Our Book: Baby Sleep Training 101

baby sleep training 101

Are you ready to teach your baby to sleep through the night consistently? Baby Sleep Training 101 is the comprehensive guide to baby sleep training, and you can have it for  $1.99 through September 30th!

Baby Sleep Training Fundamentals

Written for parents of infants aged 3 to 24 months, this book covers the fundamentals of healthy baby sleep habits, including:

  • Baby sleeping patterns by age
  • Sleeping in the crib
  • Establishing a bedtime routine
  • Feeding baby for sleep

If you’re a visual person, you’ll enjoy our Periodic Table of Baby Sleep, a colorful depiction of the key elements to teaching your baby sleep through the night.

Download it now for just $1.99!

Who Should Read Baby Sleep Training 101

Our book is written for the parents or primary caregivers of babies less than 24 months of age, and we think it would be most useful to families with:

  • Newborns or young infants (0-4 months), to establish safe, reliable sleep habits
  • Babies 4-12 months old that aren’t yet sleeping through the night consistently
  • Baby sleep problems, including early wake-ups, trouble falling asleep, not sleeping in the crib, etc.

Baby Sleep Training 101 also makes a great gift for parents, nannies, or babysitters who might appreciate a little help!

Table of Contents

Here’s a preview of what you’ll learn about in our book.

Chapter 1. How to use This Book
Chapter 2. Why Baby Sleep Training?
Chapter 3. Babies and Sleep Patterns
Chapter 4. The Periodic Table of Baby Sleep
Chapter 5. Good Baby Sleep Habits
Chapter 6. Feeding Baby for Sleep
Chapter 7. Baby Sleep Safety
Chapter 8. Handling Baby Sleep Problems
Chapter 9. References and Further Reading

Download Now, Read Later

We published Baby Sleep Training 101 as an e-book in PDF format, so that you can read it on:

  • Your home computer or laptop
  • Your Kindle, Nook, or tablet
  • Ipads, iPhones, and most Android devices

We’ll also send it to you by e-mail so that you can get it from anywhere.

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Handling Baby Sleep Problems

There’s a special section on common baby sleep problems and how to address them, including:

  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Sleeping in the crib
  • Naps and sleep schedules
  • Trouble staying asleep
  • Early morning wake-ups
  • Reflux
  • Baby Colic
  • Teething
  • Cold, Flu, and Sickness
  • Sudden sleep setbacks

The Latest Infant Sleep Research

Thanks to daytime employment, we have access to all of the current research by groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). We leverage that in Baby Sleep Training 101 to summarize what researchers have recently discovered regarding:

  • The prevalence of baby sleep problems and their effect on infant and maternal health
  • Current safe sleep recommendations from the AAP
  • Long-term evaluations of the possible benefits or harms of baby sleep training
  • The effectiveness of following sleep training practices

At the end of the book, we include references and suggestions for further reading. Don’t wait until you’re completely sleep deprived…

Buy This Book Now!

Why Baby Keeps Waking Up

why baby keeps waking up

Original Image Credit: mcguirk on Flickr

Few things are more frustrating than when your baby keeps waking up at night. There have been a few times in our parenting career that this seems to happen with one of our kids. Maybe it’s one wake-up a night, maybe it’s five. Either way, we don’t wait patiently for the issue to work itself out. We take action.

We find the problem, we do something to fix it, then we evaluate to see if it worked. You can, too, if you’re here because your baby keeps waking up. Let’s get started.

What Wakes Babies Up?

There are countless reasons that your baby might be waking up at night, but if it becomes a habit, you’re probably looking for a common cause. We can usually narrow it down based on your baby’s age.


If your baby is waking up every 2-4 hours, that’s normal — they need to do that just to eat, not much you can do about it. If your newborn’s waking up every 30 minutes, though, and you’re sleepless and zombie-like because of it, we have a problem. With infants I usually look for the big three:

  • Hunger. Newborns are driven to eat almost as much as they’re driven to sleep. The urge to fill their bellies is near-constant, and it grows faster than you’d think possible. It might be that your newborn just isn’t getting enough to eat at feedings. There are a few ways to figure this out; to get started, see my article on feeding babies for sleep. Otherwise, go to the next one.
  • Digestive discomfort. Gas, bubbles in the tummy, and other forms of digestive discomfort are the next place to look. Especially if you witness your baby grimacing or twisting in the crib, suggesting a bellyache. It’s not surprising that your baby can wake up from this. See my article on gassy babies for some help.
  • Lack of routine. It’s also possible that your newborn’s routine is all screwed up. This happens sometimes; they confuse night for day and don’t realize they’re supposed to be sleeping instead of playing at 2 a.m. Establishing a bedtime routine is critical for teaching your baby when it’s time to sleep for the long stretch.

Older Babies

Babies older than 6 months usually have the ability to sleep through the night. When they don’t, there’s usually a reason for it — some stimulus that has them waking up in the wee hours of the morning.

  • Wake-up habits. If your older baby is waking up once in the middle of the night and needs a bottle to get back to sleep, this is common. The downside is that, even when your baby is capable of sleeping all night, his or her little body thinks it needs to wake up to eat. That’s reinforced when you give a bottle at that middle-of-the-night wake-up. Eventually, you’ll have to bite the bullet and wean the both of you from it. 
  • Teething. Babies usually cut their first teeth between 3 and 6 months, and they come in (with agonizing slowness) over the next year and a half. This ends up being a major reason that older babies keep waking up, because teeth grow at night. See How to Help a Teething Baby for more on this topic.
  • Wet Diapers. If your baby’s drinking 6-8 ounces of warm milk at bedtime, all that liquid has to go somewhere. Ordinary diapers aren’t enough to hold it all, leaving you with a wet and unhappy baby. Fortunately there are heavy-duty diapers designed to meet the demands of these overnights; for more see my article on the importance of diapers for sleeping.

