Baby sleep is hard. (Unless you’re one of the lucky mommies, whose baby just KNOWS how to sleep from birth. Then go away.)
It’s ok that baby sleep is making you crazy. That’s NORMAL.
I know you want answers, but here’s the thing:
I have read more baby sleep articles in the middle of the night than I can count.
And this is my big take away after I’ve read them all:
(Seriously, I’m summarizing them all for you right now). Nobody actually KNOWS anything (definitively) about baby sleep, everyone has a different opinion, and all the babies WILL learn to sleep eventually.
The single most eye opening statement I read, I think, was from Pinky Mckay, and she says something to the effect of “We need to remember that we are raising little people, not managing inconveniences.” (In regards to “getting baby to sleep through the night”.) I love her whole perspective on self-settling and baby sleep.
And while it’s all well and good to understand that, I know it’s not gonna help you get a few hours of rest any time soon, so I’ll still share the best baby sleep tips I’ve found over the past 2.5 years – the things that actually work in the long run to get a baby to go to sleep, stay asleep, and sleep consistently. Hallellujah.
(THIS POST PROBABLY CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. OUR FULL DISCLOSURE POLICY IS REALLY BORING, BUT YOU CAN FIND IT HERE.)
First, take all baby sleep advice with a grain of salt and an open mind.
I treat every baby sleep article as though it might have some truth to it, and you should too.
Regardless of my own personal feelings about sleep things. It’s always prudent to remember that even though we think (or feel) that we’re right and know best, that’s not always true. Especially when we are sleep deprived and totally desperate.
I really, truly, 100% believed – when I was pregnant – that we would sleep train the baby and that we’d all be sleeping through the night when he was 6 months old. A little cry-it-out never hurt anyone, I figured. (Annnnnnd, you may laugh: here’s the post I wrote on why we co-sleep.)
But just because we chose not to sleep train doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to be learned from those who do. (And if you are considering sleep training, this is the program I would use. It was created by a woman who ACTUALLY respects that some parents don’t want to do CIO.)
And just because serial sleep trainers think sleeping with your baby is bat sh!t crazy, doesn’t mean it is.
All babies are different, and not all things will work for all babies. This is SO CLEAR to me, in just 2 children. I had one who never slept – didn’t want to sleep, and one who wants to sleep but needs help. All babies are different.
Personally, I think that those in the sleep training camp are onto something, with their theories about sleep begetting sleep and making sure a baby GETS enough sleep. I also think that routine and cues help, and I generally agree with the idea that it’d be nice if the baby didn’t need me to help him fall back to sleep 6 times in the night.
On the other hand, I think that attachment parenting ideologists (of which I am not really) aren’t at all crazy when they say that a crying baby needs his mommy and that all babies will learn to sleep eventually.
For a long time we couldn’t figure out why our baby was so miserable in the night… and it turns out he had some reflux. Using a crib wedge really helped – the first night we tried it and he slept three hours in a row we were astounded. Make sue you ask – does your baby have reflux?
The things that have been the most beneficial over all for us are a white noise machine, consistency (following a nap schedule), giving into using a pacifier (this one in particular), and co-sleeping. (Our bug is too old for it now, but next time we do this baby sleep thing, we are going to give this magic sleep-suit a shot.)
Understanding the importance of sleep for a baby (not accepting that he just “wouldn’t” nap) has been big for us. We make sure that he naps.
All the best baby sleep advice, for you, right here:
(This is the specific order I would read these in! Read them all, then formulate your OWN baby sleep plan.)
♥ This article teaches solid ways to help baby figure out when it’s REALLY night time. Your baby will probably be born confused about day and night.
♥ Here’s how your baby should be dressed for bedtime (for each climate). Keeping baby the right temperature is super important to help her sleep well… and also to prevent SIDS.
♥ Try this wake and sleep technique to teach your baby to put themselves back to sleep WITHOUT having to let them cry. I’m guessing it doesn’t work for everyone (just like ANY baby sleep tip) and that’s why more people don’t talk about it, but I still really wish I had read this article when my baby was new – because I did a lot of research on this when I DID find the article and it has worked for lots and lots of people. I am SO doing this for the next baby. (We actually do something sort of like this now and it’s been very successful for naps. Less so for night time, but naps and nighttime are different creatures.)
♥ This newborn sleep schedule is really helpful – (Rachel has an entire amazing category on baby sleep – you will get lost in her blog). If you aren’t into CIO (like I’m not) then don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you choose not sleep train your baby shouldn’t still be on a sleep schedule!
We followed a very similar schedule to this one… we just didn’t ever leave the baby to go to sleep on his own. We PUT him to sleep as often as was required for him to get adequate sleep.
♥ Optimal wake-time lengths. Understanding optimal wake-time lengths totally changed everything about the way I tackle life with a baby. If you are hitting optimal wake-time lengths with your baby, she will sleep easier and better.
Baby NEEDS lots more sleep than we do, and most babies can only handle being awake for 2 hours or so at a time! (Kids having massive meltdowns in the grocery store can probably, 95% of the time, be attributed to kids not getting enough day time sleep. I really do believe this. We put our bug down for a nap as soon as he starts to get fussy… and we almost always have a happy baby.)
UPDATE: For baby #2, when in doubt, we do more sleep. That means she sleeps A LOT. For her, this is working. Below is a chart showing the AVERAGE optimal wake times by age!
♥ Gentle ways to help baby sleep better without crying it out. I’m not here to tell you that CIO is evil. I, personally, do not WANT to CIO with the bug. I feel like my subscription to mommy-hood has come with the understanding that I will be there for my baby when he cries. I also have been blessed with patience coming out my EARS and an amazing ability to function well on little to no sleep – despite how much I whine about it. If you are in a different boat, CIO might be better for your baby than an angry tired mommy… so do what’s best for your family. But I would at least TRY these things first.
♥ When my breastfed baby just wouldn’t sleep the way I wanted him to, I read this post from Kellymom. I read it WAY more than one time! It just really encouraged me. (For what it’s worth I also LOVE this post on breastfeeding your child to sleep.)
♥ Ten tips to get a breastfed baby to sleep through the night. (My own personal experience leaves me with nothing to add to this, except… good luck! I hope this works for you!)
♥ If sleep training is for you, or if you think it might be, avoid these 7 sleep training mistakes to make it easier on both of you.
♥ This Mommy’s tale of how she sleep trained her baby in 8 days actually makes me think sleep training isn’t the worst thing ever and I totally understand why she did it. Our situation is different though. We can get our baby to sleep for the night in under 10 minutes usually. (He wakes up again, yes, but my point is it doesn’t take us three hours to get him down.) Here’s another one of the same sort of stories.
♥ No matter what you decide to do – to sleep train or not to sleep train – this post from Hilary @ Pulling Curls really put alot of baby sleep thoughts into perspective for me. I think everyone should read this one and take it to heart. I certainly did! I relaxed ALOT after I read it.
♥ Oh yes, and this one on how to get your baby to sleep. Read it.