Friday, August 3, 2018

10 Tips to Establish Healthy Sleep Habits for Your Baby

Talking about baby sleep habits can be such a controversial topic, everyone has their own opinions on what is safe, beneficial, and successful. When trying to develop a sleep habit plan for Lily, I started with the factors I use at the base of all my parenting decisions, research and common sense! Seems pretty simple, right? That's because it is! There is so much information out there about baby sleep habits and tricks (and parenting in general), that you could find articles supporting pretty much any view point. I admittedly research way too much when it comes to making parenting decisions, but the good news is that means I've done most of the work for you. Now, you just need to add in your own common sense. As with every decision as a parent, you can research all you want, but in the end your decision has to feel right for you and your family and it has to be something that you can reasonably obtain in your daily life.

I won't pretend to be an expert on baby sleep, but I do have a lot of tips that have been proven to be effective in developing positive sleep habits from the start. I know when I started my parenting journey, I would look to those that had been through whatever current parenting struggle I was going through and made it out alive. Every tip won't work for every family, but it will provide you with a starting point to build your own sleep habit plan.

#1 You CAN'T Spoil a Baby

-It's so important to start here because although I think that working on sleep habits early on is important, you have to follow your baby's cues. When they are first born, everything is new to them and potentially scary. They will want to be held, rocked, fed, etc. to sleep and for comfort. The first few months can be exhausting for both mom and baby so don't add in another thing to worry about. Take this time to bond, cuddle, and love on that baby.

#2 Put Baby Down Sleepy But AWAKE

-This might be the single most important piece of parenting advice that I ever received! Babies do not come out knowing how to self soothe and put themselves to sleep (it sure would be nice though!). They need to learn this skill and it takes time. When Lily was first born, 99% of the time I would hold her, rock her, or nurse her to sleep, but on occasion when she was really sleepy I would just lay her down and let her try and fall asleep on her own. As she got older, I would continue to do it more and more. After we passed the 4 month sleep adjustment, I did this with more consistency. It's okay if they don't actually succeed in putting themselves to sleep, early on it's just about starting to learn those skills. If they aren't crying give them a few minutes to try.

#3 Provide Your Child Their Own Space to Sleep

-I definitely live by the philosophy that each family is different and what works for some won't work for others. In my personal experience (and every mom I have ever talked to about sleep) there seems to be a correlation between sleep struggles and where baby is sleeping. There is so much controversy around this topic and I want to be very clear that if co-sleeping is what works for you and your family, then this tip isn't meant for you! But if you're struggling with sleep, this may be an area you want to consider.

**I do, however, strongly suggest having baby nearby (but still in their own space: crib in your room, bassinet, etc.) in the early weeks because the world is so new for them and they don't want to be far away, but as they are able to sleep a little longer stretches moving them to their own room can do wonders for their ability to sleep uninterrupted.**

#4 Use a Sound Machine

-I never would have thought such a simple machine could provide such a support to our sleep routine. Not only does the sound machine provide a sense of calm and cue the baby in that it's time for sleep, but it also helps to drown out other noises while baby sleeps. It can also be helpful for travel, to bring some comfort and familiarity from home when attempting to sleep in a new environment.

#5 Blackout Curtains

-Blackout curtains can be a lifesaver for daytime naps. As you develop your sleep routine, baby will start connecting certain cues with sleep. Typically darkness is one of those cues and so attempting to get a baby to nap during the day can be tricky if the sun isn't blocked out properly.

#6 Develop a Routine

-As far as what your routine actually looks like, I'll leave that up to you! It doesn't really matter exactly what you do or in what order you do it as long as it promotes calming down and slowly easing your child to bedtime. A few things you may want to consider including in your nighttime routine: bath, reading books, singing songs, nursing or giving a bottle, rocking, brushing teeth, talking about your day, and turning on the sound machine. Just remember to be as consistent as possible and to provide a slow progression to sleep. You don't want to go from extremely active engaging play to trying to lay them down to sleep.

#7 Consistent Nap Schedule

-This one can be so tough, especially in the early months, but having a consistent schedule and routine can help a lot with developing positive sleep habits. It always feels so counter intuitive, but a poor nap schedule can lead to poor nighttime sleep. If your child is waking up a lot at night (beyond the first few months) I would first look at their nap schedule. Each child is a little different in how many hours and number of naps they need at each age which is why I think it's important to follow your child's lead when it comes to developing your nap schedule. 

#8 Self Soothing

-You can't force your baby to learn to self soothe, it's a process and it can take time. I think this step can be so different for each child. If your child takes a pacifier or sucks their thumb, that might be the way they initially start to learn to self soothe. Of course, those are habits that would eventually need to be broken, but I believe that it can help them transition from needing you to get to sleep and falling asleep on their own. 

#9 Swaddle or Sleep Sack

-Swaddling can be a lifesaver in the first few months when the startle reflex is strong and baby needs that feeling of security. Some babies, however, don't like to have their arms restricted (we have a thumb sucker) which is where swaddle sleep sacks and regular sleep sacks can come in handy. With many of the swaddle sleep sacks you have the option of swaddling with the arms in or or out. There are so many gadgets out there that people claim helped their baby sleep through the night. As parents, when we are exhausted and don't think we could possibly make it through another sleepless night, it's easy to feel desperate and start buying every sleep product there is. My suggestion for this is to start simple with a swaddle blanket and eventually a sleep sack, if you feel like you need to try another product, reach out on your local Facebook Mom groups or to friends and see if someone has one they would be willing to lend you before throwing away money on a product that may not even work for your child.

#10 Video Monitor

-Those of you that know me, know that I am a worrier by nature. Is a video monitor actually necessary in order to help your child sleep? Well, probably not, but it goes a long way to give you piece of mind. Plus, there have been countless times where my daughter was making noise and I would have gone in to get her had I not seen on the monitor that she was laying down attempting to get to sleep. 

So, how do I get my baby to sleep?!

It's not as simple as one trick or one product that you can buy in order to help your child sleep better, unfortunately! However, there is always room for improvement in a sleep routine. If your baby isn't sleeping as much as you think they should be please consider trying any of these tips that you aren't already incorporating. 

A few disclaimers, there are a lot of sleep regressions and sleep changes that baby will go through in the first year so even if you adjust your sleep routine there can still be plenty of hiccups along the way. Just remember, it's completely normal and it will pass. There are also many other factors that could be influencing your child's sleep such as: teething, sickness, a food intolerance, not eating enough before falling asleep, shots, working on a new milestone, and honestly that list can probably go on forever. If you have a solid sleep routine established then you should be able to get back to good sleep after the cause has passed. Also, be sure to follow all the current guidelines on safe sleep regardless of how you choose to tackle establishing healthy sleep habits!

Please feel free to post in the comments if you have any additional tips! Go ahead and enter your email address off to the right where it says Follow By Email in order to get the latest updates!


  1. Getting them on routine is the best thing that worked for us. Up until now on his toddler years my son is sleeping on the same schedule. I love his sleeping predictability as it gives me more time to do other things when he's down for the night. These are all great tips!

  2. Loved these tips! My youngest is a great sleeper, but we really struggled with my oldest! Some of these tips helped us, but others I hadn't thought of - great share.