It’s pretty much a guarantee that there have been hundreds of relationships and friendships that have been torn asunder because of the waking of a sleeping baby.
So few and fragile are the moments when little one is asleep, that mom and dad treasure them like nothing else. Sleep that was once taken for granted is now something that is truly, truly precious, and tiredness is the new norm.
Parents will try pretty much anything to get their little one to nod off, but habits that have been passed down through generations are being revealed as not quite as good as we once assumed they were.
Despite parents having nothing but good intentions, they often fall into sleeping traps, and putting baby to bed starts to become a problem. It’s really important that you try, from early on, to ensure that you have the right approach.
A baby only needs a few things in their first months – feeding and sleeping – so getting them both on track is so important. Yes, you’ll have made mistakes with your baby’s sleeping regime, but so have millions of others. You’re a new parent, it’s to be expected!
In this article, we explore 15 tricks that should be avoided when you’re trying to get your precious bundle to catch some zzz’s. Once you’re equipped with these new tools of knowledge, and know better what not to do at bedtime, you’ll be much better able to help baby and the rest of the household.
15 Feeding Baby To Sleep
I have always heard that the best way to get a baby to go to sleep is by giving them the breast. It is fast, it’s simple, it’s hugely effective. It will put even the fussiest baby to sleep. And it’s been proven that breast milk – when produced in the evening – works as a sedative.
However, the downside to feeding your baby to sleep is that your child associates feeding with sleeping. Which means that for your baby to go to sleep, she needs you there with milk.
The longer that you continue to feed her so she’ll get some shut eye, the stronger the association will become, and to fall asleep any other way becomes an impossibility. All those moms you see nursing older babies and even toddlers? They need to do so because their child knows no other way to fall asleep than by being nursed.
14 Pick Up Crying Baby
Waking up to hear your baby crying is heart wrenching enough. But not sprinting to its crib, and instead leaving it to cry…surely that can’t be the right thing to do, can it?
Mom Winifred Robinson thinks leaving your baby to cry is the best option for child and parents: “Controlled crying isn’t a form of neglect; it’s a way of helping a baby to cope without constant handling. I don’t believe that controlled crying raised my son’s stress levels at all. In fact, after that first night, I had to go in and wake him up in the morning and I realised that like me he had desperately needed a good night’s rest.”
13 Rocking Baby To Sleep
While baby snoozing away in her car seat or baby swing can mean you’re able to have a brief moment’s rest, ensure you don’t make relying on motion a regular part of the bed time routine.
It’s fine to rock baby to relax her just before bed, just ensure you’re not rocking her to sleep. If baby grows too depend on her rocking to fall asleep, then you can expect that whenever she wakes up during the night she’ll want the same treatment.
Interestingly, motion can also affect the quality of your little one’s sleep. Marc Weissbluth, author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child says, “If the child is always sleeping in motion – in strollers or cars – she probably doesn’t get the deep, more restorative sleep due to the stimulation of motion.” If you can imagine the sort of sleep we get on airplanes…well it’s like that.
12 Letting Baby Nap Anywhere
Getting baby to sleep is a feat in itself, no matter where or when it is. However, experts say putting your baby down for her nap in her crib is the best option, as she’ll learn to associate sleep – bedtime and naptime – with this place in particular.
It’s possible to create a nap schedule without feeling that you need to be housebound. Infants usually sleep for 1-2 hours in the morning and then another 1-2 in the afternoon.
If you plan ahead, you should be able to get done what needs to be done out of the house. But it won’t always be possible to stick to a schedule. Life doesn’t always run as smoothly as we want it to, and there will be times when baby will sleep in places that aren’t her crib. Just remember so long as it isn’t happening every single day, it’s alright.
11 Overstimulation Before Bedtime
Just like with adults, over stimulating a baby before bed can do much more harm than good. Energetic games will have the opposite effect on your little one, and will instead leave them wound up and wide awake instead of dropping off into the land of nod.
Put away the iPad and baby apps – they’re especially stimulating! The best thing you can do with your little one before bed time is to wind her down with lullabies and gentle nursery rhymes. A relaxing bath, skin to skin contact and being carried in your arms or in a sling can also help your baby to relax and understand that it’s time to sleep.
10 Skipping Bedtime Routine
Whilst each baby is unique, with different sleep needs, once they’re past 6 months old, consistency is of the upmost importance, and there ought to be a bed time routine set in place.
Having a different bed time set up, and putting baby to bed when she wants to go to bed is a recipe for disaster. But so is always putting baby to bed when you want her to go to bed, or more accurately put, when is most convenient for you.
A rigid bedtime routine with a few simple and relaxing steps has multiple benefits. Your baby will come to know what to expect every day, and by putting her down in her crib at the same time every day/night and by following through with a few relaxing motions, you are setting her internal clock. Doing so will ensure that she’ll nap for longer and sleep throughout the night.
9 Letting Baby Stay Up Late
You are going to need to think twice before letting your little one stay up late. While it’s ok for little babies to sleep when they want to, for older children this simply can’t be the case.
If putting baby to bed late is an option you’ve been turning to – and you’re little one is 6 months or older – you’re going to need to nip it in the bud now. Late bedtimes for baby can rapidly become a real problem, and can lead to insufficient sleep, which in turn, leads to an overtired child who is irritable and puts up a fight when they need to go to bed.
Just like adults, children are unable to function properly when they are overtired. Not getting enough sleep can have terrible consequences on your child’s mood and on her performance. It can also, believe it or not, stunt physical growth.