Other Reasons Babies Wake Up

These are the common things to watch for, based on my conversations with other parents and experience teaching my own little ones to sleep through the night. There are other, less common causes, which merit listing here in case you’ve exhausted other explanations:

  • Temperature. Being too hot or too cold can wake babies up; this seems more problematic in the heat of summer or the frigid cold of winter. Of course you should make sure your baby’s crib isn’t in the direct line of a heating or cooling duct or element.
  • Random noises. Barking dogs, garbage trucks, and inconsiderate neighbors are often causes of unexpected baby wake-ups. We’ve also found toys and watches that seem to go off in the middle of the night, too. The best you can do is offer some white noise from a crib soother or sound machine and hope it covers the cacaphony.
  • Nightmares. There are times when one of my little ones woke up, not just crying but scared and/or upset. It was obvious they’d had a bad dream, because a few minutes of comforting and reassurance had them back asleep again. If you know how to prevent bad dreams, I’d sure like to know it. But fortunately they’re pretty rare.

What other things have woken your babies up in the middle of the night? Please leave us a comment!



Toddler Wake-Ups from Two Year Molars

toddler teething wake upsOur boys have been good sleepers since about five months of age, when the baby sleep training techniques we employed finally paid off. Suddenly just before their 2nd birthday, they started waking up at night, crying and near-inconsolable. Strangely, they both refused a pacifier. This is odd because they love their pacifiers — probably sensing that they’re going to be taken away soon — and normally won’t sleep without them. There were a few other strange things we’ve noticed:

  • Runny noses. These showed up right after we’d been outside and in public for a few days, so at first we worried about a cold.
  • Slight fever. I noticed this when getting them up from a nap, and didn’t think much of it.
  • Fussy wake-ups. Now that I think about it, we’ve noticed a few unexpected wake-ups in the middle of the night, though usually the boys go back to sleep on their own.

These are all classic symptoms of when a baby is teething, but they had all of their teeth already. Or so I thought! It turns out that children get their second molars between the ages of 20 and 33 months. These so-called two year molars are teething’s last chance to torment your little one.

Why Teething Causes Wake-Ups

Teething has always been the silent (or not-so-silent) menace when it comes to baby sleep training. It seems like whenever you finally get your baby sleeping for good stretches at night, he or she starts cutting another tooth and it’s back to square one. There are good reasons for this: teething is painful, it makes eating, drinking, and using the pacifier uncomfortable, and the reason it often disrupts sleep is that teeth grow at night. Nature’s diabolical when it comes to disrupting your baby’s sleep habits.

Help Your Teething Toddler

Last night, when our older boy woke up crying at around midnight, he was almost inconsolable. That’s how I knew it wasn’t a nightmare, because picking him up and soothing him had no effect. The pacifier was unwelcome, too. All he really wanted was to go back to sleep, so that’s what we did: laid him down gently, tucked his blankie in around him, and told him “night night.”

We thought about Baby Orajel, a topical ointment that saved us countless times when the babies were teething, but abstained. I’ve read that teething gel should be avoided at this age, because toddlers can gnaw at the numbed area enough to create a sore. Instead, there are a number of other things to try:

  • A warm, wet washcloth. A cold one works too; you can even stick them in the freezer for 20 minutes.
  • A pacifier that you’ve run under cold, cold water
  • Classic frozen or refrigerated chew teethers
  • Frozen waffles, which are soothing to gnaw at and also help fill little bellies.

The only good news is that, once this passes, your little ones won’t face the problem until their adult teeth start coming in. And then all you have to worry about is the tooth fairy.


Baby Sleep Disorders

baby sleep disordersBaby sleep problems are some of the most common complaints among parents of newborns. How can you tell if your baby has the expected sleep habits, or some kind of sleep disorder? As many as 10% of parents report a baby sleep disorder in the first 12 months, and we know this is under-reported because  a lot of pediatricians don’t ask about sleep problems. But it’s important to diagnose and sleep baby sleep disorders, because research shows that they’re connected to other health problems. Just look at the link between sleep apnea, cardiovascular disorders, and diabetes.

Types of Baby Sleep Disorders

To determine if your baby might have a sleep disorder, it’s important to know what baby sleep problems are normal, versus what things might cause concern. If your newborn is waking up every 2-3 hours to eat, for example, that’s normal. Welcome to parenthood! However, these persistent issues might be considered sleep disorders:

Sleep Disorder Description
Sleep onset latency Baby has trouble going to sleep or falling asleep. This is a very common cause of baby sleep problems, and may not indicate a true disorder. Be sure to check the usual reasons a baby won’t sleep.
Sleep maintenance Baby has trouble staying asleep and wakes up often. This, too, is a frequent source of parent frustration. See our article 7 reasons the baby woke up last night to learn about the common causes.
Sleep duration Baby’s total sleep in a 24-hour period is not enough. Newborns should be getting 17-18 hours of sleep per day; at 6 months they should get about 16 hours, and at 12 months around 14 hours.
Naps or daytime sleep Baby takes naps that are too long (less common) or too short (more common). One problem I hear about often is a newborn that sleeps in a series of short catnaps throughout the day. Learn more about baby nap problems.
Sleep location Baby refuses to sleep in the crib. This is a learned behavior in most cases, and one that can be addressed by parent intervention. See our article on getting baby to sleep in the crib.
Restlessness/vocalization Baby tosses and turns, fusses, or cries during normal sleep. Some amount of this is normal, but consistent restlessness may indicate that your baby isn’t getting the sleep he or she needs.
Snoring This one is obvious! Occasional snoring could be due to congestion, but consistent snoring may be a sign of a more serious condition such as sleep apnea.
Nightmares Baby cries during sleep or wakes up crying, but is easily comforted. It’s hard to say definitively that the cause was a nightmare, but sometimes there are no more explanations.
Night Terrors A sort of “waking nightmare” in which the baby seems frightened. It’s hard to tell if a screaming baby is truly “awake” or not, so this may be easier to diagnose in slightly older children (toddlers and beyond).

