15 Of The Best Baby Sleep Tips You Need To Hear

15 Of The Best Baby Sleep Tips You Need To Hear, baby sleep schedule training, baby sleep through the night, transitioning baby to sleep in crib from bassinet without a sleep sack or swaddle, newborn sleep hacks, tricks for navigating sleep regression in babies, sleep routine, what to do if baby sleeps on stomach, baby sleep problems at 4 month and 7 months, #babysleep, #newmom, #babysleeptips

This post is sponsored by Hancock Regional Hospital as part of their empowering women and children site. All thoughts, experiences, and opinions are my own. Be sure to check out their site for additional resources and support. This post contains affiliate links.


Baby sleep is no joke. Let me be the first to say, I don’t think Reagan was a great natural sleeper. From the day she was born she pretty much only loved to sleep while nursing on me. If you read my breastfeeding journey, you know that she was literally attached to me for over 14 hours a day initially! Every time I’d go to remove her, she’d wake up just enough that I’d think she was still eating. I spent weeks panicking that my child only slept 8-10 hours a day (for reference, newborns should sleep about 18 hours a day!). It wasn’t until months later, that I realized she was actually sleep eating all that time! 

Aside from that, she has always been a light sleeper. If the room is too bright, she’d struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep. She also seems to sleep with her eyes open sometimes, so the slightest movement leads to her tiny heading popping right up. The interesting thing with R, is she always seems like she’s just barely asleep. It’s not like a casual opening of the eyes, roll over type of awakening; she full on pops up like a drill sergeant just screamed at her to get out of bed even if we just gently crack the door. 

Even with her light sleeping tendencies, we’ve managed to get her to sleep 12 hours through the night with three solid naps a day lasting for at least 90 minutes each (more or less) since she was just a few months old! Today, I’m sharing all my secrets and tips that I’ve learned over the last 8 months for getting our baby girl to sleep like a champ!

The SNOO

Before we jump into my tips, I have to be completely upfront and honest and say we did invest in the SNOO. It’s a smart bassinet designed by a doctor to recreate the experience of the womb. Basically, the idea is that in the womb, babies enjoy a climate controlled cozy environment. However when they come Earth side, all of the sudden things are colder, brighter, and way less cozy than their previous dwellings. 

The SNOO aims to recreate the womb experience in a few ways. First, it only turns on when the baby is strapped into a swaddle. The swaddle allows them to feel cozy, and when I say strapped in, it’s because the swaddle clips into a sensor that prevents the baby from rolling over and allows you to turn the SNOO on (the wings off to her side in the photo below). When it’s on, it produces white noise replicating the sound of mother’s heartbeat and the swooshing of blood (sounds they have grown accustomed to). It also wiggles the baby side to side to replicate the movement they’ve grown accustomed to when mama is breathing or walking around. 

snoo

Lastly, it responds to a fussing baby by increasing the sound of the white noise and how quickly it rocks the baby. I’m telling you all of this because it was a huge life saver for us and definitely helped with her sleep; but it’s not a necessity for every family. The tips in this post will teach you how to recreate as much of what the SNOO does for you, and them some!

Personally, we loved the SNOO because it taught us to pause for a minute, let it do its job (there’s a timer and it will alert you if it doesn’t soothe the baby after a few minutes of fussing), where we could sit back and observe our daughter’s pattern while she learned to connect a sleep cycle. I always joked that it was training us to be better parents by teaching us how to comfort her but not be helicopter-y. I also bring it up, because I wholeheartedly believe it’s why our daughter began putting together 4-5 hour stretches in the first week, 8 hours by 8 weeks, 10 hours by 10 weeks and so on. 

15 Of The Best Baby Sleep Tips You Need To Hear

Create a bedtime routine

Personally, I love to shower shortly before bed. It helps my relax and unwind from the day. So we do the same with our little one. We have a nice warm bath, followed by a little bedtime massage with her lotions, then a nursing session before we read a short book and are off to bed! We always put her to bed drowsy, but awake. This way she never became reliant on me to nurse her to sleep or being held. Plus, R is such a light sleeper that if she did fall asleep on me and I made even the slightest move, she’d be up right away! Her most quality sleep always come in her own space and learning how to soothe herself to sleep. 

Consider a dream feed

We started this from day one, where I’d get her around 10 pm (just before I went to bed, even if she was asleep) and offered her one last feeding. I’d try to do it in a dark room, so she’d still stay asleep as much as possible. The idea is to fill up your baby’s “tank” so you can get their longest stretch of sleep once you’ve gone to sleep, versus waiting for her to wake up an hour or two after we went to sleep. I had friends who tried to implement this after a few weeks and were unsuccessful, so if you do want to try it, I’d suggest doing it early on.

We knew we were ready to drop the dream feed when she was sleeping from the dream feed until about 7 am for a while and suddenly regressed. She would have a crying spell where she wasn’t actually awake or needing anything around 4 or 5 am. Around that same time she started to wake up more during the dream feed wanting to play. The combination of knowing she could sleep longer stretches, the suddenly more broken sleep, and the playfulness led me to experiment with dropping the feed and it worked! In a couple of days she was back to sleep through the night with ease. 

