You prepare for a lot when expecting a baby. You learn about nursing and about how to dress your baby; you research developmental milestones and pre-schools. Often, however, we parents forget to read up on how to help our baby sleep better at night.
Well, we have you covered: her we explain how to help your baby sleep through the night, why your baby needs to sleep through the night, how pacifiers can help your baby sleep, and how to maintain healthy sleep as your baby ages, including when they’re teething or experiencing a sleep regression.
While you’re learning more about how to help your baby sleep better now, we suggest downloading the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™, an easy-to-use app that will help you help your baby sleep better today and sleep better tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day.
In addition to 1-click sleep tracking that automatically updates your baby’s sleep schedule, the Smart Sleep Coach customizes sleep coaching methods that fit your baby’s unique sleep habits.
By sleep coaching, you help your baby learn to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer – which means you sleep better, too. Everybody wins when you sleep coach your baby!
Making Your Baby Comfortable for Sleep
One of the easiest and most effective ways to help your baby sleep better is to make sure they’re as comfortable as possible.
- Fresh diaper: Before every sleep
- Appropriate Layers: Your baby should be dressed warmly but cool enough that they don't overheat.
- Tip: Flushed cheeks, sweat, damp hairline, and heat rash are signs your baby’s overheating.
- Room Temperature: Babies, like adults, sleep best in a room that's between 68-72° F.
- Dark Room: Darkness encourages better sleep by triggering the production of the natural sleep hormone melatonin. Be sure to turn off the lights and, if possible, use blackout curtains to make sure your baby's room is as dark as possible.
Swaddling Your Baby for Sleep
Swaddling can calm your baby for a few reasons.
- It’s Warm: Swaddling comfortably in a lightweight blanket helps keep your baby warm.
- Swaddling Limits Movement: Newborns don’t have full control of their arms and legs just yet and can wake themselves by flailing their arms or legs while sleeping. Swaddling keeps their limbs safely in place to reduce this possibility.
- It’s Secure: Being wrapped up makes your baby feel comfortable and safe - an ideal mindset for sleeping well.
We have a post dedicated to how to comfortably swaddle your baby, but here are two tips on swaddling your baby:
- Use a lightweight cotton blanket for swaddling. This will help prevent overheating.
- Leave enough room for your baby’s hips to wiggle a bit. Swaddling too tight can lead to overheating and hip problems.
How to Swaddle Your Baby
- Lay a soft swaddle blanket on a flat surface with one corner up, like a diamond.
- Fold that corner down, to the middle of the blanket.
- Place your baby face up with their head at the folded corner.
- Make sure your baby’s arms are to their side, rather than folded or crossed.
- Wrap one corner around your baby and tuck it under.
- Fold up the bottom corner to cover your baby’s feed.
- Wrap the remaining corner over your baby and tuck.
- Ta-da! Your baby is swaddled.
When to Stop Swaddling Your Baby: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you should stop swaddling when your baby can roll over on their own. This typically happens around 2 months or soon after.
Tip: If you’re no longer swaddling your baby, you can transition them to pajamas or a sleep sack. A good rule of thumb for dressing your baby post-swaddle is to dress them in one more layer than you would sleep in.
Cuddling Helps Your Baby Sleep
You probably already shower your baby in love and affection and adoration during the day, but sometimes work, errands, or other obligations can distract us. That said, be sure to take as much time as you can outside of feedings or bath time to make sure your baby knows you're there and love them. This is proven to help babies feel calmer and more secure.
‘Drowsy, But Awake’ is Key for Sleep Training
You can help your baby sleep better by putting them in their crib or sleep space when they are drowsy, rather than already sleeping. This is for a few reasons:
- It gives them the space they need to learn to fall asleep independently.
- It helps them get comfortable in their sleep space and know that this is where they sleep.
- It prevents them from waking up and being confused about how they got there.
Signs your baby’s tired can include the following sleepy cues
- Rubbing their eyes
- Eyes glazing over
- Being Spaced Out
Get On Track With Healthy Sleep Habits from Day One: Download our easy-to-use app, the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ for step-by-step guidance on sleep environment, sleep habits and sleep schedules so you can stay one step ahead of your baby’s sleep as they develop and their sleep needs change.
Pacifiers Can Help Babies Sleep
Not all babies enjoy pacifiers, but if your baby does use a pacifier, you can use it to help settle them before bed.
Bonus Tip: Though your baby’s crib should be empty of pillows or stuffed animals, you can put in some extra pacifiers to increase the odds they’ll find one on their own if they need one night.