Handling Baby Sleep Disorders

If you think that your baby might have a sleep disorder, the first thing you should do is talk to your pediatrician. As many as half of pediatricians in a recent survey didn’t routinely ask parents about their baby’s sleep habits, so don’t be afraid to bring it up on your own! The more specific information you can provide, the better. Use statements like these:

  • He’s taking ___ naps per day, and each is about ___ hours long.
  • We put her to bed at ___ and she usually wakes up ___ times in the middle of the night.
  • Our bedtime routine is ___, after which it usually takes him ___ minutes to fall asleep.
  • Her longest nap or sleep stretch is during the ___, and it lasts for ___ hours.

When you provide this information, it can help your pediatrician determine if your baby’s sleep habits are on par, or if more intervention is required.

We went through this sort of thing ourselves when our older boy was about 9 months old. He’d been sleeping through the night for a couple of months, and then started waking up hungry at 4 a.m. We’d feed him a bottle of warm milk, and he’d go back to sleep until 8 or 9 a.m. It was all great except for that middle-of-the-night feeding. When we brought this up to our pediatrician, he told us that we were reinforcing our boy’s instinct to wake up.

By feeding him each time, we taught his body that it was supposed to wake up and eat at 4 a.m. Luckily, our pediatrician gave us a one week program to break ourselves of the bad habits, and it worked! That’s why you should talk to your pediatrician.

Consequences of Baby Sleep Disorders

There are good reasons to get help diagnosing and addressing your baby’s sleep disorders. Research has shown that baby sleep problems increase the likelihood of:

  • Your baby’s cognitive development and memory
  • Future emotional and behavior problems in the toddler years and beyond
  • Maternal depression and anxiety. Obviously!
  • Stress and marriage problems

Even without advice from your pediatrician, there’s lots that you can do to help address baby sleep problems. Start at our baby sleep training page and go from there!

Baby Sleep Problems

Baby sleep problems are a source of frustration and exhaustion for many parents. Here, we’ll discuss common problems in getting your baby to fall asleep, establishing good sleep habits, and teaching babies to sleep through the night.
baby sleep problemsProblems Getting Baby to Sleep
Baby won’t sleep in crib
Gas or digestion keeping baby awake
Baby only falls asleep in my arms

Problems with Sleep Habits
Baby has no sleep schedule
Baby sleeps too much
Baby sleeps during the day but not at night
Baby cries in his sleep

Problems Sleeping Through the Night
Baby wakes up to eat
Baby wakes up to play
Baby diaper problems
Sick baby
Teething baby

Problems Getting Baby to Sleep

Many baby sleep problems involve getting the baby to fall asleep consistently in his or her crib and without much fuss. One thing works to your advantage here: babies need sleep, and lots of it. At some point their bodies will take over. But establishing a bedtime routine and sticking to it is important, and it should start the day your baby gets home from the hospital. If not then, it should start now!

It might be hard to fix these problems cold turkey. If you need to make a change, start once every 2 or 3 days and work your way up. This will make the transition easier on everyone. Let’s talk about some of the unfortunate habits that babies get into.

Baby won’t sleep in crib

Arm's Reach Baby Bassinet

Arm’s Reach Bassinet

This is a common baby sleep problem, one that parents are often posting about in the forums. Maybe you’re transitioning the baby from bassinet to crib. Maybe you’ve gotten into the habit of letting him sleep in a swing, or worse, sharing your bed. The crib is the safest place for your baby to sleep. Unfortunately, it’s also flat and wide open space that may seem scary to your baby until he’s used to it.

There are a few things you can do to make this transition more comfortable. Try a portable bassinet (left) that lets your baby lay right next to you but in his own little space. Swaddle your newborn to help him or her feel snug and secure. Next, set the mood with a soothing music box or baby night light. Use the same one, every night, when baby goes into the crib.

For detailed help, see our article on Getting Baby to Sleep in the Crib.

Gas or digestion keeping baby awake

baby gas problems gripe water

Gripe Water

If your baby has reflux, or squirms and cries when put in bed, your problems may be from baby’s digestion. Gas makes babies uncomfortable, particularly when they’re laying down. To address this, make sure to burp your baby thoroughly before putting him or her into the crib. Second, you should elevate one side of the bed, the side where your baby’s head will be.

Most cribs these days have different height settings; you can lower one end to create a slight incline. This puts gravity on your side and reduces spitting up. It may also help bubbles work their way out rather than going through your baby’s digestion system. For more help, see the article on 5 things to do for gas.

Baby only falls asleep in my arms

pink baby swaddlers

Velcro Swaddlers

This is another frequent problem I hear about, often with new parents. The baby only falls asleep while being held or rocked. First things first, you should put your baby into bed before he or she falls asleep. This teaches your baby to soothe himself to sleep, and makes these transitions easier. You don’t want to get into a situation where you put the baby down, he wakes up, and you have to start over.

Put the baby in bed, offer a pacifier, tuck in the swaddle or blanket, and leave the room. This last part is important; your baby knows when you’re around. If the baby fusses or cries at first, that’s fine. Give him 5-10 minutes to settle down. Go back in, re-pacifier, re-tuck, and leave again. Eventually the need to sleep will overpower the need to be held.

For more help, see our article on 12 ways to make a baby sleep.

Problems with Sleep Habits

Sleep habits vary widely among babies, even between twins. Here we’ll focus on the habits that create problems for establishing a good sleep routine. If your baby sleeps too little, too much, or at random intervals, this section is for you. Make sure you check our baby sleep chart to know what the norm is for babies at your infant’s age. A newborn (0-2 months), for example, should not and usually cannot sleep more than 5-6 hours consecutively. A 9-month-old or 12-month-old, however, should be able to sleep 10-11 hours at night, if not more. Let’s go through some common sleep habit problems and talk about how to address them.