White noise

I’ve always slept with a white noise machine, so it’s a sound she’s already used to in the womb. As we transitioned her out of the SNOO (built-in white noise) and into her own room, we put her own white noise machine next to her crib. This has been a great way to queue up sleep. She knows once that sound goes on, it’s time for bed!

Swaddle

The womb is a tight little space and your baby is used to being cozied up! Swaddling helps to recreate that experience. There are loads of ways to swaddle and options to make it easier. we had one that velcroed her arms down and then zipped up. Others prefer traditional swaddle blankets where you can wrap baby tight like a burrito! You want to stop swaddling once your baby can roll over though for safety reasons. 

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Movement

Like I mentioned, we had the SNOO in the first few months which is a smart bassinet that replicates the womb experience. I can’t recommend it enough! It would rock her side to side and would increase in intensity if she started fussing. Now, you don’t need a smart bassinet to do this for you. You can create the same exact movement simply by picking up your baby, facing her away from you, and holding her head in your palm. Then just move side to side. Kind of like you are making your palm shake like it’s saying “no” gently back and forth or like your waving side to side in a pageant.

This gentle bobbing is very comforting. Turning them away from your is key too for a couple reasons. First, if you make eye contact with your baby, it’s basically like a shot of espresso to their system! It gets all their endorphins going and wakes them up. Secondly, if you face them inward towards you, and your baby is anything like mine, she will want to latch onto whoever and whatever. The key here is you are slowly helping them learn how to put themselves to sleep, not become reliant on nursing to sleep. 

Lastly, remember, good sleep begets good sleep! If your baby is struggling, make sure they are getting good naps during the day and one of the easiest ways to do that early on is by baby wearing! Getting solid naps in early on meant she wasn’t over tired to get solid nighttime sleep. Baby wearing provides the natural white noise of your heart beat. Plus the cozy swaddling of the wrap and the movement of your breath make for excellent baby sleep conditions!

The Hand Test

This was a big one for us. The hand test basically means if you can hold you hand in front of your face (like you’re reading a book) and see it, it may be too bright. Now obviously, you don’t want your baby being dependent on pitch black sleeping conditions forever, but when you first bring your babyhome this matters a lot! Afterall, they are used to a climate controlled environment, so it’s a big adjustment already for them to the new temperature, let alone the new lighting conditions. 

We ended up putting her in our closet for daytime naps since we were moving and I didn’t want to get any special window treatments that’d be a waste in our new space a month later. Once we moved, I bought this blackout film that I cut and put over her window in her bedroom. I also bought a double curtain road, which allowed me to put a blackout curtain in the back that wrapped all the way to the wall, and a more decorative curtain in the front. As time went on, I slowly remove one panel at a time of the blackout window treatment and now she isn’t nearly as sensitive to lighting conditions as she once was. 

Practice the pause

When R was sleeping in our room and still waking up for night feedings, she’d make the tiniest peep and I’d jump up to nurse her. My rationale was that I was clearly already up, so why wait an extra 20-40 minutes until she’s really awake to feed her? And while that was great early on, it was also getting me into the habit of jumping up at the tiniest sounds instead of practicing the pause. Pausing is pretty basic, but sometimes counterintuitive to new parents, you simply just want to wait 10 seconds or more to see if baby is actually awake, or just connecting a sleep cycle. When baby’s connect a sleep cycle, they can make noise for about 20 minutes. It doesn’t mean they need you to step in and get them up, it just means they are figuring it out.

Now when I say make noise, I mean just that. The occasional cry, random shrieks, but not a consistent all out cry that means they need something. The more you pause and observe, the more you’ll recognize the sounds of your baby needing something, versus your baby just figuring things out. Similarly, when our baby started learning to crawl, she made a lot of those same noises I heard during the pause. Grunt, screams, occasional cry, whimper, and it wasn’t that she needed me to step in, it’s just that she’s working at a new skill and that’s okay. Pause and give them space, it’s important for everyone as your baby figures out who they are.

Don’t linger

This is a personal opinion and not a steadfast rule by any means. As you’ll read in the next few tips, I lingered plenty of times when my daughter struggled. However, I wholeheartedly believe that putting baby down and not lingering makes it easier on your little one to actually fall asleep in most cases (there are exceptions as you’ll read below).

Putting baby down drowsy, but still awake, and then leaving the room, allows you to set your baby up to learn how to put themselves to sleep. When I’ve lingered unnecessarily in the past, or went in prematurely, I ended up reseting her clock and acted as more of a distraction than a comfort. She’d get confused about whether or not it was really time for sleep or time to party. 

Skip burping… and maybe diapering too.

The first few nights home with our daughter, I remember just sitting there bleary eyed for 20 minutes after a feeding, patting her back waiting for her to burp before I thought I could put her down again. Only she’d end up spitting up everywhere and waking up more. I quickly realized that when I stood up from bed holding her, she’d automatically burp on her own. Burping is a normal biological function, just like pooping. The research actually suggests burping makes no difference to babies. Unless your doctor says you need to burp your baby, try skipping it and just holding them upright for a few minutes after they eat and let gravity do its thing. 