8 Falling Asleep On The Couch
Baby has been crying for hours and you’re exhausted. At this point, the couch seems like the best option for the both of you to snuggle up on. You can catch up on your favourite Netflix series while baby snoozes.
However it’s all too easy to drift off, leaving baby vulnerable. It’s actually reported the couch is one of the most dangerous places for a little one to sleep. In 2014 a study was conducted that found that of nearly 8,000 infant sleeping deaths in the United States, about 12 percent were sofa-related. Nearly three-quarters of those infants were newborns.
Award winning actress Leigh Arnold returned from her first night out since the birth of her baby, to find her son dying in his father’s arms after they fell asleep on the couch. The little boy died from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) an hour after his mom came home.
7 Keeping Things Too Quiet
We have all been the subject of a mother’s fury when she’s just put baby down to sleep. It is not pleasant. But she doesn’t have to be furious or dead set on having absolute silence. You see, when baby was in the womb, she experienced all kinds of noises.
Nancy Birkenmeier, a nurse at the Sleep Medicine and Research Center at St. Luke’s Hospital, in Chesterfield, Missouri says “An infant can sleep through a fair amount of noise, especially in the first third of the night, when he’s in deep sleep.”
You might not have thought so, but white noise can help to lull baby to sleep. Just don’t become dependent on it to get your baby to rest as baby will need to get used to everyday sounds. When baby gets better used to the noises made at home, the better she will become at sleeping through them.
6 Putting Baby To Bed With A Bottle
Putting baby to bed with a bottle has always been a done thing in my family. Photos exist of a little me, fast asleep with a bottle. But now, after learning about the risks that accompany this tradition, I thank my lucky stars nothing happened to little me.
While giving baby a bottle at bedtime might be a quick, easy fix, it also has many downsides. Your little one might begin to rely on having her bottle to be able to fall asleep.
It could also become more difficult to wean her from the bottle once she’s at the age that it’s time to start drinking from a cup. There’s also a chance she might choke on the liquid. The likelihood of ear infections is increased, and tooth decay becomes all the more probable. Opt for a pacifier over a bottle, as it’s probably the sucking that she finds comforting.
5 Introducing Entertaining Distractions
It has always been my belief that toys above and in the crib can make the world of difference when it comes to getting baby to fall asleep. However as it turns out, the rotating toys, sounds and lights can actually be counterproductive. Instead of comforting baby, they might distract her and keep her awake.
If you want your little one to sleep soundly, removing anything even remotely entertaining from her crib is the first call of action. TV’s, Smart Phones and tablets need to go! The light that omits from the screens can make the brain think it’s day, and, as a result, make it harder to rest.
Crib entertainment can have its advantages though. For example when your baby wakes up in the early hours having a mobile to blink up at, or a Glo Worm to prod and poke, might give you some extra, much needed rest.
4 Listening To Out Of Date Advice
Times have changed. Putting a tipple of something – usually brandy of whisky – into your baby’s bottle to help her fall asleep isn’t the norm anymore. I have heard multiple tales of pacifiers being dipped in alcohol, too.
People say it doesn’t do any harm to just give them a drop…but alcohol is essentially a drug, a poison, and willingly giving it to your baby is, in my eyes, wrong on so many different levels. Brandy and whisky are terrifically strong and just imagine the damage either could do on the tiny organs of a new baby.
Older generations didn’t know the dangers that we are aware of today. I’ve even read stories of parents rubbing neat whisky on baby’s gums when they’re teething to ease the pain. But just because our parents and grandparents had a boozy way of getting baby to sleep doesn’t mean we should follow suit.
3 Adding Rice Cereal To A Bottle
Giving rice cereal to your baby in a bottle is a heated topic online. Seriously. Google and see for yourself! The outrage from some parents who think it’s a stupid idea is almost tangible, whereas other parents swear by it to help their little ones sleep for longer.
However, the idea that rice cereal in a bottle can make your baby sleep for longer is just a myth. Studies have shown that it doesn’t actually work, so there’s no point in doing it. In fact, by adding cereal to your baby’s bottle, you are increasing the number of calories little one consumes, which lay the foundations for obesity. It can also plug your little one up, leaving them suffering with constipation and making it painful to go to the toilet.
2 Making Eye Contact With Baby
Making eye contact with your baby before putting them to sleep or when they wake up in the middle of the night is a bad idea. Your baby is super easily stimulated, and by making eye contact with her, you can engage her attention and signal that it’s playtime. You will unintentionally snap her straight out of her sleepy zone.
Claire Lerner the senior parenting adviser at Zero to Three, a non-profit that promotes the health of infants and toddlers says, “The more interaction that takes place between you and your baby during the night, the more motivation she has to get up.”
The best thing you can do is keep it low-key. If you need to go to her at night don’t make eye contact or talk excitedly. Soothe her back to sleep with a gentle touch and calming voice while keeping your eyes on her belly.
1 Letting Baby Tummy Sleep
Putting baby to sleep can be a stressful ordeal and if they settle themselves down while on their tummies, the temptation to leave them like that can be huge. But, while baby might love sleeping on her tummy, doing so puts her at an increased risk of SIDS.
The risk of SIDS is highest during the first four months. During this time, babies don’t rouse as well as they would if they were sleeping on their backs. This means they can get into trouble with their oxygen levels and not wake up.
You need to make sleeping on their back non-negotiable until SIDS is no longer a threat. This can be up until 12 months. When the time comes that your baby has the strength to be able to roll from front to back and back to front, you no longer need to worry about him sleeping on his tummy.