It’s 3:00 a.m, and your baby’s screaming. You get up—for the nth time that night—as you have for the many exhausting weeks since you came home from the hospital. ‘When will we ever get our child to sleep through the night?’ you sigh. Maybe tomorrow, with these tips.
1. Adjust your room temperature
Parenting expert Dr. Alan Greene says that babies sleep better if the room is a little cooler. He pegs the perfect thermostat at about 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If you can’t adjust the temperature, just open the window or turn on the fan. You can also use this trick to get your baby to have shorter naps in the daytime—just keep the room a little warmer. (Note: for your baby’s safety, position the crib away from the window. When he starts standing and crawling, keep fans and window cords away from his reach.)
2. Adjust the lights
Babies don’t know they should play during the day and sleep through the night. Train your child’s internal body clock. by dimming the lights towards late afternoon, even if he’s not yet ready to sleep. This sends the signal that it’s time to slow down and prepare for bedtime. Using the same principle, bring your baby out into the b sunshine the minute she wakes up in the morning, and keep your baby’s room brightly lit in the daytime, even when he’s sleeping.
3. Use white noise
Everyone tends to whisper and tiptoe once baby’s asleep, but that’s not the environment he’s used to. The womb was a noisy place (the swoosh of water and your voice were twice the volume of the running vacuum cleaner!), so the silent nursery can seem disturbing to him. Dr. Harvey Karp, author of ‘Happiest Baby on the Block’ suggests playing soothing sounds, such as a nature music CD or a TV turned to static. (Bonus: training baby to sleep in a noisy environment means he won’t startle awake at the slightest sound.)
4. Fill that tummy
Adjust your baby’s feedings so that he’s full by the time he goes to sleep in the evening. For example, if he tends to ask for milk every three hours, start giving the bottle every two hours after 5 p.m. Some parents put a little cereal in the last night-time bottle, but that’s only advisable for babies who are six months or older.
5. Treat baby to a ‘spa’ treatment
Studies show that babies fall asleep faster after a gentle massage. Just pour a little organic, baby-safe oil into your hands, rub palms together to heat it up, and slowly stroke his chest, limbs and back. Use moderate pressure, and try to maintain eye contact—not only is this a great sleep trick, it’s a wonderful way to build your parent-child bond.
Dr. Karp’s studies have shown that newborns are sometimes startled awake by the sense of falling—caused by their immature sense of balance—and are further frightened by the sight of their flailing arms and legs. Swaddling your baby makes him feel safe and snug, and may help him sleep better. If your baby likes to kick off the blankets, consider investing in pre-designed wrap-arounds.
7. Resist the urge to play
Do pick up your baby when he starts to cry in the middle of the night. (It builds his sense of safety and trust to know that when he calls for help, his needs are met.) But here’s the secret: don’t make eye contact. Studies show that when a baby sees his mother’s face, his blood pressure and his heart rate increases—almost as if he’s had an espresso. So comfort him but ignore his efforts to play, and save the coos and games when the sun rises.
8. Avoid unnecessary movements
Newborns will wake up at night; their stomachs are so small that they get hungry more often. But worried parents often wake them up unnecessarily, when they burp them after a bottle or change a diaper. Dr. Cohen, author of ‘The New Basics: A-Z Baby & Childcare for the Modern Parent’ says that it’s okay to skip diaper changes at night as long as your child doesn’t have a rash. To keep him feeling comfortable throughout the night, use extra-absorbent diapers and protect his skin with a cream. Burping may also be less crucial at night, because your tends to drink more slowly and would have ingested less air. (You can also use bottles that are designed for colic.)
9. Get a swing
You can rock your baby to and fro, but here’s an easier way—get a baby swing to do the rocking for you. Many baby swings also have a ‘vibrate’ function that can be particularly calming for colicky babies.
10. Change shifts
The bad news? Some babies just won’t sleep through the night. The good news? You and your partner can do shifts, so you both have a chance to get decent rest at least every other day. Moms who breastfeed can help baby adjust to this set-up by pumping milk. Then, offer the bottle every night—even when it’s your turn to stay up.