Baby Won’t Sleep

Baby won't sleepBabies are supposed to be sleeping most of the time (14 to 18 hours a day, according to baby sleep charts). So when your baby won’t sleep, it gets pretty frustrating. Sleep deprivation can be harmful both to babies and their parents, especially when it’s a long-term problem. Hopefully you’re not here because your newborn of 0-2 months won’t sleep longer than 2-4 hours at a time, because that’s perfectly normal.

However, if your baby is 3 months or older and you’re still having some sleeping problems, this article might help you.
How Much Should Your Baby Sleep?
Problem: Baby Won’t Sleep Long Enough
Problem: Baby Won’t Fall Asleep
Problem: Baby Won’t Sleep in the Crib

How Much Should Your Baby Sleep?

The hours you might expect your baby to sleep depends largely on his or her age. Newborns (0-3 months) typically eat, sleep, and poop in 2-4 hour cycles around the clock. Not much you can do about that. Starting at 3-4 months, your baby might turn a corner and start sleeping longer (hopefully at night, but the morning nap after breakfast is common too), say 5-7 hours. At this point, you know your baby is capable of sleeping for long periods, and your goal should be to line that up with your own nighttime sleep schedule as much as possible!

At around 6 months of age, usually when your pediatrician encourages you to start feeding the baby solid food, you might see another change, as many babies start sleeping through the night. It might not happen at 6 months; it could just as easily be 12 months until the stars align to make this happen. Be patient, and keep working at it.

See our baby sleep chart for a detailed breakdown of average daily sleep, number of naps, and longest sleep stretch by adjusted age.

Problem: Baby Won’t Sleep Long Enough

why won't my baby sleepThe thing about babies is that they’re completely unaware of “expected” sleeping hours and sleep charts and the need for mom and dad to actually get REM sleep. If your baby won’t sleep for long stretches (especially at night), you are not alone! Most parents go through this with at least one child. First, reassure yourself that, eventually, your baby is going to sleep through the night. It may not be tonight or even a week from now, but it WILL happen. This is human nature. Second, let’s go through some of the more common reasons that a baby won’t sleep, and see if there’s anything that applies to your little one.

Cause #1: The baby is hungry

Hunger is, in my experience, one of the most common reasons that a baby won’t sleep for long periods. In support of this notion is the observation that breastfed babies tend to have shorter sleep cycles than formula-fed babies, simply because breast milk (being completely natural) is digested more easily. When your baby wakes up crying, does he or she root around for a nipple? If you offer a pacifier, is it slurped at hungrily and then spit out in utter disappointment? If so, hunger is a likely culprit.

Of course, you’re probably not a moron. Of course you fed the baby before bed. However, a lot of times parents just don’t realize how much babies are capable of eating as they grow and get older. What filled the little one’s tummy last month probably isn’t enough any longer. Making sure that your baby’s appetite is fully sated right before bed is a key step in extending those sleep hours. See our article on nighttime feeding and sleep for more help in this area.

Cause #2: The baby has gas or digestive issues

Many babies, especially at the newborn stage, don’t have a fully developed digestive system yet. This can cause delayed stomach discomfort that wakes your baby up in the middle of an otherwise happy sleep cycle. Also, since their diet for the first 6 months is completely liquid, it’s very easy for babies to get bubbles in the tummy. Unless you do a great job burping the baby, those can come back to bite you in the middle of the night.

One way to determine if gassiness or digestive discomfort are to blame is to watch how your baby acts and cries when he/she wakes up. Squirming, grimacing in pain are positive indicators. A baby that simply lays still and cries might just be hungry. Even if you’re not certain, working to minimize gassiness overnight is always a good strategy for baby sleep training. See our article on 5 things to do when gas keeps baby awake.

Cause #3: When baby is teething

Teething is one of the most troublesome events you’ll ever encounter. Usually the process begins when the baby is 3-4 months old and continues until all the teeth have come in. This one is frustrating because there’s just no way to see it coming. You’ll just suddenly notice an exceptionally fussy baby who:

  • Can’t fall asleep, or doesn’t stay asleep for long.
  • Wakes up screaming, as if in pain
  • Spits out the pacifier
  • Seems hungry, but refuses to drink from a bottle

Check for this by washing your hands thoroughly, and then running a finger, with great care, along your baby’s gums. Often you can see where a place is red and/or swollen. If you run a finger over it, you’ll feel the roughness of the tooth breaching the gums.

Once you confirm that teething is the reason your baby won’t go to sleep, apply a teething pain ointment (mild antisthetic like Baby Orajel) to that part of the gums. Baby Tylenol may help as well. The torment will end when the tooth breaches and comes in. For more help, see our article on what to do when baby is teething.

Cause #4: Something External Woke the Baby Up

Babies, just like adults, wake up in response to things in their environment. It’s a survival instinct, but often when your baby is safe and sound, it’s just something that causes unnecessary wake-ups. There are lots of external things that can have this effect, including:

  • Temperature changes. If the baby gets too hot or too cold, they might easily wake up. Do your best to keep a steady temperature in the room, and consider swaddling your baby or using a baby sleep sack to keep them warm enough.
  • Wet or dirty diaper. Some babies can sleep through this, but most won’t. That’s why you change the diaper right before bed and maybe use the super-absorbent nighttime ones. We have a whole article about the importance of diapers for sleeping.
  • Loud noises. The world outside your baby’s nursery can be quite inconsiderate when it comes to baby’s sleep time. We’ve had issues with garbage trucks, leafblowers, noisy neighbors, and even older siblings waking our little ones up. Unfortunately, most of us can’t control everything that could make a noise, so the best defense is a crib soother or sound machine or even just a fan. The idea is to provide some white noise that drowns out random sounds.
  • Sunlight. A lot of people are early-morning risers who are up by sunrise. I am not one of them. For me, a baby waking up at dawn is not a good thing. If you notice your little one’s wake-ups coincide with when it starts to get light out, the sun might be to blame. Block out that light as much as possible with room-darkening window shades and heavy curtains. Even a tiny crack can let a beam of sunlight in to shine right on the baby’s face. We use tape, books, pillows, or whatever’s necessary to make every window totally sunproof.

For a more in-depth look at this, you might enjoy our article 7 reasons your baby woke up last night.

