15 Tips to Get Your Bad Sleeper to Sleep…FINALLY!
I have a one-year-old boy, and I have to admit: that first year wasn’t always fun.
I know, any seasoned parent could have told me it would be that way.
The hardest part?
He. Wouldn’t. Sleep.
Not the normal baby-that-doesn’t-sleep. He was a Grade A bad sleeper.
I remember going back to work at 8 weeks, running on 4 (broken) hours of sleep. Crazy enough, it felt normal. But I knew it wasn’t. I was exhausted, emotional, and running on fumes.
At 4.5 months old, he finally slept through the night for the first time. (And by that, I mean 6 hours at once.) He did that exactly once. One time. April 25th. I’ll never forget that night.
The next 5 or so months were again rough. By this time, he slept only in 3-hour chunks (at best), which was emotionally draining. My husband and I researched a TON on sleep training and tried everything we could. But alas, our little guy wouldn’t sleep well.
When he was just about 10 months old, he finally slept through the night more than once. In fact, he started sleeping through the night consistently.
It was like he suddenly caught on. We couldn’t believe it. We were elated.
But we realized it wasn’t only by chance, and so much of the groundwork we had done for 10 months made this happen.
Here are the tips we followed steadfastly, and many that helped us keep sane during the hard times.
Follow these tips if you, too, want to get your baby to finally sleep through the night.
1) Consistency is Key
If you’re like me and you’ve read dozens of resources in an attempt to help your baby sleep better, you’ve already run across this tip, too. I think that’s because it’s absolutely the most important.
Babies (everyone, really) thrive with set routines.
Try your best to have a consistent bedtime (strive for +/-30 minutes, even when away from home). It’s not easy, and it’s definitely not always possible. However, baby needs to learn when bedtime is.
Likewise, she needs to be conditionally trained to understand when certain cues mean bedtime. I talk about some of the cues that work for our family later on in this post, but whatever they are, use them consistently.
It’s going to feel ridiculous at times. And it’s going to frustrate you. Don’t give up.
Your consistency will eventually pay off. Mine took 10 months, but it happened.
2) Turn on White Noise or Music
One large part of our routine is the bedtime sounds. And actually, we use both a white noise machine and lullaby music.
I know it sounds like overkill, but, remember, we were desperate. Now, both are part of the routine. Many of my friends’ babies also use both to sleep at night. You’ll probably find the same thing if you asked around as well.
Every night, after we lay our son in bed, we turn on his white noise machine attached to the crib and run the music app on an old tablet we keep in his room.
The app we use is called Children Sleep Songs and we LOVE it. It actually has music I don’t mind listening to. In fact, every night, I listen to it through the baby monitor and now I’m conditioned to become tired from hearing it.
We also use MyBaby Soundspa attached to his crib that provides white noise. It’s small enough to travel well, and it only has a few buttons so it’s really easy to use. Trust me, you’ll find that’s really important in the pitch-black darkness at 3 AM. Check out the MyBaby Soundspa on Amazon today to see what I’m talking about. Seriously. It’s awesome.
Remember, because it’s about consistency, even when you’re traveling or your schedule changes, keep the environment consistent. That means, do your best to bring these sounds along with you to help baby sleep in non-home locations.
3) Make Bedtime Earlier….Or Later
Babies have different bedtimes at different ages, and this alters many times in baby’s first year of life.
However, if you’re struggling with a baby that won’t sleep well, consider adjusting bedtime (at least for now).
This is especially true if you noticed baby was consistently sleeping a set amount of time and it’s recently less. Sometimes, it means little one needs a little bit less sleep and you’re pushing her to go to bed too early, or it means that she’s becoming overtired throughout the day and needs to sleep earlier.
Consider bumping bedtime up half an hour or push it back half an hour. Try this for a week or two before you decide if that’s the fix or not. Don’t immediately switch it up again because it’s going to take a little while for baby to adjust.
4) Say “No”, and Make it a Priority
We had to turn down so many offers to hang out with friends or to eat a late dinner outside the home, knowing we had to stick to the 1-hour window we had set for ourselves for bedtime.
