Conditioning Baby To Fall Asleep
Sleep is not a state you can force your baby into. Sleep must naturally overtake your baby. Your nighttime parenting role is to set the conditions that make sleep attractive and to present cues that suggest to baby that sleep is expected. Try the following sleep tight tips, which may vary at different stages in your babys development. What doesnt work one week may work the next.
Get baby used to a variety of sleep associations
The way an infant goes to sleep at night is the way she expects to go back to sleep when she awakens. So, if your infant is always rocked or nursed to sleep, she will expect to be rocked or nursed back to sleep. Sometimes nurse her off to sleep, sometimes rock her off to sleep, sometimes sing her off to sleep, and sometimes use tape recordings, and switch off with your spouse on putting her to bed. There are two schools of thought on the best way to put babies to sleep: the parent-soothing method and the self-soothing method. Both have advantages and possible disadvantages:
1. Parent-soothing method. When baby is ready to sleep, a parent or other caregiver helps baby make a comfortable transition from being awake to falling asleep, usually by nursing, rocking, singing, or whatever comforting techniques work.
Baby learns a healthy sleep attitude that sleep is a pleasant state to enter and a secure state to remain in.
Creates fond memories about being parented to sleep.
Builds parent-infant trust
Is It Dangerous To Hold A Baby While They Fall Asleep
It shouldnt be dangerous to hold your sleeping baby for a nap, so long as you are wide awake.
However, its extremely dangerous if you fall asleep while holding them. Likewise, its dangerous to sleep with your baby in the same bed. Sleeping in the same bed risks suffocation and can increase the risk of SIDS by up to 50 times.
Helping Your Baby Sleep Alone
Once youve determined the likely reasons your baby is stuck to you like glue at night, you can start trying to fix the problem.
Some of the issues are easy to handle. If your baby is overfeeding or taking naps too close to bedtime, all you have to do is adjust their feeding and sleeping schedule to hopefully see improvement.
We know its hard when they reach out their bitty arms and cry for attention, while all you want is to close your eyes for a few hours. If adjusting their various schedules doesnt work, it might be time to start looking into sleep training or self-soothing techniques.
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Calming Down Your Fussy Baby
There are a variety of reasons you may have a fussy baby at night, but some soothing methods work regardless of the issue.
- Burping. If your baby seems uncomfortable, your first try should be to burp him. You have hopefully made it a habit to burp your baby after each meal. If not, this is the time to do so. You may find once at the end of the meal is not enough, and you need to stop halfway through the meal, burp your baby, then let him continue to eat.
- Skin to skin contact. Remove your babys clothing and place him against your bare skin. Holding him chest to chest this way is often all that is needed to calm down your fussy baby at night. It is a proven method of reducing stress and improving sleep in babies.
- Add white noise and a dark room. Stimulating the womb experience as much as possible to help calm your baby. Swaddling your baby in a dark room, while white noise plays create the ideal calming environment.
Is A Fussy Baby Normal
Babies go through a period lovingly referred to as the witching hour. This usually lasts their first 3-4 months and if youre lucky, episodes are few and far between.
The witching hour usually happens in the evening causing some restless nights for parents. Though you may not always know why your little one is fussing, its totally normal.
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Setting The Stage For Newborn Sleep
The first thing for getting newborns to sleep at night is setting the stage for sleep!
Just think of it, you set the table before eating right? Instead of just putting food right on the table you get out a plate and utensils. Same with newborn sleep. You cant just lay them down, turn off the light and be good to go.
So set the stage for your baby to promote sleeping through the night. What does the stage look like?
Here are the things to do to signal your newborn that its nighttime and bedtime is approaching:
- Create a calm environment in the evening with dim lights and quiet sounds
- Do low key activities leading up to bedtime like taking a bath or reading books
- Know your babys sleep signals and start a bedtime routine before they show signs of tiredness
- Prep your baby for sleep by meeting their needs with feeding, fresh diaper, swaddle blanket, and other soothing measures
Setting the stage means toning down the activity level to help regulate your baby into a sleepy-time mode. This is your foundation. Next up is how to become consistent with getting a newborn to sleep at night.
A Typical Evening With A Newborn
You feed your baby until she looks fast asleep. You carefully put her down in her bed. Either immediately or soon afterwards she wakes up and cries. You think she must be hungry maybe breastfeeding isnt working? You feed her again until you think she cant possibly fit in any more milk, and put her down. and so on, until the early hours of the morning.
Although you may worry that your baby cries at the breast because theres a problem with feeding, as long as the signs of milk intake are OK , and your baby is happier the rest of the time, its probably nothing to do with hunger, or a breastfeeding malfunction! Your baby is most likely to have woken up because they were put down.
The conditions that adults might prefer for sleep quiet, dark, being left alone are scary for babies, who fear being abandoned more than anything. For our ancestors, a baby who was left alone was a baby who probably wouldnt survive. Your baby has an alarm, carefully developed over thousands of years of human evolution, that is programmed to go off if she senses that she has been left alone.
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How To Avoid Having An Overtired Baby
Sometimes life throws all sorts of obstacles in your way and you just fall off track and thats ok. Its life and it will happen at some point. Remember that one bad day in your sleep routine wont destroy your good sleep habits in the same way that one good day wont create a good sleep routine. Just jump back on track and your baby will follow your lead.
Understand Your Baby’s Sleep Needs
During the first 2 months, your newborn’s need to eat overrules their need to sleep. They may feed almost every 2 hours if you’re breastfeeding, and possibly a little less often if you bottle-feed.
