Five Essential Baby Sleep Habits

5 Essential baby sleep habitsTeaching a baby to sleep through the night requires establishing healthy sleep habits around the clock. Here, we’ll go through five essential baby sleep habits that help babies sleep through the night consistently.

1. Establishing a bedtime routine

The first essential habit is establishing a bedtime routine for your baby. This is the set of steps you’ll go through every night with your baby, starting with dinner and ending with the baby in bed. Setting a routine and sticking to it won’t always be easy, but it teaches your baby that there’s a series of events each night that lead up to bedtime.

The bath-bottle-bed routine is a popular one because it works so well: the warm comfort of the bath gets baby ready for a bottle, and the full belly afterward makes them drowsy. It’s a series of physical cues that prepares your baby for the long sleep. We extend our bedtime routine a bit further with a few minutes of reading to baby, a pacifier, and their favorite blankies.

The downside to a routine is that it can monotonous and take a bit more time than you’d like, but the upside is that a good routine has baby falling asleep on his or her own, the second you put them into the crib.

2. Setting an early bedtime

One of the most surprising sleep habits that makes a huge impact is setting an early bedtime for baby. This seems counter-intuitive, right? Put your baby to bed earlier, and you think he or she would wake up earlier, too. Not so. It turns out that most babies are ready for sleep rather early in the evening. It’s the parents’ routine that keeps them up longer than necessary.

By watching your baby for the first signs of drowsiness and putting him or her to bed as soon as they appear, you may find that an early bedtime has them sleeping more soundly and for a lot longer.

3. Putting baby to sleep in the crib

If your baby already sleeps in the crib every time, congratulations. You already have this important habit established. If instead you’re one of the many parents whose baby sleeps better in the swing or the parents’ bed, or while being held, you have something to work on. Getting a baby to sleep in the crib when that’s not the norm tends to get more difficult by the day.

Start making this transition right away, because having a baby sleep regularly in his or her own bed will make a world of difference for sleep training. It frees up some of your time, too, so that you can do things you haven’t done nearly enough since your little one was born. Like laundry, or showering.

4. Dressing baby for sleep

As parents, we sometimes find ourselves cutting corners. A lack of time, a house full of chores, and sheer exhaustion will do that to you. One area you shouldn’t skimp on is dressing the baby for bed. A good diaper is important for keeping your baby as dry as possible overnight. After that, a comfy set of pajamas to keep them warm. Finally, you should swaddle your baby or put them in a sleep sack or sleeping bag to mimic the snug security of the womb.

5. Offering a pacifier

The last habit may be one of the easiest, and that’s getting your baby to take a pacifier. Most of us have no trouble with this, but I hear occasionally from parents whose baby refuses one. I’m puzzled by this, since those same babies drink readily from bottles tipped with a nipple-shaped piece of rubber. I wonder if instead it’s a matter of finding the right pacifier for your baby.

My boys, for example, won’t take any of the cute Sesame Street pacifiers that we got at showers. Instead, they only take the MAM low-profile pacifiers. See our review of the best baby pacifiers to find one that your baby will love, and then make it part of the bedtime routine. This not only gives your baby a comfort when you put them to bed, but it’s useful for nighttime soothing as well.

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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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Baby sleep problems Wireless VIdeo Baby Monitors 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. 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. Check out our reviews of Essential baby gear for helping babies sleep at night.

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!

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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.

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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What To Read Next

If you like this article, you might want to subscribe by e-mail or RSS so that you’re notified when new content is posted.

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.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby

A happy family is a well rested one. That’s the central tenet to Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth, arguably the most popular baby sleep book of all time.

It is a step-by-step guide to deciphering your baby’s natural sleep patterns and establishing good habits within them. The first several sections of the book are useful for parents of any-age children:

Healthy sleep strategies

The first portion of the book is about recognizing the signs of drowsiness in your child and knowing when to put him or her to bed. There’s also a discussion about breastfeeding before bed, solid food, and feeding habits.

