The first few weeks with a newborn bring a lot of emotions and and plenty of exhaustion. Most moms say they enjoy rocking their newborn to sleep and watching those sweet baby lashes flutter with dreams. But babies grow fast and sooner than later, you are ready to shorten the bedtime routine so you can go grab some sleep yourself. Hour-long rocking sessions don’t seem so fun anymore! You’re ready for your little one to start learning to self-soothe themselves to sleep which will also make for longer stretches of rest during the night too. It’s an important developmental skill for your baby and one that will help their bedtime routine into their toddler years. There are many methods out there, but we’re just sticking to some basic ways you can help your baby learn to fall asleep on their own. Continue reading to see how! (If you are completely comfortable helping your baby get to sleep every night, then this article may not be for you.)
1. Create and Stick To A Routine
Many adults find routines boring, but babies find them comforting. When a baby participates in a consistent routine, it leaves little room for confusion that may lead to resistance to bedtime. Find a routine that works for you, such as mealtime, bath time, baby massage, reading a book and finally followed by bedtime. Your baby will know what to expect and feel safe in going to sleep.
2. Separate Meal Times From Sleep
New mothers feel comfortable nursing or bottle feeding their newborns to sleep. Many times this becomes what is called a “sleep crutch,” and results in the child only falling to asleep while eating. The older your child gets, the harder the habit can be to break (as I witnessed with my friend still having to nurse her 2-year old to sleep- yikes!). Try as hard as you can to create a reasonable break in between the last feeding and bed time. Even if it means simply stopping as their eyes flutter close, but they aren’t asleep yet, you are delineating between meal and sleep time. If you love nursing your baby to sleep, that’s fine! I’ve read many comments where women state the joys of such a beautiful moment and had I not had a lactation disorder I probably would have done the same. However if you’re also a mom who’s looking to encourage your baby to fall asleep on their own, separating meal time from bedtime could be a great way to do that.
3. Let Them Fall Asleep In Your Arms Holding Still
Another sleep crutch may be the need for constant rocking or swaying, and if you have a baby that loves being held you know what this is like. Instead of going through the motions (quite literally), start just holding your baby still until they fall asleep. This will simulate the same environment as laying alone and still in their crib. It also means that if they wake up in the middle of the night, they can self soothe themselves back to sleep without the need for a rocking session.
4. Put Them In Bed Awake
Most experts agree that teaching your baby to fall asleep on their own is best achieved through laying them down in the crib still awake. Awake does not necessarily mean wide awake- it could mean very drowsy and even with their eyes closed. The important thing is they are aware that they are alone in their crib (not in your arms) and associate it with going to sleep. If they wake up a few minutes later or even in the middle of the night, they will eventually come to know they don’t need mom or dad to help them fall back asleep.
5. Stick to One Method
There are so, so many sleep training methods out there and parents usually gravitate towards one they feel most comfortable. But when you’re a few days in and it doesn’t seem like it’s working, it’s easy to want to switch. Whether it’s an official sleep training method (we aren’t advocating for a specific one) or just a routine that you’ve found, try your best to pick one method and stick to it. Switching from the no tears method to the cry it out method is going to be very confusing for your baby, and may toss all your hard work out the window.
6. Don’t Give Up
We often think that getting a baby to sleep on their own is all up to the baby, but it’s just as hard, if not harder on mom and dad. It’s easy to feel guilty for letting your baby cry (we aren’t talking about the “cry it out method” or letting your baby cry for hours) or fear they are scared or lonely. But don’t give up! This process does not usually happen overnight, but it’s only possible if you keep trying. Both you and your baby will be so happy you gave it a shot.
We also recommend our Simple Tips To Improve Your Child’s Sleep for extra reading!