Advice from the Experts, Parents Like You
We’ve written a lot about babies and sleep, but this time we turned to another set of experts—YOU. We asked parents to weigh in on how they get their little one to bed. Here’s what they said.
Know that all babies cry, and that this fussy period will end.
- Erin S. – Understand that you cannot spoil babies, and that sleep is not linear…they will wake more at certain times than others. (They are not bad sleepers, just having a hard time.)
- Kristen F. – Be present, be relaxed, and know that night-time parenting will not last forever…each time you respond, you are literally creating the conditions for healthy relationships, emotional regulation, and a balanced brain.
Be the calm you want to see.
- Emma P. – If you are tense and frustrated, your baby will sense that and not feel comfortable going to sleep because they’ll think something is wrong.
- Erin L. – Get yourself calm first and radiate peace through prayer and meditation on a regular basis. Babies especially sense how we feel and it will affect their ability to relax and feel comfortable.
Create a routine.
- Autumn N. – We stick to routine for our 3-year-olds. There is no TV or movies past 5 on “school nights” or between when we get home from daycare and bed. We get home, they help with supper and clean up (they love having jobs), we do quiet activities like reading/playdoh/coloring, or bath if it’s bath night. Then we head upstairs to change into jammies, go potty, and brush our teeth. We then give hugs, tuck in, and read 1-2 chapters of a book.
- Micaela M. – Prepare yourself to be calm and relaxed. Allow yourself to be present for your child. That and a three-step bed time routine have made bedtime seamless in our home. Three-step can be many things. For us, this means: brush teeth, read books, sing a song OR Dad tells a story. Love and hugs = bed time. The more presence, love, and cuddles you can offer – the faster they fall asleep.
- Ennis B. – Start the routine at least 45 minutes before they will be tired enough to fall asleep. Quiet soothing activities (books, bath, clothes off, jammies on) away from the bustle of siblings and kitchen clean up. Dim lights, soft music. Rocking chair or swaying in a parent’s arms. Then lights off except nightlight, soft music on for another 15 min. Baby in bed with a few back rubs, pacifier and a lullaby. Say good night and walk away, shut the door.
- Rocio A. – I have a 2 year old. We usually (not always, though) follow a routine: shower and brushing teeth, read a couple of books while laying down in my bed, then go to her bedroom. I turn off lights, close the door, and I rock her while we sing lullabies and then I specifically tell her: “I’m going to put you in the ‘cuna’ (crib).” She usually says: “Nope” (like, thanks but no thanks). Then, I remind her how important it is for her to have a good sleep and so on. I finally put her in her crib, tuck her in, and she soothes herself to sleep. Lately, I’ve had to sneak out with an excuse: Mama has to use the restroom or similar because she suddenly wants to do “ejercicios!” (work out), or to dance or to play non-stop.
Pro-level sleep ingredients: Blackout curtains, white noise and gentle motion.
- Lisa W. – Blackout curtains, white noise, sleep sack, and a consistent bedtime routine (bottle, brush teeth, read stories, rock, lay them down). And time and patience.
- Rachel L. – Use a white noise machine and do quiet, calm things for about a half hour before bedtime to wind down. Read a book, listen to music, take a bath…
- Julie M. – Noise machine, complete darkness, swaddling (for newborns), routines.
- Emma P. – Sing to them. Instead of patting their back, put your hand on their lower back or bottom and wiggle it so it vibrates/jiggles their body. (It’s almost like being in a car for them.) Explain to them how their body is tired and needs to rest so they can play again later. Talk to them about random things as you rock them to sleep.
No two kids are alike.
- Holly D. – Remember that all babies are different. Just because one thing works for one baby won’t mean it will work for another. Listen to what your baby needs. Learn their tired cues. For a couple of ours, if they start ‘going crazy’ like a sugar high, we know they’re overtired. For another, everything becomes the end of the world. Another gets grumpy over everything. Learning to get them off to bed before they hit those spots saved us a lot of stress over the years.One of the biggest things to help sleep come is connection. Cuddles, stories, songs. Another big one is routine. And another is flexibility. Babies and small children are constantly going through huge physical and mental growth. What might work at one stage won’t necessarily work for another. And sometimes it feels like you’ve just figured it out, and they change. Be willing to be relaxed and figure out what they need.
- Agnes L. – We found each of our children’s temperaments is different so one approach does not work. That is a hard lesson to learn, not just for new parents of baby #1, but #2 and 3. Our 1st needed cuddles, rocking, songs and stories. We thought, hey we got this. For # 2, he wanted cuddles, stories but to be put down for bed while awake. Our youngest, now 4, has always needed a quiet but connected bedtime.
Different things work for different parents.
- Megan B. – Start early and keep in mind that you are training both good and bad habits. Best thing we did with our 2nd was to not hold her while she slept when she was first born. We would hold her, rock her, and sing until she was drowsy and then put her in her bassinet. Sometimes you have to repeat the process but it was well worth the extra patience. She sleeps so well at 5 months now! We can usually just lay her down and walk away. Unlike our 1st who would cry if you didn’t hold her until she fell asleep and then would wake up when you laid her down.
- Beth R. – Bring everything down a few notches and be patient. Don’t pick them up for just a little fuss, just use proximity and rub their little tummies or backs just enough to let them know you’re there but resist the urge to talk or sing or pick them up unless they’re truly distressed. Eventually they will go down pretty easily.
Be patient with yourself too…even though you think you’ll never sleep again, you will. When they’re teenagers, you’ll have the opposite problem!
- Karen W. – Plenty of one-on-one time during the day/evening so they can fill up on your love. Talk about bedtime in a positive way and make their sleeping space comfy and cozy. Good naps during the day so they aren’t over-tired. No screen time within a couple hours of bedtime. A good routine including reading books together, putting on pjs, washing hands and face, etc… Lights turned down, soft music on. Kisses and cuddles. A positive attitude!
And sometimes nothing works!
- Nanell M. – No matter how many calm-down routines we’ve put in place, our 3-year-old still runs away and cries when it’s time to get in the bed. We have to carry her, kicking and screaming, to the bed. Eventually singing and whispered stories quiet her down and she falls asleep. It’s an ordeal every night!