And then, techniques for soothing a baby to sleep, and pointers on establishing a routine that works with your baby’s natural sleeping patterns.

Sleep Problems and How to Address Them

Dr. Weissbluth offers advice for parents of babies that have many of the common sleeping problems, including but not limited to:

  • Waking up too early
  • Unable to fall asleep
  • Refusing to stay in bed
  • Afraid of the dark or being alone
  • Refusing to take a morning or afternoon nap
  • Taking a nap that’s too short, too long, or at the wrong time
  • Transitioning from the parents’ bed to the crib.

Special Sleep Issues or Events

In the latter parts of the book, the author tackles less common but nevertheless serious issues which prevent the establishment of healthy sleep habits. These include specific issues like extreme fussiness/colic, night terrors, and bedwetting.

He also offers advice for events that tend to disrupt healthy sleep habits: daylight savings time, the mother’s return to work, the presence of twins or older siblings, etc..

Establishing Healthy Sleep Habits

The remainder of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is devoted to establishing healthy sleep habits for babies, broken down by age group. Of course, every child is different. There’s no magic bullet to getting babies to sleep through the night consistently, or else we wouldn’t all be writing about it. In general, however, Dr. Weissbluth outlines several steps that parents can take toward healthier sleep habits for their baby:

  1. Watch your child for signs of drowsiness
  2. As soon as you see signs of drowsiness, put him down to sleep
  3. Try an early bedtime. Most babies need to go to bed earlier than you think – often around 6:30 or 7:00.
  4. At bedtime, let your child cry it out for 15-20 minutes before going in to comfort him or her.

Many of the key points of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Childare some of the messages we try to get across at Get Your Baby to Sleep. Establish a routine. Feed your baby enough, and then put him to bed early. Find out what works for your baby, and make that into a routine. This could be bath-bottle-bed, it could be something else. This is a great book, and a must-have for any parent!

Buy Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Baby

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.

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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Baby sleep problems Wireless VIdeo Baby Monitors 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. 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. Check out our reviews of Essential baby gear for helping babies sleep at night.

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

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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.

Getting Baby to Sleep Through the Night

Get baby to sleep through nightGetting your baby to sleep through the night is a huge victory for parents. For most of us, it doesn’t come easy. It comes after weeks upon weeks of establishing sleep routines, figuring out your baby’s wants and needs, and trying lots of different strategies. You can and will get there. Here’s how to get started.
Table of Contents:

When do babies sleep through the night?
What does “through the night” mean?

Strategies to Get Through The Night
Setting a nightly routine
Feeding your baby at night
Dressing your baby for sleep
Setting the stage: Your baby’s room

Problems and Troubleshooting
Be prepared for any problem
When your baby wakes up at night
3 last tips for getting baby to sleep longer

When do babies sleep through the night?

It varies quite a bit between babies, but almost never before two months of age. Newborns have to eat every 4 hours or so, so even if they could go all night, they probably shouldn’t. Sorry, that’s part of having a baby! You’ll probably turn a corner at 3-4 months, when babies can sleep five hours or longer after a good feeding. See the baby sleep chart for more. Food is, in my opinion, the ultimate determinant of when babies start sleeping through the night. As soon as your baby can take, and hold, enough food to last for a long stretch, you can start working toward sleeping through the night.

What “through the night” means

You, as an adult, probably like to get 7-8 hours of good, uninterrupted sleep each night. When the baby comes, you’re lucky if you get 3 or 4 hours at a time. On the bright side, newborns sleep about 18 hours throughout the day, so when they sleep, you sleep to make up for those late nights. You should set milestones, based on your baby’s adjusted age, for the longest period of nighttime sleep:

Goals for baby to sleep through the night

By twelve months, your baby should be able to sleep 10-11 hours through the night without waking. Here’s what you’ll need to get there.

