The Secrets to Getting Your Baby to Sleep

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The hubby in 2004 following Karp's 5 s's

I will never forget looking into my husband’s bloodshot eyes at 3 in the morning as we struggled with our first-born wide-awake and screaming. Unfortunately, when it’s happening, you’re too tired to figure out a solution and the cycle continues. Luckily, we were given some invaluable advice that got our daughter to start sleeping through the night. We have followed these same tips and had another two sleepers! Keep this info in mind if you have another baby or pass it on to anyone whose eyes are a little too red.

Let’s Start With the Must Have Products

51YGDZYNGFL._SL500_AA240_Harvey Karp’s Happiest Baby on the Block DVD: First I read the book and didn’t get much out of it (too tired!). However, watching the DVD after our daughter was born, changed our lives! Following his steps (the five “S’s” of swaddling, shushing, swaying, side position for digestion and sucking) for soothing a baby was amazing and worked for us every time (notice our sleeping baby in the photo above). I added it to my products for sleep because the next step after calming a frantic baby is a baby who falls asleep. The key is to watch it AFTER the baby’s arrival – it will sink in a lot more. For Amazon’s price of $19.99 (vs. $26.95) click here to order.

MiracleBlankettwinsmainMiracle Blanket: This goes along with a tip you will learn in the Karp video that newborns want to feel as though they are in the womb for another three months. The wrapping snuggly of a baby –a.k.a. swaddling– can be difficult for first time parents because the baby will appear not to like it during the process. However, once wrapped you will hopefully notice a change in attitude! Every time you start to wimp out, think back to the hospital at how cozy your baby was after the nurses wrapped her. I couldn’t emulate their wrap once home for the life of me. Fortunately, the miracle blanket makes it super easy. It is such a hit with parents that it can now be found generally where other baby items are sold. However, I prefer to order from mom of three owned Bonny Babies. When I gave owner Shannon a wrong address when sending one as a gift, she called me personally. In fact, since we had talked on the phone a couple of times (me thanking her over and over again for a sleeping baby)  my husband and I would joke that I was best friends with the “Miracle Lady.” Whether as a gift or for yourself, consider ordering yours from her by clicking here.

417GCTMMCAL._SL500_AA280_Sound Machine: Again, babies miss the womb. Creating the similar sounds leads to a cozy slumber. A cozy crib, nicely wrapped with sounds of the womb make for a happily sleeping baby. There are several to choose from, but we owned the HoMedics that was easy to pack when traveling and always had it on “waterfall.” For Amazon’s price of $21.99 (vs. $24.99) click here to order.

And Now For the Tips

– After three months, you can switch to a sleep sack of your choice (like this one or get fancy with this one) and even drop the sound machine. I kept using the sound machine as I found my babies went right to sleep if I had it on and it helped with traveling when I brought it along, to recreate their similar settings. Both my five year old and three year old have no trouble now going to sleep without it for those that fear dependence for life.

– Try to have your baby nap in a crib or bassinet in a quiet room (vs. in a bouncy chair, swing, etc.). Establishing this early on will help you get your younger baby to sleep at night and establish habits to help as your baby gets older (for example, if all of a sudden you expect your three month old to happily sleep in a crib after sleeping in the bouncy chair their whole life, it likely will take some adjusting). Already in this predicament? Don’t fret (I was, too) – see my 2-minute, 5 minute, etc. method below.

– Adhere to their naps when needed. When a baby stops making eye contact, the baby is tired. Ignoring this creates misery for everyone! You may be encouraged by lovingly eager grandparents or other visitors to keep the baby awake for their sake, but what’s the point if the baby is just going to be screaming? Pay attention to your baby’s cues even if it seems like it’s too soon for her to want to sleep again. And remember: wrap her in the miracle blanket, place her in a quiet room in her crib and turn on that sound machine.

– Your baby may fuss when trying to go to sleep. Try to refrain from checking on her. Each time you pop in, it disturbs her process and wakes her up all over again. Just picture yourself about to fall asleep and if someone opened the door, you’d wake up to look.