Sleep Schedules and Your Baby’s Sleep
While your baby’s sleep may be disorganized in the first weeks and months, by around 16-weeks patterns will start to emerge. Sleep schedules help your baby anticipate when it’s time to sleep and ensure they – and you – are getting enough sleep.
For help setting a developmentally appropriate schedule, check out the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ app. With its 1-click sleep tracking feature, it will create an automatically updated sleep schedule for your baby, adjusting their wake windows and sleep times as they grow and develop.
Bedtime Routines Are Essential for Baby Sleep
Soothing bedtime routines are well known to help your cue your baby it’s time for sleep. Common soothing activities might include:
- A bath
- A baby massage
- Getting into PJs or sleep wear
- Fresh Diaper
- Brushing teeth (for older babies)
- Swaying, singing, or rocking
- Dimming the lights
- Reading a story
- Singing a soft lullaby
- Playing soft music or white noise.
What you choose for your bedtime routine is up to you, what’s important is you are:
Consistent: Routines work because they’re - well, routine. This means your bedtime routines should keep the same pace and happen at roughly the same time every night, with some adjustments to changing sleep schedules.
Calm: Routines should be calm and relaxing. That means avoid screens or anything overstimulating for at least a couple of hours before bed.
In Their Sleep Space: At least the last 10 minutes of your routine should be in your baby's room or wherever they sleep. This will teach your baby that that is a tranquil, safe space where they can and should sleep.
Brief Check-Ins are Best for Your Baby’s Sleep
It's common for babies to wake in the night. If your baby wakes in the night and cries out and it’s not time for a feeding, first try to see if they self-soothe and go back to sleep on their own.
If your baby continues to fuss, and you need to enter the room, keep the lights off or low, use a soft voice and move slowly. You want to take care of them without exciting or waking them.
How to Help an Older Baby Sleep
Sleep training is not a linear process. As your baby grows, their sleep schedules will shift and evolve, and so too will the ways to help them sleep. Here are ways to help an older baby or toddler fall asleep in common scenarios, including teething and during separation anxiety.
How to Help a Teething Baby Sleep
How to Help a Teething Baby Sleep: Teething can disrupt sleep. To help a teething baby sleep, use chilled fruit or a washcloth to dull the discomfort, give gentle gum massages, wipe away drool, and maintain your bedtime routine. We also discuss teething in more detail in this article on helping your baby sleep while teething LINK TK
How to Help a Baby with Separation Anxiety Sleep
How to Help a Baby with Separation Anxiety Sleep: Separation anxiety is an entirely normal part of your baby’s development. In fact, it’s one of the major developmental milestones worth celebrating .
Why would one want to celebrate their baby’s anxiety? Because separation anxiety in babies means they’re understanding object permanence – that people and objects exist even when out of sight.
There are ways to minimize separation anxiety in general LINK TK, but here’s a quick tip to help your baby with separation anxiety sleep: play peek-a-boo. Yes, really! Playing peek-a-boo with your baby can help them overcome separation anxiety because your “reappearance” after “disappearing” shows your baby that you’ll always return to them!
A similar approach can be taken at night: if your baby wakes from separation anxiety and doesn’t self-soothe back to sleep, go in and tell them you’ll check on them in ten minutes. Odds are your baby will feel reassured enough to fall back to sleep.
However, if you say you’ll check on them, be sure to follow through – if they are awake and you don’t check on them, they’ll be upset.
To Help Any Baby of Any Age Sleep
To Help Any Baby of Any Age Sleep: Sleep train. Seriously, it’s so, so powerful to sleep train, especially with something like the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™. But even if you don’t want to use our app, following our advice and methods will help your baby fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, providing them – and you! - more sleep now and the foundation for a healthier tomorrow.
Final Tip: Hang in There!
There’s definitely a learning curve to raising a baby, and it’s 100% normal to feel overwhelmed or frustrated or out of your depth. We all feel that way when bringing home a new baby. Just do your best and go easy on yourself. Seriously – we humans have been doing this for thousands and thousands of years, and you will, too!
And if you ever have any questions or need a little boost, check out the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™. In addition to expert answers to the most common and vexing sleep questions and step-by-step guidance through sleep coaching, the Smart Sleep Coach includes mini-meditations specifically designed to help you stay centered and calm in even the most frustrating parenting moments – from the witching hour to nap transitions to – wow! – how to sleep coach with daycare.
“Developmental Stages of Social Emotional Development in Children,” StatPearls Medical Database .
“Infant sleep and its relation with cognition and growth: a narrative review,” Nature and Science of Sleep.
“Back to sleep: Teaching adults to arrange safe infant sleep environments,” Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis .
How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.