What to do to Get Your Baby to Fall Asleep
I will start off by saying that the topic of sleep in infants, babies, toddlers, and children is HUGE! There is a lot of information and literature out there, some of it helpful and some, not so much.
I am going to provide you with what worked for me in my real-life situation! I will give you a bit of my story and a few things that I learned that really worked. I find the amount of information out there can be completely overwhelming, and I want to give you, the tired parent, a quick reference guide.
I will also tell you which are the must-have books on sleep!
Not All Babies Fall Asleep Easily
All babies are different when it comes to sleeping habits. Some babies fall asleep easily and frequently no matter their environment.
I have friends whose babies would sleep happily in their carriers at a restaurant, in the car, at events, or concerts. My babies did not, at all!
When my firstborn was about 3-4 weeks old, we had an episode where she had been awake most of the day and just would not fall asleep. I even tried the “drive your baby around in the car” method to get her to sleep!
She was calm and quiet in the car for half an hour or more. After getting home from the drive, I peeked, and she was wide awake looking around. She did not fall asleep and worse, was fussing again by the time we were back inside the house.
This is such a memorable day because she had been awake ALL day, literally from 7 am to 6 pm! For a baby this is not enough sleep, she was SO FUSSY.
She screamed and cried a lot! She was not sick, just exhausted. Eventually I managed to soothe her to sleep, but the experience left an impression.
I had many days and nights of trying to soothe a very tired infant. I won’t lie, I struggled. However, after much researching, reading, trying various methods, and talking to the doctor I had success!
I could soothe my baby and get her to relax and eventually get to sleep regularly with a great nap and bedtime schedule.
I am here to help you! If your baby doesn’t sleep easily read on to discover some really great tips and resources.
These will really help if you have a colicky baby or a baby that just doesn’t fall asleep easily like mine.
Resources: the Must-Have Sleep Books and my Main Take-Aways From Them
As I’m sure you know, there is a lot of literature out there about sleep and babies. That’s because it is a heavily studied topic and many people have a hard time with infant sleep issues. You are not alone, many people struggle with baby sleep deprivation.
I am giving you this reference list because these are the things that finally worked, they helped us. Also, these are the experts and they can explain all the details of sleep better than I can. So, I won’t try to repeat all the great info in these books, but here is a brief synopsis for each one.
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
My favorite sleep book is Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, written by Marc Weissbluth, M.D. This has been the main book that has helped our family. I still reference this book; it discusses sleep from one-week-old through the teenage years!
I love that this book is broken down into sections with highlighted bullet points. I will say that this book is also very dense with statistics and details! If you are planning ahead, read through it all. If you are sleep deprived, trust that his methods are well studied and just read the section that matters to you at the time.
The main take-aways from Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child are that babies who sleep more, sleep better, and sleep even more. Falling asleep is a learned behavior and we can help teach our babies to learn to fall asleep! Also, your baby needs to have a sleep routine!!! This book also helps to tell us how much sleep kids need at each stage, which can be very helpful.
The Happiest Baby on the Block
Another great reference is The Happiest Baby on the Block, by Harvey Karp, MD. This is a wonderful, easy to read guide to soothing your baby to help him fall asleep and stay asleep. I strongly recommend this book too.
This book is not as dense and is super easy to read! It even has pictures.
I took away from this book a dedicated fall asleep routine that actually worked. The author’s main recommendation for soothing includes “The 5 S’s:” swaddle, side or stomach position, shush sound, swing, and suck. I figured out what my baby liked for each of the S’s and made it part of a relaxing routine for falling asleep and that worked!!!!
Jo Frost’s Confident Baby Care
Another helpful baby book is Jo Frost’s Confident Baby Care, by Jo Frost (the Supernanny!). This is not just a sleep book, it also includes help on baby care for the first year. This book is also really easy to read.
Talk to Your Doctor
Finally, do not be afraid to talk to your pediatrician. Sometimes we feel like we should know everything or that we are doing something wrong if our baby does not sleep, but, the fact is that having a new baby is hard. Asking for help is the right thing to do, especially from the experts! Don’t feel like you will be judged. Everyone struggles with one issue or another when it comes to babies.
Have a Sleep Routine – Don’t Skip this!
Before having kids I claimed I would not change my schedule or my ability to be spontaneous, the kid would just have to go along with me.
Well…… I was wrong to some degree!!! As you probably know, having a baby is a major life-changing event! And, having a baby that does not sleep easily, can change things even more, at least early on!
