If you’re anything like I was after the birth of my little one, you are exhausted and wondering what are the best baby sleep secrets.
Maybe you are reading this on your phone while your little one naps on you or nurses. Or maybe you can’t sleep so you’ve succumbed to the internet.
Are you at your wits end and nothing is working so you started searching online for answers?
After a month of no sleep and constant tears (mine and my little one’s) I started searching and trying all sorts of methods, tips and tricks to get her to sleep. I was shocked when I found things that worked.
None of the information is expert advice from someone who doesn’t have kids. All the following baby sleep secrets are based on real experience, of trial and error. Finding what worked and what didn’t work.
If these baby sleep secrets worked for me, they can work for you too.
Baby Sleep Secret # 1 – Create Sleep Habits
Right from birth you can adopt sleep habits. This is not formalized sleep training which is not recommended until after 3 months. Sleep habits are routines and things you can do early on to help your little one learn how to fall asleep on their own and to fall back asleep once woken up.
Don’t worry, sleep habits is not about adding any stress to your little one. If your little one is hungry or wet, at this age they will be sure to let you know and won’t easily self-soothe to sleep.
The rest of the baby sleep secrets are specific examples of sleep habits you can use with your little one at any age.
Baby Sleep Secret #2 – Don’t Rock Your Little One to Sleep
I know it sounds difficult but try to avoid nursing, feeding or rocking your little one to sleep.
Nursing, feeding or rocking your little one to sleep creates a crutch for them. They intuitively learn that that is the only way to fall asleep. When they wake up in their crib after a sleep cycle it will be harder for them to fall back asleep unless they are nursed, fed, or rocked.
If your little one usually nurses right before going to sleep try to keep them awake while nursing. Same goes for feeding.
If your little one usually gets rocked to sleep. Rock and cuddle them until they are calm and dozy but not quite asleep. Then lay them down to sleep. This method does not involve having your little one “cry it out” or cry themselves to sleep. If they begin to cry you can pick them up again, cuddle and rock until calm and put them back down. Repeat this as many times as it takes before they don’t cry when you lay them down.
The key is to put them down in their own bed while they are dozy and not asleep.
Sounds crazy right? I thought so to until I tried it. The first time it took picking up and laying down my little one like 20 times. But something magical happened on the 20thtime. I stood there by her bed waiting for her to cry or stir and nothing happened – she fell asleep.
Every night I would do the same thing. I turned it into a bit of a game trying to predict how many times it would take me to pick her up and lay her down before she fell asleep. Eventually it was 12, then 7 and then consistently down to 3 times. And this was all before she was 3 months old.
Don’t get me wrong, it was tough and there were some looooong nights. Yes, maybe it would have been easier to just rock or nurse her to sleep. But this was a short-term solution. It would have been easier that night but much harder later on when we went to formally sleep train her in her own room.
Baby Sleep Secret #3 – Timing the Diaper Change
Another thing I experimented with is not taking her from the crib directly to a food source. I had this fear that my little one would only be able to fall asleep while nursing. Or would have an insatiable appetite and would wake up constantly to eat. Thankfully none of these came true.
As I was conscious of these fears I tried to dissociate waking up with immediate feeding. I did this by changing her diaper first before I nursed her.
When you choose to change the diaper can be very strategic. I know moms whose little ones would fall asleep nursing on one side so they would change the diaper in the middle of nursing (between sides) to keep their little ones awake.
In the beginning I would take her out of her sleeping box change her diaper and then nurse her, rock her a bit and put her back into her sleeping box while she was still dozy. Eventually I spaced out the timing of when I nursed her both when she woke up and when she went back down.
Baby Sleep Secret #4 – Differentiate Between Night & Day
Maybe you have heard of horror stories of little ones who get their nights and days mixed up. They are awake all night and want to sleep all day. I had heard of these stories and wanted to try and prevent this.
For the first week or so it didn’t matter. My little one and I spent most of the time in my room either cuddling or sleeping. Recovering from child birth is no joke!
After that first week I was determined to differentiate night and day for my little one so that she would learn the difference. There are a few ways I did this.
During the day we would leave the bedroom and “play” in the rest of the house. We opened up all the curtains to get access to sunlight and turned on lights as needed.
I also made sure she we got her dressed every morning. When she was “up for the day” I changed her out of her sleeper into other clothes. In my mind I was creating a cue for her that it was no longer time to sleep all night.
My mom had instilled this habit in me. She was adamant that as kids we were not to be in our sleepers all day. No judgement to those babies who are in sleepers all day – sleepers are extremely comfortable and easy.
Most of the time our little one was in sweatpants and a onesie. Essentially her daytime “sleeper” clothes.
Baby Sleep Secret #5 – Establish a Routine
One of the pieces of advice I had heard about sleep training was to have a routine and establish it early. I see the value in a routine because it makes thing easier in that you don’t have to think about it – just put it on autopilot. The perfect thing for a sleep deprived new momma.
Although I understand the value of a routine I also wanted to make sure it wasn’t too scripted. I had seen friends whose little ones could only fall asleep after routine XYZ was done. If there was any step or sleep aid missing then the little one wouldn’t sleep.
I wanted my little one to be a good sleeper but I didn’t want to be a slave to her sleep routine.
Here is where I relied again on habits more than a routine. There were certain things I did prior to bedtime but not always in the same sequence and not every night.
For example, I bath time was always before bedtime, but bath time wasn’t every night.
There are numerous things you can add to your little one’s nighttime sleep routine. Use trial and error to see what works best for you. Whenever I tried new things with my little one, I found it took about 3 tries before there would be an effect or not. So be patient and don’t expect miracles on the first try.
Whatever you choose to add to the routine shouldn’t take too long. You want your little one realizing its bedtime soon and not in an hour from the beginning of the routine.
Baby Sleep Secret #6 – The Pause & Wait
When my little one was born, I made the choice to have her sleep in the same room as me. In the beginning I would wake up with every little stir, grunt or groan. I never realized how loud of sleepers newborns were.
Whenever my little one fussed at all I would pick her up and try to soothe her or feed her or change her diaper.
What a terrible idea. Not only was I up all night because she was a noisy sleeper. If she ever did sleep for a few hours at a time I woke up panicked that she wasn’t breathing!
Eventually when my little one stirred I wouldn’t jump up and grab her I would pause and wait. In the beginning I would count to 10. There were times when 10 seconds felt like an eternity. It was a good thing I had a digital clock in my room because my concept of time was very distorted at that point from the lack of sleep. After a while, I would pause and wait 1 minute or a few minutes (all while trying not to fall asleep myself).
Again, something magical started to happen when I paused and waited those few minutes. Sometimes she would put herself back to sleep. Not all the time, not even most of the time, but sometimes.
Eventually, the more I paused and waited the more likely she was to fall back asleep. I never waited too long, always just a couple of minutes to see. If she was really losing her mind then I would go and pick her up right away to see what the problem was.
I had no idea what I was doing when I had our little one. Through trial and error these 6 baby sleep secrets were what I found worked the best. I was never a fan of methods that required my little one to “cry it out” or cry herself to sleep. I thought this led to increase stress for her.
Although I was reluctant to move my little one into her own room to sleep, I think she was readier than I was. By 4 months she was sleeping through the night in her crib in her own room. When she did wake up in the middle of the night I would change her, feed her and she would be able to put herself back to sleep right away.
While majority of these are night time baby sleep secrets don’t be afraid to adapt them for daytime naps too.
All of these baby sleep secrets helped my little one become and independent sleeper.
They can work for you too.
What do you have to lose? You have a good night’s sleep to gain.
What are some of the baby sleep secrets that have worked for your little one?