-If you are able to follow your baby’s cues and get her down BEFORE she is overtired, you hopefully avoid the issue of crying it out versus not crying it out. Make the decision based on your own comfort level, but remember, you are a better mama if you are rested! My method I’ve used each time is to put the baby down. If she cries, come in after two minutes and pat her back (do not pick her up), tell her it will be okay and leave the room. Then wait five minutes and repeat. Stretch it to 10, 30, etc. until you get at least two hour stretches in between feedings (but after 6 months, babies generally should be sleeping through the night without any feedings). I start this in the evening at 5 weeks (but this works for any age for those past the 5 month mark and reading this now. In fact, we started it with out first-born at 6 months), putting the baby to bed between 6 and 6:30. Seems early to first time parents, but again, what is the point in keeping up a baby just so she can scream and cry – her way of saying: I want to go to bed!

– Also, a mistake most parents, such as myself, make is assuming putting a baby to bed later will mean she sleeps later. Not true. Regardless, your baby will likely wake around 6am. Since pediatricians recommend 12 hours a night (minus waking for feedings until 6 months of age, but then going right back down), you will have a happier baby if she gets her full night’s sleep. The hubby and I were so relieved to learn this after 6 months of spending three hours a night with a fussy baby trying to tell us: you should have put me to bed at 6! Knowing this with the next two babies was heaven.

If the above steps don’t work for you, ask yourself again: am I following her sleep cues and putting her down before she gets too tired? Am I allowing her to sleep or am I waking her up to check on her? Did I follow all the steps in Harvey Karp’s video? Am I putting her in a quiet room in a crib, bassinet or baby safe sleeping apparatus (vs. swing, bouncy chair, etc.)? Am I letting her get all of her needed naps throughout the day without interruption? If you can honestly answer yes to all these questions (and I mean honestly), then speak to your pediatrician.

Check List

  • Allow your baby to get all her naps throughout the day – very important: sleep begets sleep
  • That being said, establish relatively consistent nap times. Babies sleep constantly for three months, so respect their needs. After three months, generally, you can establish their times for 4 or so naps a day. By 6 months, it’s generally down to two naps until 18 months or so when it drops to one nap a day (Again, follow your baby’s cues, but also discuss with your pediatrician). Put baby down for the night around 6PM.
  • Try to put your baby in a comfy, cozy crib in a quiet room BEFORE they are too tired. Remember: no eye contact means bedtime.
  • If you are too late in getting them down before they are too tired, follow Dr. Karp’s suggestions for soothing the baby.
  • Wrap your baby in a miracle blanket from ages 0-3 months.
  • Turn on the sound machine.

Note: Yes, every baby is an individual. But every individual needs love, sleep and food. If the above steps don’t work, please, again, talk to your pediatrician. However, my guess would be:

1. The baby is too gassy. If you are breastfeeding, be sure to avoid foods that can contribute to uncomfortable and sometimes painful gas that will keep the baby from sleeping. For formula feeders, I’ve known families that switched brands due to one brand leading to more gas in their child.

2. Too hot: Those little love bugs seem like they need more clothes than they do. If it’s hot in your home due to a heater in winter or summer weather, make sure your child doesn’t have too many layers. In hot summers, I would have the baby in just a diaper and miracle blanket.

3. Teething: Unfortunately, this can come on out of nowhere and as soon as three months. Even if you don’t see a tooth in sight this can throw you a middle-of-the-night curve ball. Talk to your pediatrician about ways to soothe the baby’s pain, but I swear by Highlands Teething Tablets (click here).

4. Stuffy room: Again, make sure the room the baby is sleeping in is cozy. Not too hot, not too cold and not too stuffy.

5. Growth Spurt: It’ll happen and catch you off guard much like teething. Generally, the baby’s upped their appetite and suddenly needs more food. Breezy Mama Laura and I like to blame any inexplicable wakings or fussiness on growth spurts. Feel free to toss that term around a lot.

6. Sick: Another out-of-the-blue non-sleeping baby foe is illness. If your baby is really upset and struggling, it may be an ear infection or some other illness. Again, speak to your pediatrician.

7. Hungry: Here’s the part where I confuse you. Make sure during the days that your newborn is eating every 2 – 2 1/2 hours. If your baby gets a four hour stretch during the day, this will throw off her feedings and she will need another in the middle of the night! So, before 3 months of age, as much as I hate to say it, wake the baby to feed after 2 1/2 hours. As your baby’s tummy grows, they will be able to get more food in at feedings and be able to go longer stretches. After 6 months, never wake a sleeping baby!

