Aaaah, sleep! The gift that every parent prays for more of, once they have a baby. And obviously, the trick to getting more sleep as a parent is to get your baby to sleep more and to not wake up as frequently.
There is tons of advice out there about this — books to read, articles to skim over, etc. But out of curiosity, I decided I would poll my friends to see what they were told. Here is a compilation of the best advice they’ve gotten for getting baby to sleep — as well as the worst advice (in my opinion).
1. Don’t make eye contact. I was told this as well, especially when your baby is almost asleep. People say it could be distracting to them and keep them from closing their eyes. But there’s no way I could do that! And none of my other mom friends could, either. Even if it worked.
2. Let the baby cry it out. Out of 25 of my friends that responded to my poll, only ONE said the “cry it out” method worked for them. This is when you put them in their crib and leave the room, and if they cry, you just let them cry. I guess the point is that they learn how to self soothe and they don’t think crying is a method to get you to pick them up every time. My momma heart couldn’t stand to hear them crying out for me, so I gave in the first night I tried this one.
3. The “every five minutes” method. This is similar to the cry it out, but you aren’t completely ignoring your baby. First, you let them cry for 5 minutes. Then you return to the room, tell them it will be okay, that they are safe, and to go to sleep. And then you leave the room again. You continue to return every 5 minutes if they continue to cry — or you extend it to 10 minutes, then 15. Some people add in some pats on the back for the baby or sit next to the crib and sing a song. The point is to get baby to learn to put themselves to sleep and not to have to have Mommy or Daddy to fall asleep. I wasn’t good at this one, either. A few of my mommy friends did say it worked for them, but I couldn’t stand it. Maybe I’m just a sucker. Who knows.
4. Put them in a playard in your room so they feel safe. Let me say that I do encourage having a newborn sleep in a bassinet in your room for the first couple of months for the nighttime feedings — but only until they hit a few months old. After that, I’d say this is bad advice, because I actually did try it for longer. KJ slept in our room even past 12 months, but he grew so accustomed to being in our room that he never would sleep in his own. Even when we tried to transition him to his room, he’d come into our room in the middle of the night for months on end. So once those nighttime feedings lessen, I would move your baby to the crib in their room.
5. Use a box fan in the baby’s room as a distracting noise so they can sleep. Stick with me on this one, because I know some of my mommy friends won’t agree that this is bad advice. Now, this may work for keeping your baby asleep at home, because it blocks out any noise from the rest of the house — but what do you do when you travel and you didn’t bring your chunky box fan with you? Trust me, it’s hard enough packing a car with you, yourself, and a baby or two, plus all your luggage… but to add a big box fan? Or to have to go out and buy one so you can use it at your relatives’ house? No thanks.
1. Let them sleep in one of your t-shirts. My friend Kelsea’s mom told me that she would let her little toddlers sleep in one of her t-shirts at night, and it helped them feel comfortable and safe. Have you ever seen how stinkin’ cute a 2-year-old looks in Mommy or Daddy’s shirt?! That alone makes this a win for me. She said this even worked when their little ones were home with the babysitter.
2. When they are old enough, put a bit of baby cereal in their bottle (the kind that looks like fish flakes) for their last bottle before bed. It fills them up more. This always worked for my mom with my brother, and many of my friends said this method was a winner for them.
3. Feed the baby upon waking up, not to put them back to sleep. This way, they are awake for feedings and won’t feel the need to be fed in order to go to sleep. My friend did this, and said it taught her babies to fall back to sleep on their own, because they were always awake when she laid them down but they were already fed and changed. She said with this method, her babies started sleeping through the night at 6 weeks! At 6 weeks?! Definitely worth a try, if you ask me.
4. Try not to let their emotions get stirred too much. Otherwise, they will get more and more frustrated and it will take longer to calm them down. So, for example, respond BEFORE they get too upset. My sister-in-law says this is a no-fail method. Also, keep it low-key during night feedings. Lights off, no speaking — just feed, change the diaper, and then it’s back to the crib.
5. Use your voice. Don’t discredit how soothing your voice is to your baby. Whether you are rocking them or patting their back while standing over them, or sitting on the floor while holding onto their hand through the rails of their crib, sing them a little song. They don’t care if you are the best singer in the world or if you are tone deaf. And if the singing doesn’t work, just softly talk to them. KJ loved when I sang to him, but Bentley preferred a softly spoken story. The reassurance that I was there was calming for them and helped to soothe them to sleep.
6. Stick to a routine every night. I know I’ve said this one before, but for me, it’s the main thing that has worked in our house: We eat dinner, spend about 15 minutes playing, then have bath time, brush teeth and hair, crawl in bed, and read two stories. Then lights off, prayers, and goodnight. Jo and I stay in their room on the rug until they are asleep and it usually takes about three minutes after prayers are over for them to be snoring (if they don’t fall asleep during prayers). We also don’t allow screen time (TV, iPads, phones) during the week — especially at night. It’s too distracting for them.
The good news is: Eventually you WILL sleep through the night again. If you stick to some good advice, it may happen sooner or later. And don’t be afraid to test out different methods to find what works best for your family. To each their own.