On the note of keeping them sleepy during middle of the night feeds: if your baby hasn’t pooped in the middle of the night or soaked their diaper, and has no signs of a diaper rash, you may want to consider just putting on a thick layer of diaper cream before bed and then not changing them through the night. Many babies aren’t woken by a wet diaper, and eventually they will be sleeping 10-12 hour stretches in the same diaper anyway. It’s a personal choice, but can help keep your baby in sleepy mode versus jostling them so much they think it’s time to party! 

Fixed nap times

At a certain point, R was sleeping amazing, then all of the sudden around 4 or 5 months she wouldn’t put together more than 30-45 min for a nap! I asked around and a few of my friends who had worked with sleep coaches suggested we put her on a fixed nap schedule. Meaning we stopped waiting for her sleepy cues, and started putting her down at the same time every day and we wouldn’t let her up and out of her crib until nap time was “over.”

In other words, if she was up 30 minutes after we put her down, but we knew nap time needed to be at least an hour, we’d have her stay in her crib until the hour was up. No, that doesn’t mean we ignored her until that timer hit, it sometimes meant I was sitting right next to her that entire time if she was fussy. The key was to get her used to “nap time” rather than letting FOMO run her life. 

Soothing system that works for the whole family

Now, every family is different with what they are comfortable with and what works for them. Our pediatrician recommended we wait 10 minutes before going in when we transitioned her out of the SNOO and swaddle. To me, 10 minutes seemed like an eternity and there’s no way I could do that!

Instead, we waited for her to be crying, like actually crying, not fussing, for 90 seconds before going in and just putting a hand on her. We’d sit with her until she calmed down again and leave the room and repeat as often as necessary. Our goal was to not pick her up, but to still comfort her. If a hand on her back didn’t work, I’d also cradle her head with my other hand. Around 4 months, we also let her start sleeping on her stomach. She kept rolling that way and simply could not sleep if once we stopped swaddling if she wasn’t on her stomach. She had great neck and head strength/control and refused to sleep any other way. We kept safe conditions (nothing in the crib with her) and got the okay from a doctor. 

Sometimes she would fuss – but not cry – for 20 minutes while figuring out how to connect the sleep cycle and that’s where this next tips comes in…

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Move bedtime up by 15 minutes until you find your baby’s sweet spot

R was sleeping about 9-10 hours a night, but was waking up around 5:45 every morning for a while. When she woke up, she wasn’t interested in eating and would want to go to sleep an hour later. We really wanted her to make it all the way until at least 7 in the morning (when I wake up) and it seemed like she wanted that too so we talked to our pediatrician.

She said the early wake ups could have to do with a bedtime that’s too late and to start by putting her to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until we found her sweet spot. Sure enough, we ended up moving her bedtime up 45 minutes earlier and she was sleeping 12 hours through the night in about a week. 

Listen to your baby’s cues!

When your baby is ready for a change they will often tell you. For instance, your baby is likely ready to transition out of the swaddle if they keep breaking their arms free. Or they may be ready for a more predictable daytime routine or to drop a nap altogether if their daytime naps all of the sudden start falling apart. As your baby moves past the newborn stage, they will communicate to you that something needs to change by their broken or more disturbed sleep patterns. Don’t be afraid to experiment and see what works. Remember, that forcing your baby into a set routine will only cause you and them stress, so go slow and be patient. Make small incremental changes over the course of a few days before ruling out that it isn’t working. Lastly, you can always hire a sleep coach! 

Get outside!

Research shows that fresh air improves baby sleep! One study found that kids who napped outside napped for longer than those indoors. When R was really little, her first nap of the day was usually me baby wearing her while going for a morning walk. It was great for both of our health! Another study found that kids who spent time outside daily actually slept longer and better at night! Not only that, spending time outside promotes great mental health as your baby grows older according to Hancock Regional Hospital!

When traveling to a new time zone…

Adjust your baby to the same schedule in new time zone

We recently went on our first cross country trip and I was definitely panicking about sleep! We kept her schedule the exact same, but in the new time zone, with some flexibility. So if we typically put her down at 4 pm everyday, we would shoot for within 30 min of that depending on what we were doing and how tired she seemed. Baby sleep will never be perfect when traveling, but keeping your routine as much the same as possible will make the adjustment a lot easier. 

Mama’s, don’t forget, you need more sleep too research says! Check out this article from Hancock Regional Hospital on sleep tips for women!


 List of 15 Of The Best Baby Sleep Tips You Need To Hear

  1. Create a bedtime routine

  2. Consider a dream feed

  3. White noise

  4. Swaddle

  5. Movement

  6. The Hand Test

  7. Practice the pause

  8. Don’t linger

  9. Skip burping… and maybe diapering too.

  10. Fixed nap times

  11. Soothing system that works for the whole family

  12. Move bedtime up by 15 minutes until you find your baby’s sweet spot

  13. Listen to your baby’s cues!

  14. Get outside!

  15. Adjust your baby to the same schedule in new time zone

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