Problem: Baby Won’t Fall Asleep

Another issue many parents encounter is the baby that refuses to fall asleep, even when it’s bedtime and mommy and daddy are completely worn out. If you have this problem, the solution is less about finding a “cause” and more about establishing good, regular habits for you and your baby. This is what baby sleep training is all about: finding a routine that works because it meets all of your baby’s needs and prepares them, mentally and physically, for falling asleep. Here are three questions to ask yourself:

  1. Did you get your baby ready for sleep? This means you’ve fed and burped the baby, changed the diaper, put on soft comfy pajamas, done the swaddle or sleep sack, and maybe even did some rocking and/or a lullaby. All of these are the sensory cues that your baby’s about to go to bed for the big sleep.
  2. Is it time for the baby to go to sleep? If the baby just got up an hour ago, he or she won’t be ready for bed. Many parents find a sort of rhythm with their babies, a cycle of eating, play time, diaper changes, and sleeping so that everything is spaced out nicely. Some of my readers object to the idea of a “schedule” for a baby. However, if you’ve ever visited (or been in) the NICU, you’ll see a very organized one: each baby under a nurse’s care eats, gets changed, and sleeps by the clock. You don’t have to be this draconian, but keeping to a somewhat regular daily routine will help.
  3. Have you established and followed a good bedtime routine? This is a process that you go through every night with the baby, both to get them ready for bed (as in item #1) and to make the process a habitual one with no surprises. The bath-bottle-bed routine is a classic example. The warm wetness of the bath, brief chill of getting out, followed by warm clothes and a bottle of milk has been putting babies to sleep for decades. See our guide to establishing a baby bedtime routine for some pointers.

For more help with this problem, see our list of 12 ways to help a baby go to sleep.

Problem: Baby Won’t Sleep in the Crib

This is a special problem, one for which (unfortunately) the parents get most of the blame. It’s very easy to get into the habit of letting your baby fall asleep where he or she does it best: the swing, the couch, the parents’ bed, or in mommy’s arms. And it tends to be fricking adorable when your baby does konk out in these places. However, getting your baby to sleep in the crib is a critical, critical step for you to establish healthy sleep habits. It also happens to be the safest place for baby to sleep at night.

Ideally, you started putting baby in the crib to sleep from the day he or she got home from the hospital. That’s the easiest way because they’re so little that their bodies just need sleep and they can’t fight it. The longer you wait, the harder it gets to make a transition. If you need help, see our article on getting baby to sleep in the crib.

7 Reasons Your Baby Woke Up Last Night

7 reasons baby woke up at nightIt’s exasperating when an older baby, one that’s capable of sleeping through the night, wakes up in the middle of it. Especially after you’ve done the baby sleep training successfully. Something has gone terribly wrong!

I’ve been through this with all three of my kids, and I’m here to help. When one of them suddenly began waking up in the middle of the night, we didn’t always know the cause. With a little bit of trial and error, we found that late night wake ups usually stem from one of the following issues:

#1. The Baby Woke Up Hungry

For us, this was the #1 cause of late-night wake ups. As most of my readers know, I’m a big believer in the correlation between nighttime feeding and sleep. A hungry baby isn’t hard to spot: he or she usually won’t settle down without a bottle. When our oldest son was about 11 or 12 months, he started waking up at 5 a.m. consistently to eat. We’d give him a bottle, and he’d go back to sleep. Not bad, right?

The only problem: it trained his body to keep that schedule. Our outstanding pediatrician recommended a couple of weeks of sleep training, in which we slowly weaned him from that bottle. Doing this really seemed to help. We’ve also tried to be vigilant to make sure he eats a good dinner, even offering a bowl of baby cereal half an hour before bed.

He’s still an early riser, but on good days sleeps 7:30 to 7:30.

#2. The Baby is Teething

Teething wreaks all kinds of havoc on otherwise great-sleeping babies. It often makes them unwilling to eat, drink a bottle, or keep a pacifier. And it just plain hurts! Some babies seem to handle it better than others. One of our boys seemed to sleep right through his teeth coming in; the other was just miserable. There are lots of remedies for a teething baby, but nothing works perfectly every time.

If you know your baby is teething, you’ve probably found the sleep problem. Try whatever you can to soothe those swollen gums during the day, and do your best to tough it out. Once those teeth are in, the problem goes away.

#3. Wet or Dirty Diaper

Another common sense problem is that of diapers. In daytime, we might do a diaper change every 4 hours or so. How exactly does that work for a 12 hour sleep stretch at night? In my experience, a wet diaper may not wake a baby up, but a dirty one often does. There’s not much you can do about the latter. But to minimize the impact of wet diapers overnight, we do two things.

  1. We always, always change the baby’s diaper right before bed. As in 2 minutes before the baby goes into the crib.
  2. We use Huggies Overnites diapers which are about twice as thick and absorbent as a regular diaper. It’s just incredible how much they’ll hold.

Without a doubt, this diapering strategy helps our babies sleep for longer.

#4. Improper Sleep Schedule

Babies, just like grownups, tend to settle into a sleep schedule after the newborn stage. For most infants, it’s 2-3 naps during the day and a longer stretch at night. Setting and maintaining this schedule is a cornerstone of sleep training. It doesn’t have to be a strict by-the-minute schedule. Some readers don’t like when I use that word, sending angry comments or e-mails reminding me that babies aren’t robots.

What I mean by “schedule” is simply this: Be consistent. On most days, your baby should have roughly the same number of naps, the same napping hours, and the same early bedtime. Getting off of that schedule can cause problems. For example, letting the last nap of the afternoon go an hour longer tends to make the baby less drowsy come bedtime. Keeping the baby up too late often causes them to wake up earlier (counter-intuitive but true, just ask around). Maintaining a consistent daily/nightly routine will help avoid some of these issues.

#5. The Baby Wasn’t Comfortable

We’ve occasionally had baby wake-ups that are from discomfort other than a diaper change. Sometimes it’s temperature: the baby’s either too warm or too cold. Or he or she got a leg stuck in the bars of the crib. Or the pacifier was lost. You can’t always prevent these problems, but you can take steps to ensure your baby is comfortable even if the temperature fluctuates. Put your baby in some comfortable pajamas at bedtime. There are plenty of adorable pajamas and sleeper sets.

A swaddle or sleep sack can provide some extra warmth and restrict movement. And we love, love, love the light and airy Aden & Anais blankets.  Especially in summertime.

#6. Baby Had A Bad Dream

Do you ever hear your baby fuss or cry out, and go in to find him or her fully asleep? We’ve seen this enough to become convinced that they’re bad dreams. What bad things could babies possibly dream about? I have no idea. Empty milk bottles, perhaps. But if they’ve invented a way to prevent nightmares in babies (or adults), I don’t know about it.

The good news is that the baby often goes right back to sleep on his own. If not, I can usually offer a favorite pacifier and a little comfort, and that’s all it takes. REM sleep, when most dreams occur, tends to make a baby drowsy. If they’re wide awake, it probably wasn’t just a bad dream (more likely teething, gas, or some other physical problem). For more help, see 12 ways to make a baby sleep.

