This guest post was written by Christine Lawler, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, mom of four and lover of sleep! She founded the sleep consulting company, The Peaceful Sleeper, for two main reasons: she recognized how critically important sleep is in all aspects of life, and she believes that many mothers are under-informed or feel unnecessary guilt when it comes to sleep training and sleep coaching their baby.
Whether you have a newborn or a 1-year-old, getting your baby the sleep that they need is going to improve your baby’s AND your family’s emotional and physical wellbeing. When baby ISN’T getting the sleep that they need, let’s face it, everything just sucks. Now every baby is different, but here are 5 tips that will help get your baby better sleep!
1. Prevent Over-tiredness and Overstimulation!
This is the BIGGEST trick to getting your baby to sleep better. My saying is “sleep begets sleep” so when you prevent over-tiredness and overstimulation and optimize daytime sleep, good nighttime sleep will follow.
Around 4-8 weeks, baby is getting more alert and learning and developing so much that they can easily become overstimulated and overtired. It is a little counterintuitive but when baby is happy and content, look at the clock! If it has been 60-90 minutes, then they are starting to get overtired and overstimulated so don’t be fooled!
2. Recognizing Sleepy Cues
Another crucial part of preventing over-tiredness and overstimulation is looking for your baby’s sleepy cues.
Some sleepy cues may be:
- Gazing off into the distance
- A calm, still, peaceful demeanor
- Subtle yawn
- Pink/red eye lids
If you see baby yawning, crying, rubbing their face, then might have tipped over to overstimulated and overtired. So again, watch the clock and watch for your baby’s sleepy cues.
3. Longer Naps
In general, getting longer naps during the day is going to help so much in getting longer sleep stretches at night.
Like I said, sleep begets sleep, so the goal is getting naps at least an hour long. If baby is just getting short crap naps, do everything and anything to save the nap/ extend the nap. Once they start connecting their nap cycles they will start getting longer stretches at night.
4. The 5 Calming Tricks
If baby is overtired and loosing their crap or if you’re trying to extend the nap, try the 5 S’s to calm them down:
- Swaddle - Babies LOVE to be swaddled, so get them in a nice, tight swaddle. If you find that their squirming out of it or you think your baby doesn’t “like” the swaddle, then your swaddle isn’t nice and tight.
- Sucking - Offer the paci or the breast, but if your baby has recently eaten and you know they are not hungry, start with the paci. There might be a bit of a yo-yo with the paci, but sucking is really soothing for babies so keep at it and they’ll learn how to navigate the paci!
- Side Position - While baby is swaddled have them in the side position in your arms, either facing your body or facing outward.
- Ssshh-ing - Making shh-ing noises mimics the sounds they heard in the womb.
- Swing - And gently swing or bounce while you’re doing all of this.
I also love the eyebrow stroke too, just gently stroking their eyebrows downward to encourage their eyelids to close and face to relax. Again, every baby is different, so see what calming tricks work best for your baby!
5. Getting Full Feedings at Night
Along with optimizing their daytime sleep, we want to make sure they are getting long stretches of sleep at night. To get long stretches at night, we want to get nice, full feedings and make sure baby is fully awake when they’re feeding.
Babies make a lot of grunting noises at night that we might mistake for them being awake and wanting food. I recommend before jumping out of bed, wait one minute and see if they really are awake or if they’re just re-adjusting and will fall back asleep.
If they are hungry, this one-minute wait will help really wake baby up. Keeping baby awake while feeding is also key, either by dabbing a little water on their arm/head, tapping their arms, etc. We want to make sure that we are getting a full feeding from baby, not just a drowsy snack.
All of these tips will help set the stage for better sleep overall from your baby, so give them a try in order to really optimize your baby’s sleep! If you’re still struggling and your baby is 4 months or older, now is the perfect time to start sleep training! Check out my book, my sleep training course, and my abundant troubleshooting guides to make sure your baby is getting the sleep that they need.