It was frustrating at the time, especially when other parents could stay out and hang with friends because it never affected their baby’s sleep.
However, we made the necessary sacrifices and said “no” when we needed to. We knew that it would be a 3-hour battle to get him to sleep if we didn’t make his sleep a priority.
Now, I’m much more thankful for those times we turned down having fun.
5) Let Baby Learn to Cope
We tried the “cry it out” method once. He cried for about half an hour before we gave up.
This was a last-ditch attempt to get him to sleep. We had tried everything. No matter what, he’d scream in his crib.
What’s funny about that night is he slept a little bit better. It wasn’t much, but I think he slept an extra half-hour chunk.
After his crying, I held him for several minutes until he fell asleep.
Then I sat him back in bed where he snuggled into a comfortable position and fell asleep.
That night, I realized that I needed to let him do a better job of coping. Up until that night, I had only ever let him cry for a minute at most, not realizing that sometimes he may have figured it out himself without me stepping in at all.
If you’re like I was, consider taking a deep breath and letting baby try to figure out. You don’t need to let him cry for half an hour, but try an extra 5 minutes before you go and soothe him. Over time, he may learn to soothe himself without any effort on your part.
6) Consider Possible Health Issues
We discovered between 3 and 4 months old that our son is allergic to eggs. It’s a long story how we even got to that point, but once we found that out, everything in our lives changed.
I remember perusing a “mom of allergic children” discussion group (one of the many I immediately joined) and I stumbled upon an article about sleep issues. Because it was all-too-relevant in my life, I read the thread with hundreds of comments on it.
What I learned in that group is that there is a correlation between children with food allergies and poor sleep habits. I couldn’t find any reason why this might be the case, but it created a lightbulb moment for me.
It was both frustrating and reassuring at the same time.
I don’t know if he’s a poor sleeper because of his allergy, or it’s just a coincidence, but it might be worth researching if you have a child that doesn’t sleep well.
7) Move Baby’s Bed
One mom who dealt with a poor sleeper like me once recommended I move my son out of my room in order to get him (and me) to sleep better.
Every time he cooed or whined a little, I awoke instantly. Once I realized I was waking up so easily to his noises, I became open-minded to moving baby a little further away at night.
I was scared at first to try it, but she recommended trying the process slowly.
If you’re one who co-sleeps, consider moving baby into a bassinet near your bed instead. And over time, moving that bassinet further away from the bed.
If your baby sleeps in your room in a bassinet, try moving him to another room. Do it slowly at first, moving a little further away from your bed each time, until he eventually moves into his bed.
Make sure your family is actually ready to try this process before rashly deciding on it. Sometimes, the location has nothing to do with how you and baby sleep.
8) Consider the Temperature
I remember when we were leaving the hospital and the nurse told us our house needed to stay between 70 and 72 degrees year-round.
Yuck. At the time, we had our house consistently at 62 in the winter and about 78 in the summer.
Being early December, the house was 62 when we left for the hospital. Good thing we have a Nest thermostat because my husband turned our temperature up to 70 from his smartphone before we even left the hospital. The thermostat also notifies me when my selected temperature is efficient, learns what temperature we prefer best, and auto-programs itself based on your preferences. I highly recommend the Nest Thermostat for your home.
Given that great advice from the nurse, it turned out to haunt us for a while.
Turns out, our son sleeps HOT.
At 72, he sweats. That’s the same temperature I sleep at with multiple layers of covers, shivering. However, he takes after his father and he needs it really cold to sleep well.
We started to learn this about him and he now sleeps at 70 degrees with just long-sleeve jammies on. For the longest time, I was afraid to have him in so little at such a cold temperature, but after my husband asked we try it, he started sleeping better.
Try to figure out what temperature works best for your baby and consider adjusting if you have a poor sleeper.
9) Adjust Feeding Schedules
For the first many months of life, Baby has to eat every several hours, including overnight. There’s nothing you can do about getting your little one to sleep through the night when she isn’t getting enough calories in the day yet.
However, after some time, she no longer needs to eat at night, even if it appears she wants to.
Part of the reason you may feel like you still need to feed baby overnight is due to her food schedule during waking hours.
