get a consistently healthy amount of sleep throughout their childhood. So while these are not instant sleep solutions, they will be beneficial in the long run.
1. Be Mindful of Lights
For newborns who are unable to differentiate between daytime and nighttime, start dimming the lights before bedtime. This will allow your baby to set their internal clock and let them know bedtime is fast approaching. Moreover, when your baby wakes up during the night, keep the lights as dim as possible for feedings and diaper changes.
2. Create a Nighttime Routine
Creating a quiet and calming bedtime routine that your baby can grow to depend on will allow them to get to sleep quicker. Keep this basic routine for naps and bedtime (although bedtime might be a little longer). For example, you may want to read stories, sing a song, swaddle them and/or give them a bath. Just avoid too much stimulation, and try to be consistent no matter who is putting the baby to bed.
3. Notice the First Signs of Sleepiness
It may seem counterintuitive, but the more tired your baby is, the harder it will be to get them to sleep. So as soon as you notice any sign of sleepiness with your baby (and you’ll start to pick up on signs beyond yawning), you’ll want to quickly start the process of putting them to bed.
4. Know that Naps are Crucial
There’s an old saying among sleep experts: sleep begets sleep. In fact, the better your baby sleeps during the day, the better they will sleep at night. Within a few months, you can help your baby establish a nap routine during the day, which will help them sleep better at night.
Quick Fix Solutions
There are times when babies need help transitioning from being awake to falling asleep, and until your baby learns to soothe his or her self to sleep, you’ll need to come up with a few tricks to help them get the sleep they need.
Breastfeeding or bottle feeding is a sleep trigger for many babies. To help encourage sleep, feed your baby in a dimly-lit room and try to avoid making eye contact.
Cars (and sometimes strollers) are like sleeping pills for many babies. If you’re desperate to get your baby to sleep, put them in the car seat and drive around your neighborhood for a while. Of course, this only works if the car ride is smooth and quiet. Pro tip: Make sure to splurge for a tune-up and invest in a new set of quiet tires before your baby arrives.
3. Rocking and Bouncing
Whether you’re doing laps around the house with the baby in a carrier or letting a swing do the rocking, some form of slow motion is great for helping babies fall asleep.
What are your best strategies for getting baby to sleep?