Baby has no sleep schedule

Most newborns eat every three to four hours, and generally sleep in between. If your baby spent any time at the NICU, he or she probably already follows a schedule like this; as NICU nurses must care for multiple infants at once, they don’t have the luxury of feeding a baby whenever he cries. Our nurses established, and recommended that we continue, a schedule based upon points of the clock: 3, 6, 9, 12. The maximum wiggle room was about half an hour, no more. This means that we’d wake a baby up at 3:30 if he was supposed to eat at 3. If he woke up early, we’d try to hold him off until at least 2:30. This kept our babies on schedule and let us plan our our days at nights.

If your baby eats a little bit, falls asleep, and then wakes up half an hour to an hour later, then you’ve got problems. Most likely, he or she is waking up hungry. Try to get your baby to drink the whole bottle. If he falls asleep while drinking, wake him up by switching positions, talking to him, or doing a diaper change. Feeding, burping, and a fresh diaper are the key to make it for 3-4 hours.

Baby sleeps too much

There’s an old adage, one my dad likes to bring up, that you should “never wake a sleeping baby.” There is such a thing, however, as a baby sleeping too much. This is a tough one, because most other parents you ask about it don’t see it as a problem. Judging by the number of forum posts and internet searches on this, however, it’s actually a problem for many babies. First, you should be aware that newborns need a lot of sleep.

According to the baby sleep chart, a newborn should sleep 18 hours a day. If your baby is sleeping more than that, or not eating frequently enough, it’s time to take action. Lucky for you, waking a baby up is easy. Light, noise, and movement work well for this. I find that changing a diaper and/or the baby’s clothes gives a brush of cool air that rouses them nicely.

Baby sleeps during the day but not at night

twilight turtle night light

Twilight Turtle

Here’s an issue that even the authors are dealing with: babies that sleep better in the daytime than at night. Everyone does better when the pressure’s off, right? My understanding is that this problem is due to (1) mixed-up circadian rhythms, and (2) getting too much sleep during the day.

The circadian rhythm thing has to do with light exposure – make sure your baby experiences natural light during the daytime, and sleeps in a completely dark or near-dark room (with the exception of a night light). Also, we’ve found that if we let the babies nap for too long before dinner, or put them to bed too early in the evening, they’ll wake up in the middle of the night. Curtail the daytime sleeping, and you’ll find that your baby does better overnight.

Baby cries in his sleepBaby Sleep Problems Crying

Sometimes babies fuss or cry in the middle of the night without truly waking up. It’s hard to say what causes this. They might be having a bad dream. They might have a bit of discomfort from stomach gas or digestion. Or they might simply wake up briefly in the dark, alone, and feel a bit frightened. The bottom line is that most of these babies can be soothed right back to sleep, if they don’t manage it on their own.

The worst thing you can do is go barging in there and throw on all of the lights, waking the baby up. I go in quietly, and if his eyes are closed, I re-insert the pacifier, tuck in the blanket, maybe touch his head and whisper a soothing word, and then I leave the room. This works almost every time.

Problems Sleeping Through the Night

Babies start sleeping through the night at different ages. For us, we were lucky in that all three of our children proved themselves capable by three months of age. This is roughly in line with the baby sleep chart; by three to six months, most babies are capable of doing 5 to 8 hours at night. That’s the age, and the amount of sleep, at which most parents I know start looking presentable again in daytime. While there’s bound to be variation between babies in how early they’ll sleep through the night and for how long, here are some of the problems you might have to overcome.

Baby wakes up to eat

In my experience, hunger is the number one reason that babies wake up in the middle of the night. The key is to stuff them with as much food as possible at the dinnertime and (if applicable) the nighttime feeding. Your baby might be capable of drinking more than you suspect; if he finishes a bottle and still seems interested, burp him, and then offer another 2 ounces. As soon as your baby is allowed single-grain cereal (usually the first permitted solid), start giving it to him. In the morning, try spoon-feeding, as they’ll need to learn how to do this and it takes a while to get the hang of it.

At nighttime, right before the longest sleep period, I’m a firm believer in mixing in some cereal with breast milk or formula. Not so much that it’s no longer liquid; I’m talking about perhaps 1 teaspoon per 4 ounces of milk. Make sure you use a level 2 or level 3 nipple and watch for clogs. When your baby takes cereal, you will almost certainly enjoy longer naps and more sleep at night. See the article on nighttime feeding and sleep for more on how to handle this problem.

Baby sleep problems awakeBaby wakes up to play

This is a problem I hear about occasionally from other parents – their baby wakes up to eat in the middle of the night. Afterward, the parent wants to go back to bed, but the baby is wide awake and ready to play. This might be because the baby’s well-rested and doesn’t recognize that it’s still nighttime. More likely, though, the baby’s waking up and feeding overstimulates him or her into a state of alertness. You can take several steps to avoid this:

  1. Respond quickly. The sooner you start soothing and feeding your baby, the less he’ll wake himself up. I also keep bottles with pre-measured formula standing by for the same reason.
  2. Minimize light. Use the hall light or a night light to provide just enough for you to see by, no more. The less light he’s exposed to, the less it will rouse him.
  3. Keep quiet. The less you talk to your baby, the less he’ll feel the need to wake up and respond to you.
  4. Feed him close to bed. We have a soft, rocking armchair in the baby’s room and another just downstairs to handle those late-night feedings.

Last, and most important, once you’ve fed and burped your baby, and put him back in bed, leave the room.

Baby diaper problems

huggies overnites for diaper problemsSometimes babies wake up sooner than they should due to a wet or dirty diaper. Or, they might go through the night and wake up extremely wet, sometimes causing skin irritation. You should put your baby in a fresh diaper right before bed. Also, look into Huggies Overnites diapers, which are super-thick and wick away more moisture for the long night’s sleep.