By 3 weeks of age, I could see that my baby was exhausted, and that she needed sleep. My husband and I were both exhausted, we needed rest too.
We talked to the doctor, I was sure something was wrong with her health. She was screaming and crying ALL THE TIME! But, after a thorough check-up, the Dr. reported that our baby was healthy. What our baby needed was help learning how to fall asleep.
So, by 4 weeks of age- I had to start a routine. If your new baby is not sleeping, try the following example.
An Example of a Sleep Routine for a 4 week old Infant:
By around 8 am, after breakfast time for us, I would take her for her first “nap.” Now, you can’t really expect truly scheduled naps in this tiny baby, they just sleep every few hours all day and night (actually after about 90 minutes of being awake a new infant should be soothed to sleep again.) But, you can start to help them learn to relax and fall asleep.
Our routine consisted of a fresh diaper followed by a nice tight swaddle. I would turn on her white noise machine which is so important because babies are used to being in the womb, where it is really noisy!!
Then, once in her room, I would sit in the rocking chair and lay her in my arms and give her a pacifier.
I would read her a little story and just rock and stay calm. While holding her, she would eventually start to relax.
I learned to bring in my cup of coffee and maybe a book for me because at that young age she would fall asleep in my arms, but if I tried to set her down for a nap, she would wake up immediately.
So, the right thing for my baby, at first, was to let her sleep in my arms.
Yes, this was many hours of me sitting in her room in her rocking chair, but it didn’t last forever. You will not be stuck doing this forever, but it is a necessary step for some babies!!!!
Babies have to learn how to be soothed, then eventually they can soothe themselves!
After a few weeks, I could soothe her to sleep in my arms, then place her very carefully in her crib.
Continue a Sleep Routine:
The next step, many months later, was to be able to soothe her with a nap time routine: (sound machine on, fresh diaper, pacifier, swaddle, cuddle, stories) and place her in the crib while still awake.
We did have to do some sleep training, but by 6-7 months we were able to do nap time and put her in the crib awake and she had learned how to fall asleep on her own.
By this time, I had a really good sleep routine and a baby that would take great naps!!!! She would take a long morning and afternoon nap, in her own crib. She was even able to soothe herself back to sleep if she woke up!
She would also go to bed at bedtime- with her bedtime routine in the same way!! Yay, we all were getting rest! If she woke in the night, we could feed her or change her diaper and she could go right back to bed in her crib and fall asleep on her own.
Why Have a Strict Routine:
Do, this! Have a sleep routine for your baby- reference the above books for advice from the experts on the details! It may not be exactly the same as mine, but find a routine that works for you!
Put the effort of a sleep routine in and you will end up with happy babies! Babies that are also adaptable and during those wakeful moments enjoy the spontaneous pic-nic you take. A baby that is going to be happy to go along with you!!!
I also found, that when it was time to break an established routine for things like vacation, family trips, BBQs, etc. that my kids were really adaptable! We could be off the routine and the babies were still happy. Once home, we got right back to our normal daily routine really easily.
Everyone gets more sleep with a well-rested baby.
I know, six months can sound like forever! Don’t worry, as you practice your sleep routine your baby will start to sleep more and more even before six months old!
How to Soothe Your Baby to Sleep
Remember each baby is different. It is a little bit of trial and error and learning the personality of your new little one. Once you know what is relaxing for them, you have the key to helping them sleep!
My first baby loved being swayed side to side with shushing sounds! My second baby wanted to be upright and have pats on her back. As you hold your baby soothing will come naturally. Try different techniques until you find what works best.
So, be calm, take deep breaths, be patient, and love them!
Once you know what calms your baby, do it each time it’s nap or bedtime! Do the same routine each time!
Get some rest!
I have given you some really awesome references. I know, reading another book right now may seem overwhelming. But at least take a look, there are sections of these books that are easy to read and make you less tired in the long run!
You need a routine that works for your family- but make sure the baby’s routine is your priority! If you do this, you will actually find you have more time for yourself and your family! This was hard for me to accept at first, but it really is true!
I found that having a schedule led to a happy baby. Having a happy and well-rested baby allowed me to take her for fun, spontaneous outings during the wakeful times!!
Don’t forget to enjoy those quiet moments soothing your little tiny baby. Rest, relax, and try your best to just take it in. These moments in our lives are fleeting and they are precious!
Have a great day! Please feel free to comment below!