Setting A Nightly Routine

Choosing a nightly routine for your baby is critical to help him sleep through the night. The bath-bottle-bed routine is a classic example. Performing the same steps with your baby, in the same order, helps train them that it’s time for “the big sleep” at night. It also helps you remember to do everything that matters – change the diaper, put on the pajamas, swaddle, etc.

Solid foods mixed with cereal, as much as the baby will take.
Play Time
Bouncer, play yard, bumbo chair, and/or tummy time (not right after eating, though)
As often as possible. This really relaxes them.
As much as your baby will take, followed by a good burping.
Clean diaper, warm pajamas, full belly, swaddler, sound machine.
earths best baby vegetables Baby bath routine Dr. Brown's Bottles Arm's Reach Baby Bassinet

Even the best parents can forget a step; we’re all working on limited sleep, right? For a detailed guide on what your baby’s nightly routine should look like, see Establishing a Bedtime Routine.

Feeding Your Baby At Night

Baby formula at nightThe principal reason that babies wake up in the middle of the night is to eat. This is a powerful, biological urge that they can’t really control. For this reason, newborns less than 2 months of age typically can’t sleep more than 3-4 hours at a time. The hunger pangs are too strong. As your baby gets older, though, he’s able to take more food and (eventually) to take solids, which really seem to make a difference. Even before that time, there are steps you can take to help your baby sleep at night:

  • Save the formula for nighttime. If you supplement with infant formula, which is common, you may wish to do so in the evening or at night. I am not suggesting that you feed with formula instead of breast milk. We all know and appreciate the benefits of breast feeding. However: a lot of moms supplement breast milk with formula, either out of convenience or necessity. For these moms, I suggest favoring breast milk during the day (as it digests more quickly) and favoring formula at night. Or, offering a little bit of formula once the milk is exhausted at nighttime feedings. The goal is just to make sure that your baby has a full belly, which gives him or her a better chance at sleeping through the night.

    Baby vegetables for nighttime feeding

    Baby Vegetables

  • Solid food at dinner. As soon as your baby is allowed solid food, start offering it to him. You’ll probably be instructed to try single-grain cereal before baby food. It takes a while for babies to get the knack of it, but your efforts will pay off. Solid food makes a HUGE difference in keeping your baby satisfied. When your baby starts eating a container with a bit of cereal mixed in at dinner, you’ll see a big difference in nighttime sleep. See our article on 6 Tips for Starting Solid Food.
  • Thicken food with cereal. The single-grain cereal is a great thickener, and it helps your baby stay full for longer. You can mix it into runny baby foods, especially carrots, sweet potatoes, and most fruits, to make them more substantial. They also stick to the spoon better and make feeding less messy. Baby cereal is very nutritious, so don’t feel like you’re short-changing the baby’s diet.

About cereal in the bottle

As a rule, many pediatricians and nutritionists advise against adding cereal to bottles. They have convincing reasons for this. Realistically, this is a rule that is “broken” by many parents whose babies wake up hungry in the middle of the night. Whether or not you should try this is is up to you.

I am neither advocating it nor speaking out against it, but a little bit of cereal into the last bottle of the night can help a baby sleep longer. Not more than a teaspoon or two; it should still be liquid after you mix it. Be sure to use a level 2 or level 3 nipple and watch for clogs. This should not be the only way that your baby gets cereal. You still have to do the work of teaching him or her to eat with a spoon.

Whatever you use, make certain that you offer your baby all that he’ll take at the nighttime feeding. If he finishes a bottle and seems interested, offer another 2 ounces. Make sure to burp regularly, of course. The more you can get your baby to take, the longer he’ll be able to go without waking up.

For more help, see Nighttime Feeding and Sleep.

Dressing Your Baby to Sleep At Night

Ensuring that your baby is warm, safe, and secure will help him get a good night’s sleep. He or she may not tolerate a baby hat or mittens, but here are some other, more essential things.