Sick baby

Few things disrupt a sleeping schedule like a sick baby. When your baby is sick, he’s often congested, has trouble breathing, and feels icky in general. He coughs the pacifier right out. There are a few things you can do to make your baby comfortable and help him sleep:

  • Get the nose clear. You can try the blue bulb-syringe, which most babies seem to hate. We had better luck just using the infant saline drops, which help break up the mucus.
  • Run a cool-air humidifier in baby’s room. This softens and moistens the air, making it easier to breathe.
  • If your pediatrician permits it, give baby pain reliever / fever reducer (Tylenol or ibuprofen).

For more help, see the article on getting a sick baby to sleep.

Teething baby

Giraffe baby teether

Giraffe Teether

Sometime between the ages of three and twelve months, your baby will start teething. This will probably create all kinds of problems for you – teething babies don’t want to eat, drink bottles, take a pacifier, or go to bed. They pretty much just want to be held. The very first thing that you should try is Baby Orajel, a gel that you spread on baby’s gums with a Q-tip. It contains a topical anesthetic, and I know it works because if I can’t find a Q-tip and put it on with a finger, my finger’s numb about five minutes later.

If things are still really bad, and your pediatrician OK’s it, a bit of baby Tylenol will provide some relief as well. Give the medicine a few minutes before you feed your baby, so that the relief arrives in time to let him finish that critical nighttime bottle.

For more help, see our article on What to Do When Baby Is Teething.

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Gassy Baby Won’t Sleep

gassy baby won't sleepGas and digestion problems are one of the most common causes of baby sleep problems. This is especially true for infants, whose digestive systems are often not fully mature. Two things contribute to baby gas (according to WebMD):

  1. Swallowed air, which usually happens during feeding.
  2. The normal breakdown of digested food.

If your baby fusses briefly and you suspect gas, it’s probably not something to worry about. There will be gas, and it’s not always preventable.

You should be concerned, however, if the discomfort is persistent or if the gas causes baby sleep problems. If that happens, here are some strategies you can use to help your gassy baby.

Help Your Baby with Gas

These are steps that you, as a parent or caretaker, can take to help reduce the amount of gas your baby gets (or keeps) in his or her tummy.

dr brown's bottle for gas

Dr. Brown’s bottle

Try A Different Bottle

Much of the gas your baby ingests is during feeding, especially bottle-feeding. There are many product lines designed to address this specific problem; perhaps the most famous of these is the Dr. Brown’s bottle, which (although expensive and a bit tedious to wash all the pieces) has a unique design, backed by numerous patents, for reducing the amount of air that your baby gets while drinking.

Burp Early, Burp Often

One falsehood about feeding infants that we quickly disavowed was the tradition of feeding the baby a bottle in entirety, and then burping. You see enough spit-ups, and you start to appreciate the fact that babies need burping regularly during feeding. We started pausing 1/3 or 1/2 of the way through the bottle — or if the little guy suddenly slowed down — to try and get a burp.

Alternative Burping Techniques

After feeding, getting that big bubble out is super important. Most of the time, your standard baby-on-the-shoulder back pats will do the job, but sometimes you get nothing. Don’t give up! Here are some alternatives that might get the bubbles out:

  • Rubbing your baby’s back instead of patting, especially in a down-to-up motion
  • Different burping positions, like sitting up or the football hold.
  • Playing “bicycle” with baby’s legs (while she’s on her back).
  • Holding the baby upright (and securely) and walking up and down stairs.

Get that burp out any way you can! Sometimes you might take a break of 10-15 minutes, let the baby play or rest, and then try again. You’d be surprised how often this works! See also our article on how to burp a baby.

Tummy Time

Putting your infant on his or her belly (tummy time) is a bit of a gamble in the first few months, as this can encourage spit-ups. After 3 months, however, your pediatrician may encourage you to spend some “tummy time” each day where your baby practices pushing up while laying prone. It’s good strength training and an opportunity to get a burp out, as the pressure on the abdomen can be very helpful. A boppy pillow is useful to provide a soft place and give your little one some extra leverage.

Baby Gas Relief Treatments

baby gas relief dropsIf your baby struggles with gas and/or reflux as ours did, there are some other options. “Treatments” is probably too strong of a word for these; they’re more like supplements that may or may not provide some relief. We have experience with two of the most widely used ones, and so will mention them here.

  1. Gas relief drops such as Mylicon contain simethicone, which our pediatrician described as a kind of soap that helps bubbles merge together so you can burp them out. You should ask your pediatrician and follow the directions. You should also be aware that your baby might not like the taste or smell of this stuff. Mixing it into half a bottle of milk seems to help mask the taste.
  2. Gripe water is an herbal product that a number of parents swear by. I have to admit that our extra-fussy twin boy did seem far more mellow after eating when we gave him some of this. There’s undoubtedly a soothing effect and I believe the ingredients are all natural. The only down side is that this stuff can be a tad expensive, so order it online or look for it on sale.

Gentler Infant Formula for Gas

gentle formula for baby gas

Gentle formula for less gas

If you’re supplementing or feeding exclusively with infant formula, there are a couple of options to consider. Most of the big formula-makers now offer a “gentle” version of their product, which purports to reduce digestive discomfort and/or fussiness. We switched to this for our twins and it did seem to help.

A note of caution: the main ingredient of standard infant formula is powdered milk, but the main ingredient of most “gentle” formula is often high fructose corn syrup. This might not be a huge deal, as infants do need a lot of calories. But once our boys grew out of their reflux/spit-ups, we switched back to regular formula. It just seemed like a good idea, as there’s plenty of high-fructose corn syrup in store for children later in life.

There are some alternative infant formula products, such as soy-based formula, that might help your little one as well. Get a little canister to start, and if they like it, buy big! Of course, you should run this by the pediatrician first.

