Babies sleep about 14 to 15 hours in a day, and that includes multiple daytime naps (Source). Teaching your little one how to put herself to sleep is one of the most challenging jobs that you could experience as a parent. All humans go through several transitions of the sleeping and awakening cycles during the night. New little humans don’t yet know how to transition in and out of these phases successfully. So it’s our jobs as parents to help them fall back to sleep peacefully and consistently.
Babies that are accustomed to sleeping in their parents’ arms are more likely to cry or get scared during the night when they wake up. Teaching them to sleep on their own (without you giving them a bottle, breast, pacifier, or your arms to rock them) doesn’t happen overnight. It might take months, but it’s worth it.
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How to get your newborn to sleep alone?
Here are some tips that you can follow:
1. Wake your baby when you put him down to sleep
Newborns are sensitive, and they will cry if you put them down to sleep alone. They need to feel safe to sleep peacefully, and they are programmed to know that only your arms are the safest place to fall asleep. When you put your baby to sleep alone, he’s most likely to wake up in the middle of the night and panic when he doesn’t see you around. The regular fear and crying isn’t good for your baby and can traumatize him.
Rock your baby to sleep and when he falls asleep and you are about to put him down in his crib, jostle him a bit; just enough to wake him slightly. Yes, it seems hard to do that because you have put so much effort into putting him to sleep. But, try it every day, as you place your child to sleep; this is what will teach him that it is safe to go back to sleep. Of course, this technique won’t start working instantly. You will have to be patient and keep practicing it.
2. How to get a newborn to sleep without a pacifier
If your baby needs you to nurse him, feed him, or give him something to suck to fall asleep, then he will get habitual of this and will always call you to help him fall back to sleep in the middle of the night. So breaking off this association is the next step to getting your newborn accustomed to falling asleep on his own.
Feed your baby if he wakes up from sleep, and again if he’s still hungry and hasn’t slept yet. But, don’t feed him to sleep, put him to sleep with walking or rocking. This way, he will learn to fall asleep without being fed or nursed. Although this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t feed him if he’s hungry before his sleep time. This phase should begin when your baby is several months old, eating well, and physically fit.
Of course, you are still rocking him to sleep, but we will discuss it in the next phase.
3. How to get a newborn to sleep on his back
As your child gets used to falling asleep with only rocking or walking, instead of eating, teach her to fall asleep while lying still in your arms. You begin by rocking to calm her to sleep and right about when she is about to fall asleep, you stop rocking and hold her calmly. If your child protests, you can begin rocking again and keep repeating this method until the baby becomes accustomed to it. It will take at least 25 attempts, but it will start working eventually.
4. How to get a newborn to sleep in his crib
Now that your baby has gotten used to falling asleep while lying still, you can move to the next step. You have to wait until the baby is almost sleeping in your arms, you stand and hold him steady (on his back), stay until your baby is almost asleep and has accepted this stillness. If he protests lying still in your arms, you can rock him back to sleep. Do this routine until he gets used to it.
Now, your baby is used to the stillness while resting in your arms; you can lower him in the crib just when he is about to sleep. If he protests, which he most probably will, pick him up in the rocking position and rock a little, and then stop. Keep practicing until it becomes a habit. Patience is the key.
5. Don’t hold your baby in bed
As your baby will get used to falling asleep without needing you to rock him, you don’t have to hold him in the bed anymore. Just touch your baby, such as hold his hand, as he falls asleep. Keep repeating this until he accepts this new routine. Eventually, holding your finger while falling asleep will be enough for him. After that, you can substitute a toy instead of your finger.
Tips for a good night’s sleep
A good bedtime routine is essential for your child’s health. Establish a proper routine as soon as your little one arrives, as it will help improve her sleeping habits later.
1. Limit distractions
Babies need everything toned down a bit to sleep peacefully. So turn the light down and lower the noise about 30 minutes before it’s time for bed.
2. Try white noise
White noise will help your baby calm if he wakes up in the middle of the night and you won’t have to whisper the rest of the night.
3. Find him a habit
Find a few fun activities for your little one, like a bath or a book, to do before bed each night. If feeding is also a part of this routine, do it first so that the baby doesn’t have to stay up when he is sleepy just to get fed.
4. Stick with the routine
Put your little one to sleep on the same spot on his bed each night. If something messes up this routine, try to get back to the same schedule as soon as possible.