#7. Something External Woke the Baby

This scenario might not be the most likely, but it caused some baby wake-ups for us in the past. Something external was waking them up at night or early in the morning. In one example, it was the trash men (garbage collectors), who thought it a brilliant idea to come by in their noisy truck while it’s still dark outside. This was in spite of our complaints. Neighbors coming home late, barking dogs, and early-morning machinery (like lawnmowers) all have conspired to wake our sleeping babies. One time, after a week of consistent wake-ups at around the same time, we realized that the alarm on a toy digital watch was going off every morning at around 5:20 a.m. We combat this by using a soother or sound machine to provide some white noise. And with the occasional angry letter.

The most intrusive and consistent external cause of early-morning wake ups is 93 million miles away. I’m talking about the sun. Unless we have the room-darkening shade and curtains just right, even a sliver of bright morning sunshine will wake our boys at the crack of dawn. This is especially intrusive in the fall and winter, when sunrise comes extra-early due to daylight savings. It’s brutal. We have to make a habit of checking all of the window treatments each and every night, or else brace ourselves for a very early morning.

There you have it! Tackle these seven potential problems, and you’ll maximize your baby’s chances of sleeping through the night. If your baby’s waking up is unusual (he or she had been sleeping well), check out our article on handling baby sleep setbacks.

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Learn about the benefits and bestsellers of baby sleep sacks and sleeping bags. Projection Night Lights keep your baby entertained while in the crib and help soothe him back to sleep. Best Baby Pacifiers has our recommendations for newborns, older babies, and teething infants. Visit our sleep training section for strategies and tips for teaching your baby to sleep through the night.

Get Baby to Sleep in the Crib

get baby to sleep in the cribOne problem many parents struggle with is getting their baby to sleep in the crib. Some babies become accustomed to a bassinet in the parents’ room during those first few months of round-the-clock feedings. Others just refuse to sleep anywhere but the baby swing or a parent’s arms. Or a car seat in a moving car.

There are lots of habits that we can get into when trying to coax baby to fall asleep. If you’re in this situation, don’t feel bad about it, because (1) you’re not alone, and (2) this is a problem that can be solved. In this article we’ll talk about how you can get your baby to sleep in the crib.

Why Should Babies Sleep in A Crib?
Reasons Baby Won’t Sleep in Crib
Tip #1: Start Right Away
Tip #2. Make the Crib Cozy and Inviting for Your Baby
Tip #3: Put Baby in Swaddler or Sleep Sack
Tip #4: When Your Baby Cries
Tip #5: Try A Mini Crib or Bassinet

Why Should Babies Sleep in A Crib?

Sleeping in the crib offers a lot of benefits to your baby, and to you (the parents) as well.

  • Safety. A crib with a fitted, firm mattress and no loose bedding is the safest place for your baby to sleep. This isn’t just my opinion, it’s the position of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Sleep habits. When your baby takes to sleeping in a crib, it becomes comfortable to him or her. In fact, being put in the crib signals your baby that it’s time to go to sleep. Done right, this part of sleep training will come to help your baby fall asleep faster and more consistently.
  • Convenience. This benefit is for you, the parents, because odds are that if your baby doesn’t sleep in the crib, you’re the one paying the price. Maybe you have to lug baby’s favorite swing around. Maybe you have to hold him or let her share the bed. In any case, you’ll get some freedom back when your baby starts sleeping in the crib.
  • Being green. You already have a crib, right? If you never get your baby to sleep in it, that’s a wasted piece of furniture that probably will serve no real purpose in your child’s future. Cribs are meant to be slept in! Do the planet a solid and make sure that wood didn’t go to waste.

The crib might be one of the most stylish and versatile pieces of baby furniture that you buy. See our review of 4-in-1 convertible cribs for some great options that convert to toddler and full-size beds.

Reasons Baby Won’t Sleep in Crib

So, your baby won’t sleep in the crib. Why do you think that is? I know many parents who’ve struggled with this issue, and based on my conversations with them, it often comes down to one of a few causes.

  1. The Routine. Maybe you got into the habit of rocking the baby to sleep in your arms, but when you go to put the baby down, he or she wakes up and cries. Or your baby can’t sleep without the rocking motion of the swing.
  2. The Flat Surface. Some babies seem to have trouble sleeping on flat surface. This may be due to mild reflux, in which case, elevating the head of the mattress slightly could help.
  3. The Abandonment. Sometimes babies just don’t want to be alone. Given the choice, don’t you think a baby would prefer sleeping in a bed snuggled between mom and dad, rather than a crib all by himself? If both parents work, then overnights are the one time that a baby can have you both nearby.

If your baby won’t sleep in the crib and you think it’s for another reason, please let me know, and I’ll add it to this section. Now let’s talk about the steps you can take to get your baby to sleep in the crib.

Start Right Away

The earlier you can train your baby to sleep in the crib, the better. We started on the day we came home from the hospital. You probably have a list of great reasons for putting it off, but you need to start working on it now. This is the kind of habit that only gets worse as your baby grows, because they’re stronger, louder, and more stubborn about certain things. They also can move around and get an arm or leg stuck in the bars, which generally causes a tantrum.

Plus, the longer sleeping in the crib is not the norm, the more ingrained that habit becomes to your baby. It’s a harder habit to break as time goes on.

Finally, you should work on getting your baby to the crib now as a part of general sleep training. You’ll find it easier to establish healthy sleep habits and keep a regular nap schedule. Even better, you might find that your baby (once trained) sleeps longer and more soundly in the crib. All of these are good reasons to begin sooner rather than later.

Make the Crib Cozy and Inviting for Your Baby

A crib can be a barren place. At first it seems ten times as large as is necessary for your baby. This transition will take your baby out of his or her comfort zone, so you’ll want to make the crib as appealing as possible. Use a crib soother or sound machine to provide some comforting background noise; this has the additional benefit of drowning out the cacaphony of older siblings, televisions, and barking dogs that rule some houses. I highly recommend the Graco Sound Machine for this task, but for more options, see our review of soothers and sound machines.

Another good source of white noise is a portable fan. This has the added benefit of circulating the air around the room.

You should make the nursery as dark as possible when it’s time for bed. This may require thick curtains and a room-darkening shade for the window. Most babies, like most adults, seem to sleep better in total darkness. One exception that might make your baby happier in the crib is a projection night light. These clever devices project constellations or little cartoon scenes on the ceiling while playing music for a specified amount of time (usually 15-20 minutes). See our guide to Choosing A Night Light for Baby.

Put Baby in Swaddler or Sleep Sack

One way to make your baby feel snug and safe in the crib is to swaddle him or her. You can swaddle your baby with a light-weight blanket such as the very popular Aden + Anais blankets. Or, you can pick up a velcro swaddler, one of the best baby inventions ever.

At some point, your baby may outgrow the swaddler or start kicking out of it. At this point, you can transition to a baby sleep sack or sleeping bag. These are essentially “wearable blankets” that allow the arms and legs to move freely. They do seem to make it more difficult for the baby to roll over, and help prevent them from getting their legs stuck between the bars.