Handling Baby Sleep Setbacks

Handling baby sleep setbacksFew things are as satisfying as when your baby sleep training efforts pay off. Your little one hits a rhythm: regular naps, falling to sleep on his own, and sleeping through the night. It’s a wondrous time. The first hints of a normal life for you start to emerge. Housework and personal hygiene are possible again. Then, disaster strikes. Your little one suddenly has trouble falling asleep, napping, or resumes waking up in the middle of the night. How could this happen? What should you do?

Handling baby sleep setbacks is probably easier than baby sleep training. Your infant has already shown the ability to sleep through the night. That doesn’t make it less frustrating, though. You’ve had a glimpse of paradise, only to have it ripped away. We’re here to help you get it back. Here’s how.

Start Handling It Soon

You shouldn’t freak out if it happens once. Sometimes babies wake up randomly, but quickly resume their sleep routines.  Two or three nights in a row, however, begin to suggest a real problem. You don’t want to wait too long to address it, or suddenly waking up in the middle of the night could become the new normal.

Identify the Problem

This may be the most difficult part of addressing baby sleep setbacks, but it’s an essential one. First things first, try to determine if your baby is waking up on his own (internal cause) or in response to something (external cause), such as a noise, light, or temperature change. If you use a video baby sleep monitor, you can watch and listen when your baby wakes up. Even if the cause isn’t obvious, make note of the time and manner of your baby waking up.

External Causes of Baby Wake-ups

As I discuss in my article 7 Reasons Your Baby Woke Up Last Night, there are several external things that can wake a baby up unexpectedly, but these are three of the big ones:

  1. Noises. Loud or irregular noises are sometimes enough to wake a baby – maybe it was you or someone else in the house singing, stomping down the hall, slamming a door, or dropping something. Maybe the TV or radio was too loud. It could be outside the house, too — dogs barking, neighbors with loud cars, and lawnmowers have all woken my little ones in the past.
  2. Light. Our boys are especially light-sensitive, such that even a hairline crack in the room-darkening shade lets in enough sunlight to wake them. One sure sign of this is if your baby’s unexpected wake-ups occur at around sunrise, but even bright lights from the hallway under a closed door are enough to wake them.
  3. Temperature. Being too warm or too cold can wake up a baby, so be sure to monitor the temperature in the nursery (especially overnight) and keep it steady. Many baby monitors have temperature readouts to help with this.

Internal Causes of Baby Wake-ups

Often disruptions in a baby’s sleep behavior have a cause that you can’t see. Babies are growing and changing constantly, so what worked last week might not work tonight. Some of the common causes:

  • Hunger. Your baby’s dietary intake is constantly on the rise. Sometimes the amount of food they need makes a sudden, dramatic increase (probably due to a growth spurt).
  • Teething. Next to hunger, teething is my #1 suspect for unexpected wake-ups. Babies’ teeth grow at night, so if your little one is cutting a new tooth, that’s when he’ll suffer the most. See our article on teething babies and sleep for some help on this topic.
  • Illness or infection. Nothing disrupts a baby’s sleep patterns quite like sickness. From common colds to ear infections, illnesses make babies miserable and can easily explain the setback. Getting a sick baby to sleep can be tough, but there are things you can do to help. And soon, hopefully, it will be back to normal.

Why Else is Baby Waking Up?

Sometimes your baby’s newfound sleep problems might not have a clear diagnosis. It could also be a combination of factors (a baby that’s sick and teething is not uncommon). This is okay; it just means you need to revisit your sleep training basics one more time. Be patient, but don’t settle for inaction. Try an extra bowl of baby cereal at bedtime, a perfect warm bath, or a comfy sleep sack. Every little bit helps!

Address the Problem

Maybe you’ve tracked down the problem, or at least have an idea of what could be causing your baby sleep setback. It’s time to take action! Here are some solutions to deploy the next time you put your child to bed.

  • White noise. A good crib soother or sound machine provides the soothing hum of cover noise to help drown out any barking dogs, screaming kids, lawnmowers, or other causes of baby wake-ups.
  • Block out light. Invest in heavy curtains and a room-darkening shade for every window in the nursery. Make sure all the cracks are covered (we use kids’ books or Scotch tape when necessary). Keep the room as dark as possible, and you’ll help your baby sleep longer.
  • Monitor the temperature in the nursery, and dress your baby appropriately for sleep. Use long-sleeve pajamas and a swaddler or sleep sack to provide safe, comfortable warmth overnight.
  • Fill your baby’s tummy before bed. We offer a small bowl of rice baby cereal with the nighttime bottle, and it often helps. See our article on nighttime feeding and sleep for some more advice on this topic.

Baby Ear Infection Signs and Treatment

Signs of baby ear infectionsBaby ear infections are one of the most frequent ailments to affect newborns, second only to the common cold. In this article we’ll talk about the signs and symptoms of ear infections, the treatment options, and how to prevent them.

Ear Infection Signs and Symptoms

An ear infection is often hard to diagnose as a parent, but you’ll probably be aware that something is wrong. Look for these symptoms:

  • Changes in mood, tending toward fussiness. These tend to be dramatic and last throughout the day.
  • Flu-like symptoms including runny nose, cough, and/or congestion.
  • Fever defined as a temperature of 100.3 or above, ideally taken using an accurate digital thermometer.
  • Apparent discomfort when nursing, drinking bottles, eating, or sucking on a pacifier.
  • Reaching toward, touching, or pulling on ears (his own, not yours).
  • Pus or strange odors emanating from the ear (less common).

How to Tell if Your Baby Has An Ear Infection

Otoscope for baby ear infection

Stainless Steel Otoscope

If you suspect that your child has an ear infection, the best thing is to take him or her to the pediatrician. Your doctor will use and otoscope to look inside your baby’s ears and make the diagnosis. Anyone can buy an otoscope for home use on Amazon for about $30, though one would need training to use one safely (especially on an infant). I’m not suggesting that non-medical-professionals go out an buy one and learn what an ear infection looks like, but hey, it’s a free country.

