How to Get a Baby to Sleep: 20 Tricks You Haven’t Tried

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Babies who have trouble sleeping can be challenging for any parent, especially new parents. Thankfully, there are things that new parents can do to help their babies get more sleep. Some of these things include establishing various routines and using calming techniques. 

At Gerber Childrenswear, we understand that sleep is a vital part of the development process for all babies, so we have gone the extra mile to ensure that our pajamas and Gerber® Onesies® bodysuits keep your baby warm, snug and comfortable all through the night. We’ve put together several parenting tips to help your baby get the nighttime rest they need, which will make everyone happier, reduce stress and feel rested for the big day ahead.

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Equip yourself with the five “S.” Well-known pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp developed a tried-and-true process in his book called “The Happiest Baby on the Block.” He pioneered techniques that became the standard for addressing colic and sleeplessness in babies that parents have valued for decades. Understanding the simple “5 S’s” and implementing them into your bedtime routine with your baby will help soothe your baby and assist in getting them to sleep.

1. Swaddle

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A great technique to make babies feel safe and secure is to swaddle them tightly in a blanket. Snuggly wrapping babies will make them feel like they are back in the womb, mimicking the comfort of those first few months of life. There are several different swaddling techniques that you can employ, such as the Feeding Cues Swaddle, the Hands Up Swaddle, the Bat Wings Swaddle, the Houdini Swaddle, the Arms Only Swaddle, the Burrito Wrap Swaddle and the Preemie Swaddle. Try each and find the best technique that suits your baby.

2. Shush

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You have probably seen and heard parents shush a baby many times. We all do it, but do you know why? Shushing is another technique that helps mimic babies’ time in the womb, so having a consistent noise when they are falling asleep is a great way to help them wind down and drift off. You can try shushing or even white noise machines — just make sure that it’s something you do every single time.

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3. Swing

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Babies enjoy being rocked to sleep and bounced up and down in your arms. A gentle swing or bouncing motion helps soothe babies and calms them down, making it easier for them to fall asleep. If you are struggling to get your little one to sleep, try taking a calming walk outside with them; the sensation of being moved gently back and forth is relaxing for many babies.

4. Suckle

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The sucking reflex makes babies feel calm and relaxed, which is why babies often fall asleep during feedings. Some babies need a pacifier or their thumb to fall asleep. If this is the case for your baby, make sure you provide them with something they can suck on while they drift off to sleep. When it comes to pacifiers, you may want to consult with your pediatrician for recommendations.

5. Side-Stomach Position

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The final “S” is the side stomach position, which involves holding babies on their side to help calm their system. According to Dr. Karp, the supine position initiates calming in your baby. Some tips include holding your baby in your arms in a side position or resting your baby on your chest.

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6. Set Consistent Wake Times

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Consistency is very important when it comes to your baby’s sleep patterns. Something else you can do to help your baby get to sleep and sleep better is to set consistent wake times. Babies do well with a consistent schedule, so by setting regular wake times — and sticking to them as much as possible — you are helping your baby get into a good sleeping rhythm.

7. Avoid Overtiredness

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Newborns need to sleep more often. They don’t stay awake for more than an hour before getting overtired. Overtiredness and crankiness can make it challenging to get a baby to go to sleep, so make sure to understand the sleep signs in your baby to help get past a point of no return when it comes to overtiredness. This will also keep your baby on a good sleep schedule.

8. Create a Comfortable Sleeping Environment

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Your baby’s sleep environment is critical for ensuring they are comfortable and well-rested. It’s important to create an environment where your baby can relax, so make sure the room is quiet and dark. Cooler temperatures are also a good way to help create a comfortable environment and soothe your baby into sleep.

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9. Avoid Stimulation

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Stimulating activities can make it challenging for your baby to fall asleep or stay asleep, so it’s important to avoid too many lights, noises or playtime within an hour of your baby going to sleep. Try limiting any kind of stimulation in the hours before bedtime and give your baby plenty of time for quiet and calm activities during the day.