When Your Baby Cries

Getting baby to sleep in the crib, like much of sleep training, will likely make your baby unhappy. Prepare yourself for some crying. I’m not an advocate of the full-on cry-it-out method. Instead, we took the advice of our pediatrician: Let your baby cry for 10-15 minutes. After that, go in quickly to reinsert the pacifier and tuck the blanket back around him or her. Then wait another 10-15 minutes, and repeat. Don’t linger in the room, don’t pick the baby up, just soothe quickly and go back out.

This will be hard for you to do, but it may be necessary to get this to work. Plan to do this for a couple of hours until your baby tires out and falls asleep. It may take a few nights of this, but you can do it. And there’s no lasting harm in letting your baby cry; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

Try A Mini Crib or Bassinet

If your baby is accustomed to sleeping in your bed or room, this solution might work better for you. You can get a bassinet or mini crib and keep it next to your bed. This is especially useful if your newborn wakes up to eat in the middle of the night. It’s safer, though, because your baby has his own little space to sleep in. And it makes them more comfortable sleeping in a crib, for when you make the transition to their own room. See our mini crib reviews for recommendations of the best mini cribs and bassinets.

Getting ready to take your baby on a trip? Don’t forget to pack something for your baby to sleep in. See our portable travel crib reviews for some options in light-weight, travel-friendly cribs and bassinets.

Transition to the Crib

My last piece of advice is this: don’t go cold-turkey. Start making the transition one night out of three, then every other night. This gives your baby some time to adjust, and lets both parents and babies recover a little bit on off nights. During the day, you can alternate naps (one in the crib, one wherever they’re most comfortable). Work your way up gradually to 100% crib over the course of one to two weeks.

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If and when you got your baby to sleep in the crib, and have some advice, please offer it in the comments section below!

Better Baby Sleep Book

Better Baby Sleep HabitsReady to get your baby to sleep through the night? Sleep training your baby is a challenging task, one that takes dedication, hard work, and sometimes a few tears. But the benefits are substantial: sleep is essential for immunity, health, parent-child relationships, maternal mental health, you name it! If you’ve come across our site, that’s a good sign. It means you recognize the potential benefits of healthy baby sleep habits, and you’re willing to work at it.

Baby Sleep Training Information

We’ve compiled the best of my sleep training articles, baby sleep charts, and advice on baby sleep problems into a free e-book, Better Baby Sleep Habits. This full-color book contains the very best of our advice on:

  • Baby sleep schedules
  • Establishing a bedtime routine
  • The Early Bedtime (EBT) technique
  • Through the night strategies
  • Handling baby sleep problems

Electronic Book Formats

You can download it in PDF (which works on Kindle), Mobi, or Epub formats. Just put in your e-mail address, confirm it in the confirmation message, and we’ll send you the links to all three formats.


We will never sell or share your information with anyone else, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

If you have any questions or suggestions for our book, we would love to hear them. Please use the comments section below.

Let Baby Cry To Sleep

Gentler baby cry it outAt some point, you will probably have to let baby cry to sleep. This is the hard but necessary part of baby sleep training, because your goal is to teach your baby to do something he or she does not like, such as:

  • Fall asleep on his or her own (i.e. not in your arms)
  • Go to bed in baby’s own room, instead of the parents’ room
  • Sleep in the crib instead of a swing or mommy’s bed
  • Soothe himself back to sleep after waking up
  • Sleep through the night without waking up to eat.

You have a lot of things working to your advantage when sleep training your baby, especially at the newborn stage. Newborns must sleep 16-18 hours a day, a need that eventually overpowers the will to make your life miserable.

The sooner you establish good sleep habits for your baby, the better, because as he grows and gets stronger, he’ll be able to cry much louder for a longer period of time.

How To Let Baby Cry to Sleep

I do not subscribe to the cry it out method, in which you just let your baby cry for hours until he or she falls asleep exhausted. Nor does our pediatrician. Instead, you should let your baby cry for 10-15 minutes. Then, you go in, tuck in the blanket, re-insert the pacifier, and walk back out. For this to work, your trips in and out must be brief, and you must not pick up the baby!

If you’re serious about sleep training your baby, you must resist this compelling urge. Otherwise, you’ll teach your baby that if he cries enough, you’ll cave and pick him up. Instead, you must keep your visit brief, so that the baby comes to realize that this is how it’s going to be. Still, your brief visits will reassure the baby that you’re close by and can hear him or her, which is important. It’s a bit more work, but less draconian than the cry it out method. I personally think it’s just as effective. Heck, we’ve used the same technique on an unruly 2-year-old and had success.

Common Concerns for Letting Baby Cry

  1. It breaks my heart. Yes, it usually does. There’s a fundamental, biological instinct to run to your child when you hear crying. Be strong! In the long term, your baby will have no memory of being left to cry. Of the two of you (parent and baby), only one is strong enough to teach proper sleep habits. It’s you. If you have to, close the door tightly, go to the far side of the house and put on the radio or TV or something.
  2. Concern about injury or long-lasting psychological effects. There’s no need to worry about this! I have read many times from reliable sources how unlikely it is that your infant could be hurt simply by crying. And, as I mentioned, your baby will have no memory of this by the time he’s a few years old. So no worries about long-term psychological issues. See our reviews of video baby monitors if you’re still worried.
  3. The crying baby might wake siblings or others in the house. This is a tough one, especially for us since we have twins and a 2-year-old. If you’re serious about sleep training and want to get results, you will have to find a way to make it work. We brought the good sleeper into our room (in a small crib) and put a fan for white noise in the 2-year-old’s room to help keep everyone [else] asleep.

Tips for Success

Graco Sound Machine

Graco Sound Machine

The first and best piece of advice that I can offer is this: remember the big picture. You’re not doing this to torment your precious baby, you’re doing it to help him or her establish healthy sleep habits. Succeeding will pay you dividends, not just tonight, but every night thereafter. More sleep for you, healthier sleep for your baby. That’s the goal.

  • Set up a sound machine or soother to comfort your baby while you’re out of the room.
  • Be consistent! Use a timer (set for 10-15 minutes) to indicate when you can go back into the nursery.
  • For your own sanity, turn on a TV, radio, fan, or some other form of noise.
  • Keep extra pacifiers and a night light handy to make your soothing visits brief.

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. Check out our reviews of Essential baby gear for helping babies sleep at night.

One Week to Better Baby Sleep Habits

one week better baby sleepAt eight months, one of my twins suddenly started waking up in the middle of the night. Normally, we’d let him cry it out, but we didn’t want him to wake his brother. Or the 2-year-old, for that matter. So we took to giving him a little bottle to settle him back down.

