How to Get Your Baby to Sleep

Posted at 5:15 PM on Sep 15, 2022

What does the Doc Say?

maddie-emlaw.jpegMaddie, Physician’s Assistant at our Rogers clinic, recently welcomed her first child, a baby girl.  Over the past 5 months she has gotten to navigate the new world of motherhood.

“As a parent of a newborn, there is nothing you want more in the world than to sleep. I have a 5-month-old at home, and it seems that her sleep patterns have changed with each month. Initially, she would wake frequently to eat (every 2 hours).  As she has gotten bigger, we have been able to create a routine that has allowed her, and us to sleep. One of the most important things we have learned is to recognize our daughter’s cues when she is tired (rubbing eyes, yawning, fussing). When we see these things, we know that we should start getting her ready for bed. We have also found that creating a relaxing environment helps her to sleep well. For us this includes room darkening shades and a white noise maker. Lastly, doing some activity everyday that your baby will relate to bedtime can help create a routine early on (reading a book, bath or singing lullabies). Ultimately, every baby is different and what works for one may not work for another, but consistency with whatever you do will help everyone to finally get some sleep.”

Maddie Emlaw, PA-C
Northwest Family Clinics
Rogers, MN

My baby won’t sleep. As you say, choking back tears from exhaustion…We have been there and understand the frustration you are going through. When baby doesn’t sleep, that means you don’t sleep either. This can leave you emotional, likely crying next to baby as you beg them to close their eyes.  

First and foremost, you are not a bad parent. Some babies are simply a bit more challenging than others, especially when getting them on a regular sleep schedule.

What’s Normal?

Every person is unique, including your baby. Babies are rapidly growing and therefore need a lot of sleep. Below are some average ranges for sleep your baby should be getting:

  • Newborns 0-3 months – 14-17 hours per day – Learn more about what to expect when caring for a newborn. Unfortunately, newborns have no set schedule and may have their days and nights confused.
  • 4-11 months – 12-15 hours per day

Newborns need to eat about every 2-3 hours, so don’t expect your baby to sleep through the night. You will find yourself getting up every few hours to feed baby before they fall asleep. Newborns and infants will also likely take at least two naps throughout the day, which is normal. Most babies don’t start sleeping through the night until at least three months of age, and some don’t until they’re almost a year old.

Some babies may start sleeping through the night and then regress to waking up again several times in the middle of the night. Upsetting, we know! However, it is typical to occur around six months and can generally be attributed to separation anxiety. Around this age, babies begin to realize they are separated from their parents and do not understand when or if Mom or Dad will be back. Very scary for little one. This, however, should pass, and they will go back to sleeping through the night again.

How to Get Your Baby to Sleep

You understand that your baby needs sleep, but how on earth do you actually get them to sleep? Here are some tips:

  • Know the signs your baby is ready for sleep – rubbing their eyes, crying or fussing, yawning, etc. Read more in “My Baby Won’t Stop Crying”.
  • Avoid stimulation or activity too close to bedtime.
  • Play soothing soft music or white noise
  • Comfort baby by rocking and holding close to you
  • Set a bedtime routine – help them learn when it’s time to sleep and how to sleep
  • Be flexible and know that some things will work for your baby and some won’t
  • Be sure baby is full.
  • Baby’s diaper should be dry and clean.
  • Try self-soothing, which is where baby is put down while still awake and then goes to sleep on their own
  • Wearing down – wearing baby in a sling an hour or so before bedtime to help them drift to sleep
  • Swinging down – help your baby relax by placing them in a soothing swing
  • Driving down – placing baby in their car seat and driving until they fall asleep. Unfortunately, this then presents the challenge of removing them from their seat gently without waking baby.
  • Keep their bedroom dark and quiet - a sleep sanctuary.
  • Aim to keep their bedroom temperature around 70 degrees (not too hot and not too cold)

When to Talk to Your Doctor

It’s never too early to talk to your doctor. Lack of sleep or excessive sleep may indicate other underlying issues, so it’s important to discuss your baby’s sleep with your doctor. Remember, your doctor knows and cares for you and your baby. They are here to help and, in many cases, can sympathize with what you are going through.