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10. Change Your Baby’s Diaper Prior to Feedings

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When it comes to nighttime feedings, babies may find it easier to go back to sleep if their diaper is changed before they eat. This can help them focus on eating without feeling uncomfortable or hot, which often makes it harder for them to fall asleep. Always be mindful of how your baby feels when you are changing their diaper — you want to make sure that you are changing them often enough, but not too often.

11. Watch for Sleep Cues

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Babies often give signals when they are ready to go to sleep. If you are looking for cues that your baby is tired, you might notice them rubbing their eyes, yawning, tugging at their ears or turning in circles. You may also find that they look drowsy and slow down their movements as the day goes on. Being aware of these signals can help you make sure that your baby gets the rest they need during the day and at night.

12. Make Adjustments to Your Baby’s Routine When Necessary

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If your baby struggles to sleep or stay asleep, consider switching their routine slightly, but only when necessary. Try moving their feedings earlier in the evening — you might find that their bedtime is easier if they are less hungry or more relaxed. If your baby is falling asleep during feedings, you may want to end the feeding a little sooner, so they learn to fall asleep in their crib. Every baby responds differently, so it’s important to experiment with different techniques to find what works best for your child.

13. Make the Room Completely Dark

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It may seem obvious but ensuring that the room where you put your baby to sleep is completely dark can help them get the rest they need. If an overhead light or light from outside is getting into their room, consider using blackout curtains to block out any ambient light. Try keeping a nightlight on in another part of your house. This helps you and your partner get around without stumbling in the dark.

14. Practice Staying Calm

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One of the most important things when trying to help your newborn sleep is staying calm. Being stressed or anxious can lead to overtiredness in babies and make getting them to sleep more challenging. Be mindful of your energy and focus on staying as relaxed as possible so that you can support your baby through their sleep routine.

15. Keep Baby’s Room at a Comfortable Temperature

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Often, babies sleep best in rooms that are kept at a comfortable temperature. Check the thermostat to make sure that it is warm or cold enough. A temperature somewhere between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit should be good. Anything hotter or colder than this can disrupt your baby’s sleep.

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16. Massage Your Baby

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One way to relax babies and help them get to sleep is massage therapy. A baby massage can be a great way for you and your partner to bond with your baby, as well as wind them down before bedtime. Start by gently stroking or rubbing their backs, scalp, face, arms and legs using circular motions. You might also try gently pulling down on their knees, stretching out their legs or rubbing their belly in a clockwise direction.

17. Get Your Baby Outside During the Day

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Some fresh air and exposure to the sun during the day can help your baby sleep better at night. Try slipping on their baby shoes, snuggling them up in a warm sweater and taking them outside for a stroll or playtime during the day to help them feel more relaxed and sleepier when they return home. You might even consider adding bright colors or toys to the stroller to make the outing more stimulating — but remember that you want this to be a calming experience, not overstimulating.

18. Keep Afternoon Naps Shorter

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Afternoon naps are essential for your baby’s development, but to ensure that your baby gets to sleep at night, you may want to aim for shorter naps during the day. Try waking up your baby after about 45 minutes of napping instead of letting them sleep longer. Longer naps can make it more challenging for babies to fall asleep in the evening.

19. Read Your Baby a Bedtime Story

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Reading a bedtime story to babies is a great way to help them unwind before going to sleep. Choose a calm, gentle and soothing book that helps them feel relaxed before they go to bed. Try playing soft music while you read, as well — this can create an even more calming atmosphere for babies as they drift off to slumberland.

20. Sing to Your Baby

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There may be nothing more soothing and relaxing to your baby than the sound of their parent’s voice. Singing to your baby before bed can help them adjust to the idea of sleepy time and is a great way for you to bond with them as well. Choose a simple and soothing song, like "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," or try making up your lullaby. No matter what method you choose, make sure that it relaxes you, too — the calmer you are, the more likely your baby will be able to fall asleep.

Final Thoughts

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It can be challenging trying to get newborn babies to sleep at night, but you can help them wind down and ease into slumberland by following these tips and tricks. Whether you are a new or experienced parent, there are many things you can do to help your baby get the sleep they need and stay well-rested.


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