The trouble was, this conditioned his body to want that 3 a.m. bottle. It happened more and more. Finally, we figured out some of the contributing factors, and (with the help of our pediatrician) came up with a one week plan to get back on track. Here it is: seven days to healthy baby sleep habits.
Baby Sleep Fundamentals
Day 1: Beginning Adjustments
Days 1-3: Weaning the Late-night Feeding
Days 4-6: Less Feeding, More Sleeping
Day 7: Sleeping Through the Night without Eating
Final Words: On Babies and Sleep

Baby Sleep Fundamentals

You’ll need to have some basic elements of baby sleep in place already to have a shot at this. Read these and think them over. Are you still taking all of the necessary steps to give your baby the best chance possible of sleeping through the night?

Sometimes it becomes easy to cut corners: to go without the swaddler because it’s laundry day and you’re out of blankets, or to skip the last bottle because you’re just too tired. Remember that healthy sleep habits will pay dividends, not just tomorrow, but every day after you get them established. Let’s cover the basics:

  • Nighttime Feeding. Your baby needs a fully belly to fall asleep, and the right food to stay asleep. If your pediatrician has told you to start offering cereal, do it. If you’re on solid foods already, feed your baby a filling, nourishing meal at dinner time. Be aware that your baby will need more and more food as he grows. If you’re not surprised at how much he can pack away, you’re not offering enough. Right before bed, offer that last bottle of perfectly-warm milk or formula, to give him that warm and comfy feeling in his belly that puts even adults to sleep.
  • Good burping. Especially with milk and formula, but even with solid foods, you have to get the gas out. This is especially true before bedtime, since digestive discomfort can wake your baby up at any time in the night. Burp early, and burp often.
  • Clean, dry diaper. Right before bed, even if you just changed him 20 minutes ago and you’re sure that he’s still completely dry. Read more on why diapers are important for sleep.
  • Soft, clean pajamas and a swaddler or sleep sack. Make your infant as comfortable as possible while ensuring that he won’t get chilly overnight. I prefer long-sleeve pajamas and a sleeveless fleece sleep sack, but find what seems to make your baby the most cozy. For help, see our guide on what a newborn should sleep in.

These may seem like small things individually, but together they’re the full package of what your baby needs before bedtime. Assuming we have these bases covered, let’s start on our one week to better baby sleep habits. We’re going to assume that your baby is at least 4 months old and still wakes up once (or twice) in the middle of the night to feed. Our goal: to have your baby sleep through most of the night, ten or twelve hours.

Day 1: Beginning Adjustments

The first day of our program, we will make two important changes. First, you will try an early bed time. You’re going to start the bedtime routine at the first signs of drowsiness in your infant, no more than an hour after dinner. I know that it seems counter-intuitive, but babies often sleep longer when put to bed early. Their natural bedtime is sooner than you expect.

At the first yawn or other sign of sleepiness, start the bedtime routine. Second, you’re going to change the way that you respond to your baby. Once he’s in bed, if he starts to fuss or cry, wait 15 minutes before going in. This is a hard, but necessary, part of your baby’s sleep training. It teaches him to soothe himself, and not expect mommy to rush in whenever he cries.

Days 1-3: Weaning the Late-night Feeding

If your baby wakes up in the middle of the night, you’re going to respond differently. First, as we’ve said, you’ll wait for 15 minutes before going in. This may mean that you need to sound-proof or put a fan in the rooms of your other children, so that the crying doesn’t wake them up. Second, when you do go in, first try reinserting the pacifier, tucking the blanket, and leaving.

For another 15 minutes. If he’s still crying, make a bottle that’s half of the usual amount you’d offer at night. In my case, it was cutting 4 ounces back to 2 ounces. Feed it to him, burp him, put him back down, and leave the room. If he cries, go in every 15 minutes to soothe as I said before. But that’s all the food you should offer until morning. With luck, he’ll go back to sleep right after the bottle.

Days 4-6: Less Feeding, more Sleeping

After three days, you’ll cut the bottle in half again (in my example, from 2 ounces to 1). Everything else is the same – 15 minutes before you go in, offering just the one bottle, etc. Now the late-night bottle is really just a soothing gesture. Essentially, you’re training your baby’s body not to need food to fall back asleep.

These days may be rough for you, but they’re the critical part of your 1-week program, because 25% of the expected bottle isn’t going to satisfy your baby if he’s truly hungry. You have to let him cry it out (in 15-minute segments) to get over the hump.

Day 7: Sleeping Through the Night without Eating

The final night may be the hardest, because the rule is: the baby does not eat in the middle of the night. We’re at the point where we are trying to break the conditioning once and for all. With luck, your baby, after having been weaned down over the past six days, will settle back down if he wakes up at all.

On this last night, if it’s usually mom who goes in to settle the baby, dad goes instead. This was an important change we made, because we figured that when mommy goes into the room in the middle of the night, the baby expects her to feed him. Dad is a new and unknown factor at this hour. It’s less hurtful and less surprising when doesn’t offer food.

If the baby won’t settle down, dad can offer him a bottle with a little bit of water (1-2 ounces at most). And then it’s pacifier (the best pacifier you can find), blanket, back to bed. No food until morning!

Final Words: On Babies and Sleep

better baby sleep habitsAll babies are different; heck, even our twins were different. After 4-6 months by the baby sleep charts most babies are capable of sleeping through the night. By “capable” I mean that their bodies can physically go that long without food.

For some this talent comes easily, but most of us have to work at it. It’s worth a week of dedicated effort, by both parents, to improve your baby’s nighttime sleep habits. Please, give it a try, come back, and leave us a comment with how it went!

You might not succeed completely on the first try. But you’ll learn things about your baby’s natural sleeping patterns, and what he or she is truly capable of. Keep at it!

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Baby sleep problems Periodic Table of Baby SLeep Train baby to sleep through the night Essential Baby Sleep Gear
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.

The Importance of Diapers for Sleeping

The other day while changing the two millionth diaper or so on one of my twins, I began reflecting on the importance of a clean, dry diaper. Particularly when you want your baby to fall asleep quickly and go through the night.

Choosing Diapers for Nighttime

Huggies Overnight diapersWhen your baby starts sleeping through the night, it’s time to look into some serious diapers. You need something that will absorb and wick away moisture for 7 to 10 hours while keeping your baby comfortable.

If he gets too wet, and feels it, your baby might wake up crying. And this can be a hard problem to diagnose when he’s bundled up in pajamas and a swaddler or baby sleep sack. Thus, the nighttime sleep calls for a special diaper. For us, Huggies Overnites diapers, which go from size 4 to 6 (though we started when our babies were wearing size 3’s), were a lifesaver. As long as you can make it tight enough, a diaper that’s a little big for your baby is a good thing, as it offers more absorption.

Cute baby in sleep diaperOvernight diapers are just amazing. They’re extra thick, super absorbent, and I’m constantly surprised at how much they soak up over a long night. I’ve taken ones off that seem to weigh two pounds. They’re not designed for daytime use, when babies tend to want to move around. But they’re perfect for overnight, and also for long car trips.