8. The Transfer: If you are out and about and the baby falls asleep, leave the baby in the carrier, stroller, etc. In other words, DO NOT TRANSFER. Imagine being moved yourself. You will wake up and that nap is done.

9. Relax: Babies pick up on parents’ stress levels. If you allow yourself to tense up over them not sleeping, they will just become tenser with you. Take deep breaths and know you can do this.

Again, every baby IS an individual. If you followed all my tips for a sleeper and are still not having luck, hang in there Mama. Speak to your pediatrician and remember many seasoned mothers’ favorite phrase: This too shall pass.

breezy_deal1Breezy Exclusive! Want to win a miracle blanket from Bonny Babies (I told you she was great!)? Use it for your little one, your next one or give it as a gift. (NOTE: This contest has ended. Read about the winner by clicking here). All Breezy Mama subscribers are entered to win every contest we hold! Not subscribed but want to enter? Sign up to have Breezy Mama arrive in your e-mail in-box. It’s free! Click here.

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Comments

  1. The 5 S’s were invaluable to us too! It put our little Sydney out cold in no time.

    The problem is now that she is 3 she has become a night owl! She stays up until 10, or later on the weekend! We are exhausted and she is the energy bunny!

  2. The Happiest Baby on the Block is my favorite shower gift for new parents as it was so helpful w/ our colicky little guy! The Miracle Blanket was also such a resourceful sleep aid!

  3. I also found Tracy Hogg’s book, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your Baby. This book has a helpful section for breastfeeding moms. Including plans on how and when to get the baby to sleep and keep them rested.

  4. Wow! Well written Chelsea! My 2 are sleepers as well (both sleeping from 7pm-7am since they were 3 months with no feedings). I completely agree with all of your methods and use them constantly!! Even if Chloe (now 6 months) wakes up in the middle of the night “fussing” (which is rare), i just leave her unless she is crying hysterically. They have to learn to put themselves back to sleep. We are doing our children favors by letting them learn how to self soothe. Great info. Thanks for the reinforcements. :>

  5. This DVD saved my life! I cried the first time I watched it because my baby was already 5 weeks old, I was so exhausted and I wished I’d had it sooner. It’s the first thing I run out and get for any friend w/ a new baby.

  6. Heidi Burke-Pevney says

    It’s so true…don’t let the infant sleep longer than 2.5-3 hours during the day! And I love that you said put babies to bed around 6pm…my mom thought it was some form of child abuse putting my babies to bed so early. My 18-month old still goes to sleep at 6pm and wakes at 6am. People forget that babies/toddlers need that much sleep.

  7. With my first, I used to wait until he was SOUND asleep, and then put him in the crib. He is now 3 and still needs help falling asleep. With my second, I vowed I wouldn’t do that. I put her in when she’s drowsy and she goes to sleep all on her own–I’ve been doing it since Day 1 of her short little life. Every time I leave the room I’m astonished by how much time I’ve wasted trying to get my older child to sleep. If only I let him self-soothe!

  8. Hello, please pardon the intrusion. I’m Mike Gatten, inventor of Miracle Blanket. Your blog was brought to my attention because of your mention of the Miracle Blanket. I can’t thank you and others enough for helping us spread the word because people just don’t believe us when we tell them it might be “this easy.” That’s why word-of-mouth has been the biggest source of growth for us since day one.

  9. Hello Chelsea,

    I apologize for the late posting but we wanted to thank you for mentioning The Happiest Baby on the Block book & DVD! We too think Dr. Karp has come up with amazingly simple yet invaluable techniques to calm babies and help them sleep (and of course help parents get some much needed rest too!).

    Thank you again for a great posting!

    Best,
    Kristen Terry
    The Happiest Baby, Inc.

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  3. Breezy Mama says:

    […] The Secrets to Getting Your Baby to Sleep […]

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  6. […] – Stroller (can serve as high chair and changing station, too) – Comfort items (lovey, pacifier, sound machine) – Enough diapers/wipes/travel diaper rash cream/protein snacks in the event of a flight delay […]

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