There is a surprisingly simple way to check for an ear infection: face your baby when he’s somewhat happy (not crying or screaming) and grab both of his ears with your hands. Gently, now! A healthy baby won’t be bothered by this, whereas a baby with tender ears due to an infection will undoubtedly scream. I just tried this myself on my son who we suspected had an ear infection. He took it quite well and seemed rather amused; it turned out that he’s got about 4 teeth coming in which seems to be the cause of the symptoms. If we do come to find out that he’s got an ear infection, I’ll come back and edit this article.

Treatment for Baby Ear Infections

Baby Ear

Flickr: LisaW123

The best thing you can do is take your baby in to see the doctor. Some ear infections will go away on their own, but usually your pediatrician will prescribe an antibiotic to help it clear up. If your baby has persistent ear infections, or one that doesn’t seem to go away, your doctor may discuss a surgical option: the insertion of tubes into your baby’s ears canals to mitigate infections. This form of treatment is actually quite common; I know several people who have had their ears “tubed” or done so for the children, and I hear nothing but good things. Again, discuss with your doctor.

If it’s the middle of the night, all you can hope to do is make your baby comfortable. Don’t force the bottle or pacifier, as these may cause discomfort. You may think about offering some Baby Tylenol to help make your infant more comfortable. Also, try to keep your baby hydrated: offer breast milk or formula frequently, even if it’s refused.

Preventing Future Ear Infections

From my own non-medical experience (as a parent) and from reading up on this topic, I can offer some suggestions to help you prevent future ear infections for your baby. This is, after all, an infection, and it often occurs when your baby has a cold. Thus, my tips are themed around becoming a germophobe:

  • Keep anyone who’s sick, has been sick, or might be sick away from your baby.
  • Ask people to wash their hands before playing with, holding, or feeding your baby.
  • Wash your own hands, especially after coming home from work, in from outside, etc.
  • Be aware that little kids are walking germ factories. They pick it up at school or day care, they bring it home, and they just don’t know any better.
  • Have hand sanitizer within reach at all times, especially while out in public, and use it liberally.
  • Anything that your baby touches will be on his finger and then in his mouth within ten seconds. Remember that.
  • Keep people who smoke away from your baby, his room, and his things. This is a major risk factor for ear infections and a host of other problems.

Some of these may seem a bit harsh – you might feel uncomfortable asking your mother-in-law to wash her hands before picking up her grandchild. But do it anyway, as politely and apologetically as possible, for your baby’s sake. Sometimes people don’t realize that in the past five minutes they’ve touched a car door handle, a public doorknob, and their own face/mouth/hair, but they want to scoop that cute baby right up. Worst case scenario, you can always rub your baby down with hand sanitizer as soon as it’s polite to do so.

Make sure you stock up with everything you need to head off a major cold before it gets going. See our list of 14 things for baby’s medicine cabinet for some suggestions.

Stay healthy, and good luck!

What To Read Next

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Baby sleep problems takes you through the most common sleep issues and how to address them. The periodic table of baby sleep has all the essential elements for healthy baby sleep habits. Visit our sleep training section for strategies and tips for teaching your baby to sleep through the night. With cold and flu season approaching, here are 14 things for baby’s medicine cabinet.

5 Things To Do When Gas Keeps Your Baby Awake

Got-Gas2If your recently-fed baby is fussing, odds are that it’s due to gas. This is a major source of discomfort for babies, and for newborns in particular. There are two main reasons for it: (1) they eat only liquids, which often involves gulping down a lot of air, and (2) their digestive systems aren’t yet fully developed, which often seems to make digestion an uncomfortable process. If your baby has problems with gas, you’re not alone. It’s quite common and almost a guarantee with preemies. When gas prevents your baby from sleeping, here are five things you should try.

1. Burp Your Baby Early and Often
2. Elevate the Head of Baby’s Bed
3. Switch to Gentle Infant Formula
4. Try Gas Relief Drops
5. Give Your Baby Gripe Water

1. Burp Your Baby Early and Often

This is the single best piece of advice that I can offer. The gas has to come out from one end or the other, and a burp is a lot easier to get. I used to think that you simply fed a baby his entire bottle and then put him on your shoulder for some back-patting. This is not enough! You should pause every 1/4 bottle, at a minimum, to give your baby a chance to burp.

And once he’s done, you must absolutely get one. I know, it’s hard. Sometimes they don’t seem to have a burp in them. Try a change of position: sitting your baby up on a hard surface instead of putting on your shoulder, or vice versa. Try rubbing his back in an upward motion. If all else fails, hold your baby upright and walk up and down some stairs. Gently. You’d be surprised how often this seems to get a burp loose. For more, see How to Burp A Baby.

2. Elevate the Head of Baby’s Bed

You will want to check with your pediatrician first, but I find that this helps when babies get gas after you put them down. Most baby cribs have multiple height settings for the mattress; you’re probably using the highest one for a newborn, so lower one end a notch.

Or, you can put a couple of books under one side of the mattress. Don’t put anything in the bed to achieve this. Put the baby down with his head on the high end. Now gravity works in your favor, and bubbles can more easily come up and out.

3. Switch to a Gentler Formula

gentle baby formula for gasThe major formula brands have a gentle digestion canister of the powder that’s partially broken down to aid your baby’s digestion. Even generic brands tend to carry these. Be cautious, though, in switching your baby’s formula – he or she may not like it. It’s important to stick with one kind at a time, so don’t mix and match.

Once your baby is a bit older, you might wish to switch back to regular formula which tends to keep them content for a little bit longer (because it doesn’t digest as quickly).

4. Try Gas Relief Drops

baby gas relief dropsYou might have heard of Mylicon – that’s the brand name – but Little Tummys has gas relief drops for cheaper. The active ingredient is called simethicone, and it’s actually a mild, ingestible soap that breaks up bubbles in an infant’s belly.

The smell is noticeable, but my babies didn’t seem to mind it. You can get the generic kinds as well. Don’t give it to them straight; mix the required dose in a full bottle. If your baby doesn’t always finish a bottle, mix a half-bottle with the full dose first so that he takes it all.

