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“How can I get my baby to sleep through the night?”
We've all heard the age-old question. If you’ve got a little one who seems to be nocturnal, you’re not alone. A recent study in the American Journal of Pediatrics showed that 38 percent of typically developing 6-month-olds and 28 percent of 1-year-olds were not yet sleeping at least six consecutive hours at night.
Tips to encourage good sleep habits
- Know that your baby is an individual. “Every baby is different,” explained Dr. Gretchen Petterway, a pediatrician at CHRISTUS Physician Group in Shreveport, Louisiana. One of the first things she tells distraught parents is that sleep tricks which might work for others might not work for your little one, and that’s okay.
- Have a routine. This is the most important message for parents who need help getting their kids to sleep better, Dr. Petterway said. “It’s important to establish a routine and do the same thing at the same time every day before bed,” she said. “Set the mood for sleep an hour before.”
What’s a good bedtime routine for babies?
1. Lower the lights
Lighting is important in establishing the sleep/wake cycle, Dr. Petterway explained. “You want your baby to understand that it’s dark now and time to go to sleep.” Dim the lights an hour before bed, and get blackout curtains to make it as dark as possible in the room while they sleep. These can also help for naps too, since they can block out the bright mid-day sun.
- Our recommendation: Nicetown Blackout Curtains Set, $19, Amazon
This set of blackout curtains is a No. 1 best-seller on Amazon thanks to their inexpensive price and quality features. Besides blocking out the light and UV rays with their triple weave technology, the curtains are also said to help reduce outside noise and insulate temperatures. If you need a set of blackout curtains, these are probably a good bet.
2. Sit in a rocking chair with baby before bed.
Rocking your child is a great soothing technique, Dr. Petterway said. This is also a wonderful time to read books together. Besides the fact that it’s great for language development, your voice is calming to your baby. During this sweet cuddle session, it’s also important to remember your goal is to get them sleepy — not asleep. “Put them down groggy so they learn to fall asleep alone,” she said.
- Our recommendation: Brayden Studio Welliver Rocking Chair, $183 (normally $214), Wayfair
Rock your little one to sleep in this contemporary-styled chair that’s highly reviewed on Wayfair. It’s made of birch wood in a natural finish with fabric upholstery. Plus, it’s not too big, so it should fit in a small nursery nicely.
- Our book recommendation: “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown, $9, Amazon
This classic bedtime book is a must-have staple in every baby’s library. It's so popular it's in the top 100 children’s books on Amazon 72 years after it was first published. Even Michelle Obama loves it. The soft rhythm of the words along with the lulling illustrations make it a relaxing read to put baby to sleep.
3. Consider using a calming scented lotion.
Lavender is a popular scent for baby lotions because it’s so relaxing. “It even helps to calm me down,” Dr. Petterway said. Giving your baby a little massage with a calming scent could be a nice addition to the bedtime routine. As with all products you use on your baby, be sure to watch out for allergic reactions.
- Our pick: Aveeno Baby Calming Comfort Moisturizing Lotion with Lavender, Vanilla and Natural Oatmeal, $9, Amazon
If you’re looking for a parent-approved lavender-scented lotion for babies, this is a popular one on Amazon. According to the company, it’s pediatrician-recommended, hypoallergenic, paraben-free, phthalate-free and made specifically for a baby’s sensitive skin.
What’s the best sleep environment for a baby?
- Make sure the room is ideal for sleeping. As we mentioned above, blackout curtains will make the room darker and more conducive for sleep. Dr. Petterway also said the temperature of the room should be comfortable. Anywhere between 68 to 72 degrees is usually a good range.
- Drown out noises. “White noise machines are really helpful to blunt outside noises,” Dr. Petterway said. Not only do they help prevent babies from waking up with things like sirens, television noises and voices outside of the room, they also provide a soothing sound, which can calm a baby.
- Our recommendation: HoMedics White Noise Sound Machine, $21, Amazon
We love this simple white noise machine from HoMedics. It comes with six different soothing sounds including classic white noise, rain, summer night and ocean. It’s also portable so if you end up traveling with your little one, it can fit easily in your bag.
What should a baby sleep with?
1. Use a swaddling blanket for newborns.
If your baby isn’t rolling over yet, you can try a swaddling blanket. Newborns, who are used to being curled up in the womb, like the soothing closeness a swaddling creates, Dr. Petterway explained. She did, however warn that sometimes babies can break out of the swaddle, which could risk a baby's safety. So, be cautious.
- Our pick: SwaddleMe Original Swaddle, $29 (normally $35), Amazon
If you don’t know how to wrap a traditional swaddle or are scared of your baby breaking out of it in the middle of the night, this type is great because it can be securely fastened with a hook and loop attachment. Parents have raved in the reviews about how simple and effective these have been for their babies.
2. You can give your baby a pacifier at bedtime.
The American Academy of Pediatrics endorses a pacifier in bed because they’ve been proven to reduce Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). And Dr. Petterway says that your child can be soothed by sucking on one.
- Our pick: Philips Avent Soothie Pacifier, $4, Amazon
With more than 3,000 reviews and a 4.5-star rating, this pacifier is the number one best-seller in its category on Amazon. Made of silicone, it is BPA-free and latex-free, plus it’s dishwasher safe, and comes in different sizes. This specific one is geared for those ages zero to three months, but you can also buy ones for older babies.
3. A lovey is safe for 1-year-olds.
After your kid is 12 months old, they can sleep with a lovey, a soft cloth toy, since the risk of suffocation drops significantly, said Dr. Petterway. It can provide reassurance and security to a baby, she added.
- Our pick: Angel Dear Blankie, Blue Lamb, $13, Amazon
This small, soft blankie (which is a little bigger than a standard washcloth) is the perfect lovey for your baby to cuddle up with at night. Parents love it because their kids love it. One of the tips moms and dads have left in the reviews is to buy a couple of the same kind so you have a backup in case it gets lost or you have to wash it — after all, it can become a security blanket for some.
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