Your baby may sleep from 10 to 18 hours a day, sometimes for 3 to 4 hours at a time. But babies dont know the difference between day and night. So they sleep with no regard for what time it is. That means your babys wide-awake time may be from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.
By 3 to 6 months, many babies are able to sleep for a stretch of 6 hours. But just as you think your baby is getting into a nice routine — usually between 6 and 9 months — normal developmental stages can throw things off. For instance, when your baby begins to associate bedtime with being left alone, they may start crying just to keep you around.
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Why Is My Baby Fussy At Night
The following might be causes your baby is suddenly fussy in the evening:
- Growth spurt hunger. As your baby goes through phases of intense growth , they may be hungry and want to cluster feed.
- Slower milk letdown. While many moms assume a fussy baby isnt getting enough to eat, that may not always be the case. Still, your milk composition changes at night, and you may experience a slower milk flow. The change in milk volume might make for a cranky baby.
- Gas. If your baby is feeling gassy, and they cant seem to pass it out of their tiny digestive system, they may feel very uncomfortable!
- Overtired baby. Its a common misconception that keeping a baby awake longer will make them sleep longer. By the end of the day, if your little one has gone too long without a good nap theyll be very tired. An overtired baby will have a hard time settling down.
- Overstimulated baby. A babys underdeveloped nervous system is more sensitive to bright lights, sounds, and changes in their environment. For instance, you may notice the light of the TV in a dark room, or maybe the volume alone, makes your baby cry.
- Colic. While all babies cry, if you find that your baby is crying for three hours or more, for three days a week, for three or more weeks, its time to see the doctor! Your pediatrician should do a thorough exam to rule out other conditions.
Putting Babies To Bed Drowsy But Awake
Try to put your baby to bed drowsy but awake. This gives your baby the chance to associate falling asleep with being in bed. If your baby has this sleep association, baby might be more likely to self-soothe when they wake in their bed in the night.
Self-soothing is when your baby can calm down, relax and go to sleep again in their bed. Babies who can self-soothe sleep for longer periods and have longer total sleep times at night.
If your baby associates falling asleep with rocking or feeding, baby might want rocking or feeding if they wake in the night. Of course, its completely fine to rock or feed your baby to sleep in the night if this suits your baby and you.
Here are some ways you can help your baby settle in bed, drowsy but awake:
- Give your baby some time to settle. Avoid picking up your baby as soon as they grizzle. Many babies grizzle when you first put them into the cot, and giving them a minute or two to settle can help. But if your baby starts crying, they need comforting.
- As your baby gets older, give baby some time to settle if they grizzle when they wake during the night baby might re-settle without your help. If you hear real crying, you need to help your baby re-settle.
- Try the patting settling technique. With this technique, you pat your baby until they calm down, but you stop patting just before sleep comes. A benefit of patting is that your baby is still going to sleep in the cot.
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Techniques For Getting Through This Time
For the most part, getting through the witching hour with your baby is about finding ways to soothe your baby, and also figuring out how you as a parent can cope with the fussiness.
The Academy of American Pediatrics recommends soothing techniques such as swaddling, rocking and walking your baby in your arms or in a baby carrier, and using calming sounds, such as white noise machines. Babies are soothed by sucking, too, so offering a pacifier, allowing your baby to suck on their fingers, or offering the breast, can be helpful, too.
If you think an upset tummy might be contributing to your babys fussiness, you might consider talking to your pediatrician about changing the type of formula you are feeding your baby, as some babies are sensitive to formula made with cows milk or soy. If you are breastfeeding, you might consider eliminating ingredients like cow milk, soy, egg whites, and any processed foods, that could be triggering sensitivities in your infant.
Youve got to take care of yourself, too. Caring for a fussy baby can take its toll on your mental health. Try to stay as calm as possible, Dr. Haas reminds. Sometimes babies can pick up on your stress and become even more fussy, she explains.
Whenever possible, get help caring for your baby. Parenting is not something we are meant to do alone, and when you are dealing with a fussy baby, having another parent or caretaker to take over sometimes can be immensely helpful.
Final Thoughts: How To Calm Fussy Newborns That Wont Sleep
Think of baby calming as a danceand your little love is leading. When hes wailing, do the 5 S’s with more intensity in your shush and jiggle. Then, as he calms, gradually reduce your effort and guide him down to a soft landing where he is swaddled with white noise , and perhaps some sucking or gentle rocking.
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How To Help Your Baby:
Chart courtesy of Precious Little Sleep
This is a great time to start instituting a bit more of a sleep routine, particularly following age-appropriate wake times. I also really like Eat, Play, Sleep to start establishing a more predictable pattern for the day.
Many babies 4 months+ do best when they go to bed between 6:00-7:30. If your little still takes a third nap during the day, bedtime might be a little later than this. If your babys bedtime is significantly later than this, try gradually moving it up in 30 minute increments.
Oftentimes, this can completely eliminate evening fussiness, as your baby is now fast asleep rather than fussing and crying because shes overtired.
This was the case with my daughter when I finally got her sleeping by 6:00, her evening fussiness disappeared. And, contrary to what you might think, she still slept just as long at night!
To ensure the best chance of falling asleep at bedtime, dont allow napping after around 4pm. Although its tempting to let them nap through your dinner-prep, a too-late nap can seriously mess up bedtime! .
For tips on helping a fussy baby sleep, check out my free eBook, 6 Sleep Tips For High Need Babies & Toddlers.