5 Easy Tips to Help Your Baby Sleep through the Night | Seventh Generation
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5 Easy Tips to Help Your Baby Sleep through the Night

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Author: Rebecca Kempton MD

If you were outside my first son’s room the first few months of his life, you might have thought I was running an all night beauty salon. A hair dryer was frequently humming,  the only soothing sound that seemed to calm his periodic wails.

Those nights of pacing, rocking, shushing, swaying, bouncing—and hair drying-- seemed endless, but the days felt even longer.  And they took their toll because, as most new mom’s can attest, sleep deprivation is life changing.

But by the time my next two children were born, I had figured out some techniques that work.

Here are my TOP FIVE TIPS to help your baby—and you-- sleep better and longer:

1.  Droopy-eyed is best: Put your baby to bed when he seems drowsy, but not quite asleep.  When you put your baby in the crib when he has already fallen asleep, it’s no wonder he will cry when he wakes up in the middle of the night: the environment is not quite the same as those cozy warm arms in which he drifted to sleep. He’ll feel as you do if you suddenly awaken in strange surroundings; disoriented and unable to fall back to sleep easily. The solution is to put your baby into the crib sleepy enough so that he learns to fall asleep on his own in his crib. Then if he awakens, he will be in familiar surroundings and can more easily fall back to sleep without you!

2. Early bird special or early bedtimes! Resist the temptation to keep your baby up in hopes she will sleep longer.  When you try to stretch your baby’s bedtime until later because you fantasize about an uninterrupted night, you are actually causing her to become overtired. When your baby is overtired, her body naturally produces hormones to fight fatigue, which then makes it harder to fall, and stay, asleep. So aim for bedtime between 5:00-6:00 p.m. Believe it or not, earlier bedtimes eventually translate into longer stretches of sleep.

3. Consistency, Consistency, Consistency is crucial.  Babies thrive on routines, so create a simple, calming, bedtime routine that will serve as a cue to sleep.  Keep the pattern simple, repeat it in the same order before each sleep period, and your baby will eventually associate the relaxing routine with sleep.  Here’s an example:

One or two two short books, maybe a lullaby or two, a short massage with soft music in the background. Keep the routine to about 15-20 minutes (10 minutes for
naps).  Caution: if part of your bedtime routine includes first feeding your baby, be sure not to induce him into a food coma! Remember to put him in his crib drowsy, not asleep! To avoid his falling asleep while nursing or taking a bottle, feed first and follow with your usual bedtime routine to hold his attention to keep him awake. 

4. Sleep triggers more sleep: It may seem counterintuitive that napping during the day translates into more sleep at night. But if your child is well rested from her daytime naps, she will be less overtired by bedtime. That means she will fall asleep easier, and stay asleep longer. At first, offer as many naps as your baby will take with no more than 2 hours of wake time before the next nap. By age 6 months, establish a 3-nap routine with an early bedtime between 5-6 p.m. (earlier if any of these naps was short or skipped)

5. Don’t operate a 24-hour snack bar: Take the reins on those night time feedings. While it can be normal for babies to feed one or two times a night up to 9 months or even a year, that doesn’t mean you should be open for business all night long. In fact after about 3 months, most babies do not need to eat every 1-2 hours. Create a schedule. For example, choose a 1:00 and 4:00 a.m. feeding time. Quite soon your baby will adapt to wake only for these necessary feedings, especially if you offer no extra snacks between times. Eventually your baby will learn to put himself to sleep without food.  

 

About Rebecca Kempton, MD
Pediatric Sleep Consulting, Baby Sleep Pro

Rebecca Kempton MDAfter graduating with a B.A. in Psychology from Dartmouth and an M.D. from Cornell Medical School, Rebecca Kempton worked for several years as a medical director for healthcare technology and pharmaceutical companies before becoming certified as an infant and toddler sleep consultant and starting her own business, Baby Sleep Pro.  With her three children, aged  five and under, along with dozens of clients nationwide,  Rebecca has honed her sleep coaching skills.  Using a variety of behavioral techniques, she customizes sleep solutions  based on what she learns about you, your child, and your family's goals; Rebecca  works with clients  nationwide by phone, video chats and email.  For more information, email rhk@babysleeppro.com; visit babysleeppro.com and follow her on facebook.com/babysleeppro and twitter @babysleeppro
 

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Seventh Generation VT picture
Seventh Generation VT
09/26/13
Thank you for your comment. We strive to provide expert information and options for parents to add to their own set of instincts and what they feel is appropriate for their families. Here, Dr. Kempton is recommending a nursing schedule that works for both you and your baby, but we always greatly encourage flexibility and making whatever decisions you feel are best. In the frame of safe sleep habits for babies and co-sleeping, Dr. Kempton highly recommends safe co-sleeping, which has benefits of bonding without the risks defined by The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), both of which recommend against sharing a bed with a child under the age of 2, citing an increased risk of death from suffocation, SIDS, strangulation, or another unexplained cause. You can keep your infant safely within arms reach either in a co-sleeper that attaches to your bed or in a bassinet or portable crib. We hope this helps explain Dr. Kempton's mention of the safety surrounding co-sleeping in this post: http://7gen.us/1brlhKp We always want to provide information and options for our readers to add to your own understanding and practices, but we do support any lifestyle choice that helps your family be happy, healthy and safe. Thanks again for taking the time to share your perspective on this important topic.
alternativehousewife picture
alternativehousewife
09/26/13
I can't believe I'm reading this here. Night nursing (NOT on a schedule set by parents) is important for regulating milk supply, more important than nursing during the day. It tells your body how much milk to produce, including growth spurts. Night nursing on demand is also a great way to comfort and bond with you baby and even helps prevent pregnancy. Keeping in tune with your baby's rhythm also helps protect against SIDS. Not to mention the fact that a baby doesn't understand schedules and is going to be very stressed and upset if they are hungry at 3 but expected to wait until 4 to eat. Putting your baby in their crib while drowsy is a good idea but nursing to sleep is fine as well and perfectly healthy. You should also mention that co-sleeping (either a crib/bassinet in the parents' room or bedsharing) is protective against SIDS and helps everyone get more sleep at night. The advice in this post really borders on sleep training and honestly, I expect more from Seventh Generation than this parent-centered nonsense.