After a few sleepless nights when my husband and I took turns comforting a crying baby, I decided it was time to learn how to help our little girl fall asleep, and stay asleep, on her own. She’s got to learn sometime, right?
Helping her learn to fall asleep on her own has been one of the most useful and helpful things we have done. It has allowed us to put her down at a reasonable hour so I can get some more household chores done, my husband can finish up work, or we can spend some time together. It has been one of the best things for our marriage, and I thought I would share how we were able to do it!
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1. Nighttime routine
Establish a set routine that you go thru every night just before bed. After a few nights, your little one will pick up on this signal for bedtime. They will start to get drowsy because they know what is coming.
For our nighttime routine, we bring Rachel into the bedroom, every other night we give her a shower (click here for my post), we change her diaper, put her in pajamas, give her the pacifier, say good night, and pat her on her tummy. After that, we leave the room and she is out for the night.
2. Keep lighting natural
During daytime naps, keep blinds open to allow natural light in. During night time, keep the bedroom as dark as possible. Not only will this help your little one sleep more soundly at night, but it will help to regulate their internal clock. Soon they will take naps that aren’t too long during the day, and sleep longer at night.
3. White noise machine
One thing that really helps our little one sleep is our white noise machine, this one is our favorite. It helps to block out noise from the neighborhood and to calm her down. We have also found that when she hears it, she knows that it is time to sleep!
4. Follow your little one’s lead
Babies usually find their own rhythm to feeding, playing and sleeping. Try to pay attention to the time your little one gets sleepy in the evening. Start their bedtime routine about 20-30 minutes before, depending on how long it takes.
After many nights of keeping my daughter with me until I went to bed around 11 pm, I noticed that she usually knocks out around 9 pm. I decided to start doing her nighttime routine around 8:30 pm and she started to fall asleep on her own and sleep longer thru the night!
5. Have a set bedtime and stick to it
Once you have determined a good bedtime, stick to it. When we travel, Rachel’s schedule can get a bit jumbled and she would stay awake if we let her. When we stick to her bedtime routine, she falls asleep on her own, and stays asleep! No matter where you are or what comes up, do your best to create a consistent night time routine and bedtime for your little one. It will truly give them security and help them feel comfortable wherever you go.
6. No diaper changes
When our little girl was first born, I would change her whenever her diaper was barely wet, even in the middle of the night. This meant that we had to keep enough light in the room to change her, and my daughter would completely wake up each time. Once I stopped changing for every little thing, she would go right back to sleep after feeding, which means everyone got more sleep!
Only change their diaper at night if it is soaking wet. Invest in some absorbent diapers (these are AMAZING), make sure to put some diaper cream on your baby, and change your little one first thing in the morning.
7. Let them fall asleep in their crib
Helping your little one learn how to fall asleep on their own is no small matter, it takes patience and practice. And the earlier in life you start, the smoother the transition will be. Our little girl was falling asleep alone in a dark bedroom by six weeks old. If your little one is used to falling asleep in your arms, start by putting them down when they are drowsy but not completely asleep. Then hold them less and less each night, until you get to the point where you just carry them to bed and pat their little tummy to say good night.
8. Leave the room
If your child can hear and/or see you, they may want to play with you, or may just be interested in what you are doing. You must leave the room for them to learn to self-soothe and fall asleep independently.
This is the most important thing to getting your little one to fall asleep on their own, and to stay asleep!
After you have gone thru your routine, put your little one down, and left the room, it can be discouraging to hear them making coos or even crying. The most important thing is to not rush right back in. It is not to be mean, but to allow your little one the opportunity to self-soothe.
Once your baby learns to comfort themselves, it will be a breeze for them to fall asleep on their own, and to get back to sleep if they wake up in the middle of the night.
Occasionally Rachel will have a little trouble falling asleep still and if I hear her for a few minutes, I stand by the door to see if I should go in to help her. If she seems a bit distressed, I will walk in quietly and pop her pacifier in, pat her tummy if her eyes are open, and walk right back out. After that, she will be out for the night.
Just remember to PAUSE when you first hear them, give them a chance to figure it out before rushing in. There is no magical amount of time to pause for. Listen to your little one to determine if you need to go in, and when to go in.
10. Keep interactions to a minimum
If you do need to be around your little one after putting them down, keep interactions to a minimum. Don’t do more than is necessary.
If they are crying, resist the urge to pick them up right away. Either give them a pacifier or help them to find their fingers to suck on. Try not to talk or make eye contact with your little one.
The other night my husband worked late and we had to put Rachel in her car seat after she was down for the night. We kept the room dark and quiet. He picked her up from the crib, kisses her forehead, put her in the car seat, and put her car seat cover down (this is the one we use). She stayed asleep while we said goodbye to my parents, for the 2-hour drive home, and while I put her into her crib at home.
11. Trust your instincts
You have a unique bond with your little one. Trust your instincts!
Before we had Rachel, I read up on different styles to put babies to bed. I cringed at the idea of letting my little girl “cry it out” imagine a red-faced, teary eyes baby. However, the reality was actually much different than what I imagined.
When she makes noise after we put her down, I pause, and then I listen. The different ways she cries or fusses communicate different things, which I have come to understand very well. Sometimes she really does need me to help burp her or nurse her. Other times she just needs more time on her own to fall asleep. Understanding these differences has really helped!
I never really subscribed to any type of “method” to put my little girl to sleep. I just do what I feel is best, based on the bond that we share and my understanding her needs.
What do you do to help your little one fall asleep or to stay asleep? Any tips to share? Let us know in the comments!
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