Updated October 2018
How to get baby to sleep? This is THE question all new parents have!
There are several items that you will need (props, let’s say) to help baby sleep better and longer.
But let’s not kid ourselves, people, the reason we want baby to sleep better is so WE can sleep better. Yes, indeed, a parent’s sleep is of the utmost importance.
Losing sleep can F with your brain SO bad. It will make you feel like a living, walking, breathing zombie. No amount of caffeine can fix you. You will feel numb on the inside and… gooey on the outside. Like a hangover wrapped in a coma.
But worry not. This only occurs for a short period of time… if you do it right…
In the first month, your life will consist of a blur of the following:
Daytime: Baby wakes, baby eats, baby does stuff, baby nurses/feeds, baby sleeps. Rinse. And repeat. And repeat. Then do it again.
Nighttime: Baby sleeps, baby wakes (with a vengeance), baby nurses/feeds, mom or dad try to do the minimum possible amount of activity to get baby back down again.
For example, your nighttime schedule might look something like this:
~ baby “to bed” at 8 pm,
~ wakes at 11 pm (pawn this one off on your partner),
~ wakes at 3 am,
~ wakes at 6 or 7 am.
Each waking is followed by a feed and perhaps a diaper change (dirty only, don’t bother with the wet ones).
Since babies are up around the clock as newborns, your goal – over time – is to get your baby to aggregate sleep at night. Yes, there will still be plenty of napping during the day, but the sooner you can get him to sleep longer at night, the happier you will be. Pinky swear.
Read about how to start off right by switching him from a nocturnal to a diurnal schedule.
A swaddled baby is a happy baby. This is step one in how to get baby to sleep. Why? Because they aren’t used to having ARMS. Legs, yes. They kick their legs in utero (as you well know). But in the womb, their arms are tightly constrained. When they come out, their arms scare the crap out of them! And they have no control over them whatsoever. It’s like an octopus on meth.
SO – we help them by creating womb-like conditions: constraining the arms in a nice, snuggly package.
Yes, MacGyver, you can tie a swaddle with a regular blanket, but as a practical matter, it just doesn’t work very well. First of all, 97% of baby blankets out there simply are not big enough, are not shaped correctly (rectangular, what?), and/or do not have the right amount of stretch to tie a proper swaddle. Second, your baby just has to squirm a little to break out of a blanket swaddle. To re-tie the darn thing, you have to turn the lights on, re-position him, blah blah blah – it’s not something you want to be fumbling with at 3 am when you’re sleep deprived and ready to get the potato back in the oven.
So I highly recommend a swaddle aid, of sorts. Two suggestions:
Check out more of our favorite swaddles and sleep-related stuff here.
These are a lifesaver in the first 3-4 months of baby’s life.
If your baby takes a passy (some don’t), use that to your advantage. The two favorites are:
I know. You have this beautiful nursery set up and ready to go. It contains a lovely and well-appointed crib with one or more personalized blankets that someone spent way too much money on. What’s not to love?
Well. It’s not that easy, you see. In the beginning (the first 3-4 months), most people find themselves sharing a room at night with babylicious. The main reason is for convenience. Plus, it just feels right.
Unless you are bed sharing (which I find completely nerve-wracking), you’ll need a temporary nest for your baby bird. What: a bassinet? A Moses Basket? Um, sure. Either of those will do the trick. But then after 3 or 4 months… what will you do with said apparatus? Store it? Sell it? Make it into a planter? Exactly. Why bother.
1. A Portable Bassinet
An affordable favorite is the Fisher-Price Portable Bassinet, which can fit next to any bed and can be easily carried from room to room.
2. A Playard
I find that a Pack ‘N Play (a.k.a. “playard”) serves as a wonderful, portable in-room sleeping venue AND is a must-have travel item that you will use for years to come. Specifically, I recommend the PNPs that come with the Newborn Napper (it’s not just for napping, you know).
3. Sidecar Co-Sleeper
Babybay Bedside Sleeper ~ $365+
Looking to stretch your dollars beyond the first 6 months? The Babybay Bedside Sleeper is the perfect answer for a sidecar that later converts into a crib as you transition your baby out of your room and then later into a playpen, highchair and desk. 100% sustainable and made of Beechwood, so it’s naturally antibacterial.
There’s more! Read here.
Light up the Night
Unless you love slamming your knee into the corner of your dresser (repeatedly), you need a bit of light to guide your groggy ass around your room during nighttime feedings.
OXO stopped making my favorite night lamp, so we are left with slim pickings:
Check out our full review of the Hatch Baby Rest
These lights provide a soft, calming light that isn’t too jarring for middle-of-the-night wakey wakes (and after you’re done using it with baby, you can use it for your scared-of-the-dark toddler).
You especially need a little light if you are nursing. Yes, in time you will master the getting-the-baby-on-the-boob-in-the-dark maneuver, but in the beginning… no.
Later, we’ll discuss crib bumpers, sleepy sacks, and crib paraphernalia, but this is all you need for a newborn.
Get the full story on sleeping here.
Until next time, rock on. Collins, out.
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