  1. A fresh diaper. What A Newborn should wear to sleep through the nightEven if you changed it half an hour ago, put on a fresh one. Every bit of dryness counts. As soon as your baby’s big enough for a size 3-5 diaper, look into Huggies Overnites, which are extra absorbent and designed specifically to wick away moisture overnight. These things are lifesavers!
  2. Clean, soft pajamas. I prefer long-sleeve pajamas with footies. A little over-sized is okay, but never put a baby in pajamas that are too tight. Soft pajamas are not only more comfortable, but they’re a tactile clue that your baby will associate with sleeping at night. See our review of cute baby pajamas.
  3. Good swaddling. A well-executed swaddle will keep your baby warm and snug, but also acts as a safety measure because it prevents him from getting a limb caught in the crib. Such incidents aren’t usually life-threatening but they tend to evoke a screaming fit, so prevention is key. Learn how to swaddle a newborn and do it every night. If your baby kicks out of it, check out our review of sleep sacks and sleeping bags.

Setting the Stage: Your Baby’s Room

Periodic table of baby sleep through the night

Periodic Sleep Table

There are lots of things you can do in the baby’s room to make it a safe, comfortable environment that encourages long hours of sleep. You want to make your baby’s room and crib a place where he feels cozy and secure, a place where he knows it’s time to sleep.

This is why you shouldn’t play with your baby while he’s in his crib, no matter how cute he’s being. The crib is for sleep only. Here are some other tips that I’ve found useful in extending a baby’s ability to sleep through the night, most of which are also highlighted on the periodic table of baby sleep.

  • Consistent darkness. Unless you enjoy waking up at sunrise, invest in some good room-darkening shades for your baby’s window. Also, install a small lamp or baby night light, somewhere near the changer and away from the crib, to help you see while not over-stimulating the baby into wakefulness. See our review of baby night lights for some suggestions.
  • Quiet or white noise. When the baby goes to bed, try to keep the noise to a minimum. This probably isn’t possible if you have other children. We set up a small fan in the baby’s room by the door and turn it on when he goes to bed. This provides a nice, consistent white noise and has the added benefit of moving some air around in the room, keeping the temperature more consistent.
  • A wind-up or electric music box is an exception to the “quiet” rule: soft music can have a soothing effect at bedtime. You might try a soother or sound machine and see how it goes; some babies like them, some babies hate them. Make sure you have something that either winds up or has a shut-off timer, so you don’t have to go back in to turn it off. With luck, the music from it will be another cue that it’s time to go to bed and sleep through the night.
  • For safety reasons, your newborn’s bed should be clear of anything that could pose a hazard, including baby clothes, blankets, stuffed animals, pillows, and crib bumpers. Yes, crib bumpers. I know they’re cute, but they have been linked to infant injuries and deaths. I don’t know why they even make these any more.
  • If your baby has reflux or wakes up due to gas, you can try slightly elevating the head of your baby’s bed. Often this can be accomplished using the crib’s height settings, and lowering the “foot” of the bed one peg to create a slight incline. This puts gravity on your side and reduces spit-ups. You can also go the low-tech route and put a phone book under one side.

Baby sleeping at night

Be Prepared for Any Problem

Almost every problem that prevents your baby from sleeping through the night has a fix, and you should keep that solution close at hand. Before you put your baby to bed for the night, think about the common reasons babies wake up or won’t sleep and get everything prepared:

  • Have clean diapers out where you can reach them. Whether or not to change the diaper is a judgment call, since you risk waking the baby up even more, but if it’s soaked or dirty, you should do it. Have the new diapers unfolded with tabs at the ready.
  • Make sure the wipe warmer is stocked. I’m a big proponent of baby wipe warmers; not only do warm wipes help avoid stimulating the baby, they seem to reduce the number of times the baby pees on you.
  • Keep extra pacifiers in the bed and on tables in your room or the baby’s room. You can never have too many pacifiers, and they’re often hard to find at night. See our review of the best pacifiers.
  • Set out bottles with pre-measured formula, nipples, and a burp cloth. When they wake up hungry, babies want food NOW. Save time and minimize fumbling by having this stuff ready to go.
  • Make sure the rocking chair is clear so that you have a soft and safe place to take your baby for feeding or soothing.