A Classic Mistake: Not Changing Right Before Bed

Baby diaper for sleepPut your baby into a clean, fresh diaper right before putting him or her to bed. Do this even if the last diaper change was 20 minutes ago and you don’t smell or feel anything. It seems wasteful, especially if you’re trying to save money on diapers, wet wipes, and Diaper Genie refills.

Consider it an investment in a longer night’s sleep, for you and your baby. Because the moment the new diaper goes on, it’s a timer, ticking down. It’s only a matter of hours (if you’re lucky) until your baby will need a new one. If there’s ever a time not to skimp on diapers, it is at night.

And while you’re at it, make sure the flanges are out on those diapers! I’m talking about the thin plastic edges of the diaper that go along your baby’s cute little legs. These are designed to be on the outside of the diaper (not tucked in) to prevent leaks. The best way to ensure that they’re right is to run a finger along and under the diaper’s edge once you’ve put it on.

Watch For and Address Diaper Rash

Diaper Rash OintmentOne thing you should watch for at all times, but especially when your baby starts sleeping longer at night is diaper rash. There are lots of contributing factors to these, and it’s not entirely clear when or why they show up. If your baby seems unusually fussy or uncomfortable, even when fed and otherwise content, look for this at the next diaper change.

You can use cream-based ointments like Dr. Smith’s ointment to treat these whenever you put on a fresh diaper. If it’s hard to get the right angle on your baby’s bottom (even with a Q-tip), just put it on the diaper and it’ll rub into place on its own. Also, give your baby a quick, warm bath once every day or two and make sure his bottom gets a good soak. Dry him off well, and maybe skip the diaper rash cream right after the bath. If it persists longer than a week, you might want to call a pediatrician.

Make sure you keep plenty of hand sanitizer near the diaper changer, and wash your hands whenever possible!

So there’s the bottom line: keep your baby’s bottom as dry and comfortable as possible. It’ll keep him happier during the day and help him sleep at night.

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Baby sleep problems Periodic Table of Baby SLeep Train baby to sleep through the night Essential Baby Sleep Gear
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.

How to Help a Teething Baby

how to help a teething babyLet me guess: Your baby, somewhere between the age of 3 and 12 months, is fussing more than usual, waking up crying, and refusing to eat. That’s right, your baby is probably teething. You’re in for a bumpy ride for the next few days, but you’ve come to the right place.
At What Age Do Babies Start Teething?
Teething Symptoms and Signs
Baby Teethers and Toys
Pain Relief for Teething Infants
Update: Frozen Waffles
Teething Necklaces for Mom
The Amber Teething Necklace

At What Age Do Babies Start Teething?

Generally, your baby will get his first tooth between the age of 3 to 7 months. There are exceptions, of course — some babies start at 1 month, or are born with a tooth, while some won’t begin until nine months. Usually the bottom middle two teeth are the first to come in, then the top two, and then they fill in on the sides. Most times, it’s one or two teeth at a time, which means that you can expect to repeat the process over and over again until your baby’s final set of teeth (second molars) start coming in by around 24 months.

Teething Symptoms and Signs

Baby teething problemsThere are a set of common symptoms that most parents notice in a baby that’s teething:

  • Lots of drooling. This is one of the most obvious signs that your baby might be teething, though it’s not conclusive, as there’s usually some amount of drool on any given day. Sometimes this will cause irritation in the form of a rash on baby’s chin, or in the wrinkles in his chubby little neck. Use a warm washcloth to clean the chin and neck. Our pediatrician also recommended non-talc baby powder to keep the neck dry.
  • Sensitive and swollen gums. Sometimes this is visible when you look in your baby’s mouth; other times you learn about it the hard way — by bumping his gums with a spoon, nipple, or pacifier.
  • Refusing food or a bottle, even when hungry. This is an obvious and frustrating symptom of a teething baby. You can tell he’s hungry, and he needs to eat, but he turns his head away when you offer it.
  • Problems sleeping. This is related not only to the discomfort of teething, but also because a teething baby has trouble eating and keeping a pacifier — two things that generally help your baby get to sleep.
  • Sudden bouts of crying or screaming. I think this occurs when a baby bumps sensitive gums, and gets a jab of pain. Sometimes this happens while eating or playing, but often it catches you by surprise. It’s not just the fussy cry either. It’s the louder, penetrating, I’m-hurt-and-angry-about-it cry, at least in my experience.

Last of all, as a companion to or direct result of these symptoms, you’ll notice general fussiness in your baby when he’s teething. This is understandable, because he’s in pain, poorly rested, hungry, and doesn’t understand why this should be! So next, let’s walk through the various things you can do to offer your teething baby some relief.

sophie giraffe teether

Sophie Giraffe Teether

Baby Teethers and Toys

The classic remedy for teething babies, the soft infant teether, now comes in a million shapes and sizes. The thinking behind these is that giving a baby something soft and yielding to chew on will soothe the discomfort of new teeth coming in.

There are plenty of teethers out there, so try a few. According to my research, the universally most popular one is the Sophie Giraffe Teether pictured at right.

Some of these can be placed in the refrigerator or freezer, after which the cold provides a sort of numbing effect, and let me tell you, this works. I was surprised to see that (1) my baby was willing to hold and touch something icy cold for several minutes, and (2) how well it seemed to quiet him down.

Pain Relief for Teething Infants

All play teethers aside, you’ll probably want to offer some pain relief to your teething infant, particularly at night. There are a few options for this. The most popular by far is a topical pain relief gel, such as Baby Orajel, which contains a mild anesthetic like lidocaine. I know this works, because I’ve put it on with a finger before, and then noticed that my fingertip goes numb. There are homeopathic alternatives to this (most with clove oil as the key ingredient) but the reviews of these suggest that they have a strong smell and/or taste, which makes it hard to apply to a squirming infant.

Little Teethers Baby Orajel Gum Massagers Gum Cleansers

There are also gum massagers and baby toothbrushes, both of which can offer some relief by letting you massage your baby’s swollen gums a little bit. The toothbrush is nice when your baby’s getting his first teeth, because he gets to munch on your finger a little bit while you massage him.

Update: Frozen Waffles

Teething baby frozen waffleSo I’m updating this article because was just went through a hellish week during which one of our twins was cutting an especially sensitive tooth. He’s 11 months; we usually give him baby cereal after dinner but before bedtime. With enough solid food in his belly, sleeps through the night just fine. The problem: the pain of teething was enough that he refused to eat solid food, even when clearly hungry. He did better with bottles, but only slightly. Between the hunger and the teething pains, he was quite the cranky baby and didn’t sleep well.

