how to put a baby to sleep fast step by step
1. Start a routine
“One of the ways a child learns that it’s time to sleep is from the signals in the environment,” notes Deborah Jevan, MD, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. About 30 minutes before bedtime, turn down the noise and dim the lights. “Proper lighting is essential as it helps set the child’s internal clock,” she explains. “Our brain associates light and darkness with waking up or sleeping. Turning off the lights at night and exposing your child to bright light in the morning will help with this process.”
Once the stimuli are reduced, you can introduce other calming rituals, such as a warm bath, lullabies, or softly spoken stories. Dr. Jeevan recommends applying the nightly ritual as soon as possible, preferably at around 6 to 8 weeks. Be consistent – do the activities in the same order every night – so your child learns what to expect.
2. Do not rely on calming methods
“If you put your child in his crib while he’s already asleep and he wakes up in the night, which all humans do, they won’t recognize their surroundings and will need your help to get back to sleep,” notes Dr. Jeevan. “Try to hold your baby sleepy but awake.” This will help them learn to calm themselves and fall asleep – and most importantly, get back to sleep – on their own, which is the main goal of sleep training.
This can be attested by Adrienne Porzio of Centerport, New York. She started driving her newborn at night to make her fall asleep – and she was still dependent on this crutch when her daughter was 5 months old. “The problem we get most calls about is that parents automatically repeat their soothing habits to the point that the child is hooked,” says Heather Turgeon, a Los Angeles-based sleep consultant and co-author of The Happy Sleeper. Newborns benefit from rocking, jumping, and lulling to sleep, but babies develop quickly and don’t need these things forever.
“By about 5 months, most babies are able to sleep on their own, and if we’re still doing it for them, we’re getting in the way,” says Turgeon. “Start training in the early months to get the baby awake, at least once a day – the first naps are usually the most successful.” Keep your cuddle time, but gradually stop patting, silent, and rocking to sleep.
3. Do not feed the child to sleep
“Newborns sleep all the time while eating, and I don’t want anyone to stress about that,” notes Turgeon. But if your baby often falls asleep while feeding, he will think he needs to eat in order to get back to sleep.
To overcome this problem, move the feeding gradually in early so your little one can get over it, then finish the routine with a soothing book and song, and make him sleepy but awake. You may still need to get up for a nightly feed, but then it will be more about being hungry, not cooling off.
4. Stick to an early bedtime
When thinking about how to get a baby to sleep, timing is just as important as routine. “At about 8 weeks, babies’ level of melatonin, a sleepiness-making hormone that is released by the body when it’s time for bed, rises, which means they’re ready for early bedtime consistent with sunset,” says Turgeon. “If you keep them up late instead, they’ll become overstimulated and hard to put down.” Melatonin levels rise somewhere near sunset, but given that sunset can be anytime from 4:30 in the winter to 8:30 in the summer, stick to the clock and put your child down around 6:30 or 7 p.m. . For the greatest success. If the sun is still shining, close the shades.
“A good sign of drowsiness is that a child is becoming calm — less active, dull looking, or just staring,” Turgeon says. Don’t mistake this behavior for happiness because you’re awake. Seize the moment and start your bedtime routine. “A child’s internal clock tells him when he is awake and when he is asleep, and you want to reinforce that,” she notes.
5. Eliminate snacks
“Sleep and nutrition go hand in hand,” Pruehr notes. For the first eight weeks, the baby should breastfeed on demand every two to two and a half hours. “If they want to eat every hour or so, they may not be consuming enough per session,” says Pruehr. Keep a 24-hour record of how many ounces a bottle-fed baby takes at any given time. For a breastfed baby, write down the number of minutes he or she breastfeeds in each session. “If they eat for 20 minutes while feeding at night but only take five or ten minutes during the day, they’re only snacking,” Pruehr says. “And they don’t fill their stomachs enough to sleep through the night.”
On the other hand, if a child eats well during the day, he should be able to sleep for 4 to 6 hours at night by about 2.5 to 3 months. To help your child eat more efficiently, space his meals (distract him by eating sweets)
6. Take naps seriously
A well rested child sleeps better than a tired child. It sounds counterintuitive, but skipping a nap (or keeping the baby up late) hoping they’ll sleep longer at night simply doesn’t work. “When kids are tired a lot, their stress hormones rise,” says Turgeon. “Then, once they’re finally asleep, there’s a good chance that won’t continue, because those stress hormones wake them up when they’re in a lighter sleep phase.”
This is why regular naps are so essential to getting the baby to sleep. “At two months of age, the ideal period for a baby to wake up is only about 90 minutes between sleep, which goes very quickly,” Turgeon says. “They don’t have the tolerance to wake up more than that until 4 to 5 months.” Watch the clock, because catching a tired look of your child is not easy.
7. Nap Instructions Set
It can be tempting to let your sweetheart snooze in the car seat or on your chest, but you should try to get at least one nap a day in the crib. This way, they will get the good rest they need. “The first nap is to restore the infant’s mentality and will determine the way he spends the day, so it is best for the child to take it in his crib at home,” notes Prohrer. “The second is to regain physical activity, so once your child is old enough to move around a lot, he should be fine as well.”
At 3 to 4 months of age, your baby’s waking periods will be longer, and you can work on a nap schedule: one in the morning, one in the early afternoon, and a short nap in the late afternoon if necessary. Prohair adds that naps are a great time for you to practice making baby sleepy. It’s not the middle of the night, so you can think more clearly, pick up cues, and move on.
8. Let the child work on it
If you immediately rush into the night to help your child go back to sleep, you are creating a cycle that is hard to break. “As long as you know you can’t get hungry, you can stop before rushing inside,” says Turgeon, who recommends starting the soothing ladder from day one. When you hear a sound of your child, pause for a minute and see if he can solve the problem on his own. “If they can’t, go in and do the least intrusive thing—pat or shut up but don’t pick them up,” Turgeon says. If that doesn’t work, you gradually climb up the calming ladder until you put them back to sleep.
“The goal of the calming ladder is not to make the child learn to self-soothe overnight, but to give them enough room to allow the self-soothing skills to regenerate naturally, over time,” says Turgeon. In addition, this will help you avoid a painful screaming situation on the road, when you are still learning how to put the baby to sleep.
9. Stop thinking about the situation
Resist the urge to research “how to get baby to sleep” every night. “The information overload causes parents to try a million different things, and that doesn’t build any consistency or confidence,” says Pruehrer. “Children thrive knowing what to expect.” She recommends giving your child a little space to show his abilities.
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