With this arsenal to handle any problem, and the strategies outlined above, you’ll have your baby sleeping through the night better than ever before. Good luck!

When Your Baby Wakes Up At Night

Why baby won't sleep

Why Baby Won’t Sleep

No matter how perfect your preparation, there will still be the occasional wake-ups in the middle of the night. How to handle these is an area of contentious debate among sleep experts. In my own case, I don’t have the option of letting a baby fuss for long, because our twins share a room and are close to their 2-year-old sister.

Wake-ups are common, even among babies that routinely sleep through the night. You might not be doing anything wrong! To the left you’ll see a pie chart from my article on Why Baby Won’t Sleep depicting the most common reasons that babies have trouble sleeping. There are several possible causes, but when your baby wakes up, here are some response strategies that you should keep in mind:

  1. Respond quickly, but quietly. Don’t go barging in and throw on all the lights. Don’t say anything. The less you stimulate your baby, the better.
  2. Try soothing him in his bed first. Resist the urge to pick him up. At least half of the time, I can get a baby back to sleep by re-inserting the pacifier, tucking his blanket in, and shushing him with a soft voice. I’ve also had luck pushing down on the crib mattress (gently) near the baby to offer a little bit of vibration, almost like taking baby on a car ride.
  3. Find the problem, and fix it. If it’s clear that your baby is hungry, and you’re both up anyway, you might as well feed him. If he looks uncomfortable or squirmy, try burping him. If she looks frightened, hold her close and rock her.
  4. Leave the room as soon as the baby is settled. Don’t stick around to see if it worked, just leave the room and listen outside the door. That way, your baby won’t see you and think it’s time to be extra-cute and wake up.

For more help, see the in-depth article on How to Soothe Your Baby Back to Sleep.

Three Things to Try to Get Baby to Sleep Longer

If you’ve followed my advice so far, you’re a long way on the road to having your baby sleep through the night. There are three “sleep extending” strategies I haven’t touched on that might help your baby sleep longer and more consistently.

1. Bath before bed

Baby bath thermometer

Bath Thermometer

Babies seem to respond differently to baths – some love them, some hate them. I think that water temperature is key here. It should feel slightly warm to your touch, about 90 to 95 degrees. A baby bath thermometer helps. Splash some warm water on the seat or platform that holds your baby up right before he or she goes in – if these get wet and are exposed to air for a couple of minutes, they turn cold very quickly. Regardless of how much they enjoy the bath itself, 100% of my babies are more relaxed after a bath. They fall asleep easier and usually sleep for longer.

2. Early bed time

This is a strategy that you often hear about from sleep experts – the early bedtime. A lot of parents put their babies to bed for the night too late. It seems counter-intuitive, but often putting babies to bed earlier helps them sleep longer. For us, the right time was around 1-2 hours after dinner, around 8:00 or 8:30. Experiment with this and find the right time for your baby.

Aden + Anais Blankets

Aden + Anais Blankets

3. Hands free to soothe

This is for older babies, ones that are using their hands to grab and hold things. Try giving your baby a light-weight blanket, blankie, or extra-soft plush animal to hold at bedtime. Again, not for newborns. Technically, this is not in line with the current sleep safety guidelines so consider it carefully. If you decide to try it, experiment with a few different items. Our boys like the corner of a thin receiving blanket, specifically the legendary Aden+Anais blankets. The soft touch against their cheek soothes them to sleep, and often back to sleep if they wake up.

What To Read Next

Our complete guide to teaching healthy baby sleep habits is called Baby Sleep Training 101. If you like this article, you might want to subscribe by e-mail or RSS so that you’re notified when new content is posted.

Baby sleep problems Wireless VIdeo Baby Monitors 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. 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. Check out our reviews of Essential baby gear for helping babies sleep at night.