We took him to see the pediatrician to rule out a baby ear infection. Our doctor told us his gums were really swollen, and asked if we’d offered him some frozen waffles to chew on. We hadn’t, but it turned out to be one of the best ideas ever. You can buy them at the grocery store, or make your own and freeze them. Frozen waffles work wonders, because:

  • They’re cold and just the right density for a baby to chew on.
  • They’re easy for him to pull apart and eat
  • The unusual shape alone keeps babies entertained
  • They taste good too, which helps fill him up

Frozen waffles seemed to help comfort his gums during the day. At night, we did Orajel and dose of baby pain reliever. Success! I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to have him sleeping through the night again!

Teething Necklaces and Bracelets for Mom

Pink Teething Necklace for MomStylish teething necklaces for the mom whose infant grabs at her neck, jewelry, or hair are all the rage right now. I wish I had thought of this, because these necklaces have several advantages:

  • They’re stylish and designed to be worn as an accessory.
  • They’re soft and safe for your infant to grab at or chew on while you hold him
  • They offer a quickly accessible teether while you’re out and about.

The Pink Cupcake Teething Necklace (shown at left) is one of the most popular of these, though they come in a variety of styles, colors, and designs.

Chewbeads makes a teething necklace and a teething bracelet for moms, both stylish and made of 100% silicone (the same material used in most pacifiers) for on-the-go chewing.

The Amber Teething Necklace

amber teethin necklaceFinally, another thing you can try to help a teething (or fussy) baby is an amber necklace. These are usually made from Baltic amber, harvested in the largest known deposit of amber near the Baltic sea in Europe. The necklace is worn (but not chewed) by your baby, so you’ll have to make your own decision regarding its safety.

This is a homeopathic remedy thousands of years old; to my knowledge, there’s no scientific evidence that amber necklaces (1) release succinic acid when worn by an infant, or (2) have any physiological effect. But many parents swear by the soothing effect of amber necklaces. For less than $20, if you’re desperate, this may be something to try. Leave us a comment if you’ve used an amber necklace, and tell us how it went!

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Baby sleep problems Periodic Table of Baby SLeep Train baby to sleep through the night Essential Baby Sleep Gear
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.

Early Bedtime Benefits for Baby

Early bedtime for babyA common myth among new parents is that if you put your baby to bed later in the evening, he’ll sleep later. This seems logical; it’s true for adults, so it must be true for babies, right? Wrong. So wrong! If you haven’t figured this out already, you soon will. Strange as it may seem, your baby will sleep better through the night with an early bedtime.
Why Early Bedtimes?
Keeping Baby Up Too Late
Finding Your Baby’s Bedtime
Early Bedtime Benefits

Why An Early Bedtime?

Babies are hard-wired to go to bed in the early evening, usually shortly after dinner. They have no need of television or winding down in the evening. Once they’ve had dinner, they need just a little time for that food to settle, then bath, bottle, and bed.

The traditional colic time for babies is around 5 to 7 p.m., when they’ve been awake for most of the day. Part of why they’re particularly fussy is that their bodies are ready for sleep. Keeping a baby awake past his “natural” bedtime is a recipe for disaster, as over-tired babies have more problems falling asleep and seem less comfortable overnight.

Keeping Babies Up Late

There are numerous reasons why parents keep their babies up too late at night.

  • First, and foremost, they may not realize just how soon a baby is ready for bed. When our boys were three months old or so, we mentioned to the pediatrician that we put them to bed at around 9:00, fed them again at midnight or 1:00, and then they slept pretty much through the night. He said “Try putting them down at 7:30.” We did just that, and what a difference it made! I was certain it would have the boys waking up at 2 a.m. Instead, they now go to bed at 7:30 or 8:00, and generally sleep through the night. You won’t believe it until you try it with your own baby.
  • Working parents want more time for the baby. This is totally understandable – you get home from a long day of work, and you want to spend a few hours playing with your cute baby! A little bit of play time is fine, but baby’s needs should come first. Make the most of the time that you and your baby have, from the moment you get home. Skip the e-mail and Facebook, and put in some quality time first. You can do these things while your baby’s asleep, and you’ll both be happier for it.
  • Some parents think tire the baby out, and he’ll sleep in. This strategy usually backfires for babies and for toddlers. The later you put them to bed, the earlier they tend to wake up. It makes no sense, but there you have it. Circadian rhythms may have something to do with this. Your baby naturally wants to sleep from sunset to sunrise. Guess what? That’s usually 7:30 or 8 in the evening until 6 or 7 in the morning. This happens to overlap almost exactly with what experts recommend as your baby’s overnight sleep schedule.

Finding Your Baby’s Bedtime

So, you’re willing to try it. How do you start putting your baby to bed early? I think this is best done by monitoring your baby, starting half an hour after his dinner, for signs that he’s starting to tire. This might be “sleepy eyes”, or rubbing the face, or just general fussiness. As soon as you notice these, start the bedtime routine that you’ve established.

At most, your baby should be bathed, fed, swaddled, and in bed by about 2 hours after dinner. Stick to the same time for 2-3 nights in a row. Then, if you need to adjust, do so by 15 or 20 minutes and try two more nights. Do this until you find a time that seems to work. Here’s our own typical schedule:

Play Time
earths best baby vegetables Baby bath routine Dr. Brown's Bottles Arm's Reach Baby Bassinet
A solid dinner: veggies or meat with lots of baby cereal. In the activity jumper or baby gym, then maybe some tummy time A nice warm bath seems to help a lot, when we find time. 4-6 ounces from a Dr. Brown’s, then lots of burping. Nighttime diaper, pajamas, sleep sack, and a good pacifier.

Benefits of an Early Bedtime

An early bedtime has a number of advantages, for both you and your baby:

  1. It matches your baby’s longest sleep cycle to nighttime and his or her natural circadian rhythms. Let’s hope this gives you the most important benefit: a baby that sleeps through the night!
  2. Your evening will be more relaxing. Instead of dealing with a fussy baby or dreading the next wake-up, you put your baby down and assume he’ll sleep through the night.
  3. More time with your spouse or other children. Let’s face it, the new baby in the house probably gets most of your attention for the rest of the day. While they sleep peacefully in the evening hours, you can get in some quality time… with the others in your nest.

Bottom line, there are lots of things to like about giving your baby an early bedtime. Give it a try, tonight!

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8 Baby Sleep Habits to Avoid

8 baby sleep habits to avoidThe path to healthy, consistent sleep habits for your baby is spider-webbed with tempting side roads. They seem like good ideas at the time. Short-cuts, if you will, to make life as a new parent a little easier. But there are some baby sleep habits that you really need to avoid.

These practices will come back to bite you, and make training your baby to sleep through the night on his own that much more difficult.

1. Not setting a schedule. 2

Newborns eat on a 3-hour or 4-hour schedule so you can use the points of the clock: 3, 6, 9, and 12, (three-hour schedule) or 4, 8, 12 (four-hour schedule). These are the times your baby should eat. Try not to waver more than half an hour.