Think about what (if any) feeding routine your baby follows. Maybe, she’s not eating enough during the day and wakes up at night feeling hungry. Maybe she’s eating too often during the day which is transcending into the evening.
While this isn’t a quick change, and should definitely be run past your pediatrician, consider the possibility that you need to change up the feeding schedule.
10) Worry Less about Rules and More about Baby’s Comfort
From the time my son started rolling over, he’d roll over to his stomach in bed and sleep. When he wasn’t strong enough to roll back over, we’d freak out and flip him back on his back.
Obviously, this meant a quick end to him wearing the Halo sleepsacks we loved so much.
Over time, once he could roll over both ways easily, he’d always be on his stomach. Even if we flipped him to his back, a few seconds later he’d roll to his stomach.
As much as it scared me, that’s what he wanted. He preferred to sleep on his stomach. He’s stubborn (got that from me) and he gets what he wants.
To this day, he’s a stomach sleeper.
Once I gave in, stopped worrying, and let him sleep that way, we all had better nights.
Did this solve the sleeping problem entirely? No. But, it was one step in a very long process.
11) Relax…As Impossible as it Seems
In the heat of the moment, it’s difficult not to lose your cool as you get up with Baby for the fifth time. Trust me, I know. A baby that doesn’t sleep through the night is one of the more frustrating aspects of parenting.
One thing I learned, though, was to try your best to say it’s going to pass and to not let it get to you.
It’s nearly impossible to run on a few hours of sleep for almost a year, but somehow, we all make it through.
Whether you actually take a nap when Baby’s sleeping or just use the time for quiet, do your best to relax at points that aren’t as stressful. This will help for when you hit a stressful time of your day.
12) Keep Track of Naps
This one is short, but do your best to keep track of naps. There’s nothing wrong with a baby that naps often. There is an issue, however, when it affects your baby’s sleeping habits.
So, make note of the naps baby takes and how well your baby sleeps that night.
13) Stop Comparing
I have a nephew that’s 22 days younger than my son. Needless to say, many comparisons happen amongst our family.
Unfortunately, sleep habits have always fallen into this category.
My nephew has always been a better-than-average sleeper. While that’s great for him, it made my worse-than-average sleeper seem sooo far behind.
As difficult as it is to do, stop comparing.
You’ll hear so many moms talk about their babies sleeping through the night at a few weeks or months old, but trust me, that isn’t the norm. For every mom that talks about her great sleeper, there are three other moms in the same boat as you with a not-so-good sleeper.
Every baby is different, and even though there are guidelines for what your child “should” be doing, no baby fits a set mold.
14) Listen to Other Moms…with a Grain of Salt
Other moms can provide the best advice.
When he was about 9 months old and sleeping “better” – but not through the night – I was complaining about how he consistently woke up several times a night, just for me to run into his room, find his pacifier, and put it in his mouth. Another mom told me to throw a bunch of pacifiers in bed with him.
Honestly, I had NEVER considered that. Never.
At that point, I did it. I bought a few of the 2-pack Avent pacifiers (these are a staple in my household now!) to stock up. Then, I placed five of these pacifiers in his crib – one in each corner and one in the middle. I was willing to try anything.
It took a few weeks, but he finally figured it out. That was the final piece of advice that got him sleeping through the night.
Not all the advice you receive from other moms will be helpful, so try your best to discern what will be best for your family.
15) And Lastly, Wait…For Baby to Sleep Through the Night
Okay so this isn’t that great of advice, but I felt it needed to be here.
You may hit the point where you’ve exhausted all the resources you can think of and your baby still isn’t sleeping through the night.
That’s okay. No seriously, it’s okay.
Every baby follows his own pace, and sometimes there’s only so much you can do to control him.
Like in my son’s case, it might consist of you waiting. Try your best to enjoy the happy moments while you wait for the time you’ll feel rested again. I PROMISE it’ll happen. It might not be soon, but it will happen.
Coming from a mom who knows what it feels like, I want to extend a huge virtual hug to you and let you know that you will survive this. It feels impossible at the time, but you too will have a baby that sleeps through the night.