How to Get Your Baby to Sleep

Crying Baby wont sleep?

Is your baby keeping you up all night? Is your coffee pot working overtime to keep you going during the day? If your baby is between 3 and 4 months of age, they should be sleeping through the night. If they are still unable to do so by the time they are 6 months old, you need to make some changes. There are many steps you can take to train your baby to sleep better.  

Correcting Your Baby’s Confusion Between Day and Night

One of the most important ways to help your baby sleep all night is to setup a daily routine to reinforce a baby’s ability to distinguish between daytime and nighttime. Your first step should be to wake your baby up early in the morning, and get into the routine of always rising at the same time every day. When your baby naps during the day, he should be near a window, or in some place that will allow exposure to sunlight. The natural light your baby sees when he wakes up helps him organize his circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle). Upon awakening, you should also have your baby get up and be active to reinforce his association of daylight with activity. When your baby wakes up at night, he will eventually learn to go back to sleep because darkness causes your brain to release the sleep inducing hormone melatonin automatically. Lighting is a very important determinate for your baby’s ability to be awake and active during the day and asleep at night. Below are a few tips for setting up lighting in your house for this purpose:
  • During the day, open your shades and curtains so your house is very bright. Alternatively, you can take him outside. If your baby needs a nap, put him in a well-lit room.
  • To help your baby wind down at night, install dimmer switches in his room as well as in other rooms he is normally in. Turn the lights down throughout the house a few hours before your baby’s bedtime.
  • Use a night light in your baby’s room that is fairly dim, and will not be hot to the touch.
  • Never turn on bright lights if your baby wakes up at night. The baby will think it is daytime, and will become active. Instead, settle the baby down in a dark room so he can go back to sleep
  • Install window shades to darken the baby’s room if he wakes up too early due to sunlight or has difficulty taking a nap during the afternoon.
Nighttime feedings can be another way for your baby to learn the difference between daytime and nighttime. Feedings at night should be done in a dimly lit room and should be very relaxing, avoiding anything that may stimulate your baby. In contrast, feeding your baby during the day should be a very active, playful time so he begins to understand the difference.  

Nighttime Routine

Just like you have a routine in the morning, you need one at night as well to help your baby wind down so he can sleep. Put your baby’s pajamas on, put him in his crib, tuck him in, and read a story or sing a relaxing song together. Pay attention to what makes your baby relaxed. A bath at night may or may not help your baby to fall asleep. You can also get your baby to relax by creating white noise.  Running a fan or the air conditioner, or setting your radio to a static sound works well with many infants. Another key to getting your baby to sleep is putting him to bed when he is drowsy, not asleep. This, however, is not an easy task, especially for mothers that breastfeed. Put your baby to bed when he is quieting down, but hasn’t nodded off yet. When you do finally put your baby to bed, put him on their back to help prevent the chances of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) from occurring.  

Crying

So what do you do if your baby wakes up crying and will not go back to sleep? Let’s first take a look at the most common reasons why babies cry:
  • Hunger
  • Gas
  • Dirty or wet diaper
  • Colic or acid reflux
  • Pain or illness
  • Too much noise or activity
  • Sleepiness
  • Stranger anxiety or fear
Helping your baby with the majority of these problems is somewhat straight forward. However, what can you do if your baby seems to be crying for no reason? There is a methodology called the 5 S’s, developed by Dr. Harvey Karp, an assistant professor of pediatrics at USC’s school of medicine, that soothes a crying baby so he can go back to sleep. The following list, which comes from Dr. Karp’s book,  The Happiest Baby on the Block, recreates the womb environment which triggers your baby’s calming reflex: 1.  Swaddling: Wrap your baby in a blanket so he feels secure. 2.  Side or stomach position: Hold your baby so he is lying on his side or stomach. 3.  Shushing: As mentioned above, create white noise that drowns out other noises. 4.  Swinging: Create any kind of rhythmic motion. As an example, you can take your baby for a ride in a stroller or your car. 5.  Sucking: Have your baby suck on something like a pacifier. Using these tips and others along with using some common sense can make you, your baby and your coffee pot much happier.