This means holding your baby off, if he wakes up at 11:15, or waking him up by 12:30 at the latest. Don’t get into the habit of letting your baby eat and sleep every hour. Set your schedule, and stick to it. This is just as important during the day as it is at night; for some tips, see our article on baby nap questions.

2. Letting baby sleep outside the crib. 2

Your baby needs to learn to go to sleep in the crib on his own. If you let him fall asleep in your arms every time, or to doze off in a favorite swing, he’ll grow to expect that. He won’t be able to sleep without it, and that’s going to be hard, especially as your baby grows.The solution to this is simple, but the earlier the better: put your baby in bed just before he falls asleep. If you need to pick him up and soothe your baby, that’s fine. But put him back down as soon as he’s calm.

3. Putting baby to bed too late. 2

There’s a strange law of opposites with babies and bedtimes: the later they go to bed, the earlier they tend to wake up. That’s why many of the forums, guides, and sleep experts advise the early bedtime (EBT) technique. For my boys, they’re ready an hour or two after dinner: 7 or 7:30. Babies just aren’t programmed to stay up late.

baby up too lateLots of parents want to keep their babies up a bit later than that, especially those who work and want to get in some quality time. It will be hard for you to do this, but you must.

Establishing a nighttime routine is crucial for you and your baby. Set an early bed time, stick to it, and make the most out of every waking minute you can.

loose items baby crib4. Letting loose items collect in the baby crib. 1

I admit that I’m guilt of this. As you’re changing the baby, swaddling, switching blankets, etc., you tend to collect a lot of cloth “debris”. Dirty clothes, extra blankets, burp cloths, that sort of thing. Even compact cribs, with their wide opening and flat surface, make excellent collection areas for these things.

We all know this is a danger, even if you put the baby on the other side of the crib. Put a big hamper or basket in your baby’s room and use that to collect the stuff instead. Remember, sleep safety guidelines now say that the only thing that should be in your baby’s crib is the baby himself.

baby first cry5. Over-responding to baby’s first cry. 2

baby blankets on etsy

Winter is coming! Etsy’s cutest hand-sewn baby blankets

Some babies cry in their sleep, and most (if not all) babies occasionally wake up randomly even when they’re routine sleepers. That’s the bad news. The good news is that if you apply good techniques, your baby learns to fall back asleep on his own and to self-soothe. Perhaps one out of every four unexpected wake-ups, my boys will cry, but then konk right out again.

Two times out of four, I can apply soothing techniques to get him back to bed. Only one time out of four do I have to pick him up and offer a bottle.
Invest in a good baby monitor to help you distinguish between little cries and full-on tantrums, and also to reassure yourself that your baby is safe. Baby monitors have come a long way in recent years. See our wireless video monitor reviews for some good options, including one monitor that transmits to your iPhone or smartphone!

feed baby sleep6. Putting baby to bed hungry. 2

Or, if not hungry, then insufficiently fed. The nighttime feeding is crucial to getting your baby to sleep through the night. You get one shot at it, so make it count. At dinner time, feed your baby solid food (if permitted), ideally a vegetable mixed with baby cereal. If baby’s still hungry, mix up more baby cereal and offer it. Then you can play with him for a bit while that settles.

Just before bed, at the right part in your routine, offer a bottle of nice warm milk — offer as much as he’ll take. Don’t let him go to sleep if you know he needs more to drink! Often the more a baby eats, the longer he can sleep at night (notice I say can, not will).

baby bedtime routine7. Skipping parts in, or not even having, a bedtime routine. 2

You should establish a routine for putting baby to bed, including a bath (optional), a fresh overnight diaper, clean pajamas, and swaddling. All of these are key elements to getting your baby to sleep as quickly (and for as long) as possible. I admit that I’m tempted to skip things occasionally.

Does he really need pajamas when I have him in a onesie already? Should I put him into a nighttime diaper when I just changed him 20 minutes ago? He looks warm enough; do I need to swaddle him?

Yes, Yes, Yes! Any skipped step could be the one that has him waking up at 2 a.m.

cosleeping with baby8. Bringing baby to your bed to sleep. 1,2

Oh, no! Thought you were going to get away with that, did you? There are a few types of co-sleeping with baby that parents might make a habit of. Sharing a room, but not a bed, with your infant is actually recommended by pediatricians, as it lets you monitor your baby while he sleeps overnight.

The worrisome kind is bed-sharing, when your baby sleeps in the same bed as the parents. It’s not safe to have a tiny infant sleeping with lots of pillows, loose blankets, and 1-2 exhausted parents. Further, this practice disrupts your own sleep as well, because you’ll:

  1. hear every little noise or movement the baby makes, and
  2. probably be paranoid about rolling over on him or her.

If you find yourself in this circumstance, begin by bringing a bassinet or small crib into your room. See our  mini crib reviews for some compact but stylish cribs. Start transitioning your baby to sleep in that whenever he’ll take it, but at least one night per week. Then go to two nights, then three. For more help, see our article on getting baby to sleep in the crib.

Maybe you just want to be able to watch your baby at all times, even when he or she is asleep. Wireless video baby monitors make that possible, and we’ve reviewed some of the latest models.

Conclusion: Improving Baby Sleep Habits

Don’t feel badly if you’ve picked up a bad habit or two. Nobody’s perfect, and certainly not the author: I’ve been guilty of every single bad habit listed above at some point or another. But you’ve read this far, which means you’re willing to work at improving your baby’s sleep habits. Don’t be afraid to tackle some of these problems.

The latest research on baby sleep training intervention shows that it has both short-term (baby and parents getting some sleep) and long-term (reduced maternal depression) benefits, but no long-term harms. You have nothing to lose by trying it!

Start tonight. The sooner you ditch those bad habits, the sooner your baby will have a longer, safer, more consistent night of sleep. For more help, get our e-book, Baby Sleep Training 101.

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Baby sleep problems Wireless VIdeo Baby Monitors Get baby to sleep through the night Aden & Anais Blankets
Baby sleep problems takes you through the most common sleep issues and how to address them. Our video monitor reviews compare the latest cutting-edge wireless color video baby monitors. Visit our sleep training section for strategies and tips for teaching your baby to sleep through the night. Learn about Aden+Anais swaddle blankets and why your baby will love falling asleep with one.
Best Baby Mobiles 6 tips for starting solid food Best baby pacifiers Early bedtime for baby
Best Crib Mobiles reviews musical, black/white, and organic crib mobiles. 6 tips for starting solid food has some good advice for when your baby starts eating solids. Best Baby Pacifiers has our recommendations for newborns, older babies, and teething infants. Early Bedtime strategies that work surprisingly well for helping babies sleep through the night.
 [1] Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Moon RY. SIDS and
other sleep-related infant deaths: expansion of recommendations for
a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics. 2011 Nov;128(5):1030-9.
 [2] Weissblut, Marc. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Ballantine Books; 1 edition
(October 4, 2005). Read our review.