5. Give Your Baby Gripe Water

I hesitate to recommend a specific product (much less a homeopathic one), but many parents of fussy babies swear by something called gripe water. With our twins, we were desperate enough to try it.

It worked very well for a month or two, seeming to help them rest more contentedly after eating. The downside is that this stuff is pretty expensive ($12-14 per small bottle in the store). You might try it, though, if none of the above steps work.

What To Read Next

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Baby sleep problems takes you through the most common sleep issues and how to address them. The periodic table of baby sleep has all the essential elements for healthy baby sleep habits. Visit our sleep training section for strategies and tips for teaching your baby to sleep through the night. Check out our reviews of Essential baby gear for helping babies sleep at night.

12 Ways to Make A Baby Sleep

ways to make a baby sleep

Getting a baby to fall asleep sometimes seems like the easiest thing in the world. At the newborn stage, when they sleep about 18 hours a day, you have trouble keeping them awake. It’s eat, sleep, diaper, repeat. Then they start to grow up and everything changes.

At some point babies realize that there’s a whole wide world of things to see and touch and (especially) eat out there. They don’t want to miss anything! And so they start staying awake longer, fighting sleep with ever-louder cries.

To help you, the frazzled sleep-deprived parent, we’ve put together this list of tips and techniques for making a baby go to sleep. The quick and easy ways are listed first, followed by more advanced strategies for when your baby still won’t fall asleep.

Quick Ways to Make Baby Sleep

Your baby’s tired, well-fed, in a clean diaper, and ready to go to sleep. Here are some quick ways to help him or her zonk out.

#1. Rocking the Baby

The gentle back-and-forth motion of rocking your baby — either in your arms, in a rocking chair, or in a baby swing — has a natural soothing effect. Make this part of the routine and your baby’s sure to enjoy it.

#2. Singing or Humming

Few things are as comforting to an infant as the sound of your voice. Combine that with the natural cadence of a lullaby and you’ve got a powerful way to get your baby to sleep, one that’s been around for thousands of years. Literally. See our article on 9 lullabies to help baby sleep.

#3. Swaddle the Baby

Swaddling the baby before he or she goes to bed is a good idea not only for warmth and safety, but to help mimic the snug comfort of the womb. The famed Aden+Anais muslin blankets are ideal for this. When the baby starts kicking or rolling out of a swaddle, try a baby sleep sack or sleeping bag instead.

#4. Offer a Pacifier

The pacifier may be your most important weapon in getting a baby to fall asleep. Find which ones your baby loves, and buy lots of them. Save the best, most cherished pacifier for bedtime. For some great options, see our article on the Best Baby Pacifiers.

#5. Soothe by Touching

The soft touch of a parent is a powerful thing for an infant — it conveys warmth and comfort and a sense of safety. Nuzzle the baby cheek-to-cheek, rub his or her head, stroke the hair (if there is any), or just snuggle her against your chest.

Get Baby’s Room Ready for Sleep

Setting the stage for your baby’s sleep is an important element for success. Here are a few of the ways that we get our nursery ready for a critical nap or the overnight sleep stretch.

#6. Darkness

Use room-darkening shades, heavy curtains, and/or miniblinds to block out the sunlight (or artificial light) from windows. Books or a few pieces of scotch tape can help eliminate little cracks where sunlight might peep in.

#7. White noise

The steady hum of background noise, from a fan or a crib soother, for example, help cover up errant household/neighborhood noises. It also serves as an audio cue, just for the nursery, of when it’s time to go to sleep. See our review of crib soothers and sound machines for some good options.

#8. A Welcoming Crib

This is more of a safety and convenience tip, but the crib should be clean and clear of loose items before the baby goes in. Then you just plop the baby in and make your escape. If you need help in this department, see our guide to getting baby to sleep in the crib.

Ways to Get Baby to Sleep Longer

You might have a good handle on helping your baby fall asleep, but you’d like to work on getting him or her to sleep longer. Maybe to extend the length of naps, or to start sleeping through the night. Here are some ways you can start working toward that.

#9. Make sure baby’s tummy is full

As we emphasized in our article on nighttime feeding and sleep, the feeding right before bed is critical. Make sure your baby has a full belly right before going to bed, as hunger is a major cause of early wake-ups.

#10. Use a nighttime diaper

Both Huggies and Pampers make a heavy-duty, super-absorbent diaper for overnights. We’ve used both brands and they’re pretty good. More expensive than a standard diaper, but they hold a LOT more while keeping the baby comfortable. See our article on the best diapers for sleeping.

#11. Get the gas out

An infant’s digestive system is not fully mature at birth, and their diet is 100% liquid. That’s why you have to burp them during and after feedings. Thoroughly. You can also look into some of the treatments for gas and colic; see our article on 5 things to do when gas keeps your baby awake.

#12. Establish a bedtime routine

One great way to get a baby to sleep quickly and consistently is to follow a bedtime routine — a set of steps that prepare your baby mentally and physically for bed. Repeating these steps in the same order every night sets up a series of cues so that your baby knows what’s coming next, and is less likely to fight it.

If Your Baby Still Won’t Sleep

If you’ve tried everything in the book and your baby still won’t sleep, you may have to toughen your resolve slightly and let him or her cry a little bit. This isn’t torture (on them, at least); it’s a natural part of being an infant. Some parents may disagree, and I do get the occasional comment from someone who believes that your baby should never be allowed to cry or even whimper without being attended to. But that’s not what the world is like. Sometimes your baby will just be unhappy. See our article on Letting Your Baby Cry to Sleep for an in-depth discussion of this topic.

Have Your Own Ways for Getting the Baby to Sleep?

If you have tips or techniques for getting a baby to sleep that aren’t covered here, we would love to hear them! Please use the comment section below. Your comment won’t show up immediately (all are moderated) but should within a day or two.