Congratulations! You’ve made it through the first few months of little sleep, early morning feedings, and late-night cuddles with your adorable newborn. Now it’s almost time to get baby to sleep through the night — a big transition for every parent, and one that’s different for every family.
We collaborated with baby sleep coach Dr. Sarah Mitchell to provide you with the best tips to prepare your loved one for this gentle transition. Dr. Mitchell began working as a sleep coach in 2013 with the goal of educating parents on age-appropriate sleep needs and safety tips.
As a mom herself, Dr. Mitchell understands that being a parent is a labor of love and passion. What started her dive into baby sleep coaching was her own son’s trouble falling and staying asleep, as he would wake up every two hours for months. Dr. Mitchell took her healthcare background and grew her academic knowledge on child sleep to help many babies (and parents!) get a full night’s sleep.
She explains that finding the right time to get baby to sleep through the night is incredibly important and different for every child depending on a variety of factors. If you’re wondering “when can my baby sleep through the night?” — Preview Dr. Mitchell’s recent blog, as well as her sleep chart (below) to understand the sleep needs of your child.
Once you start to feel confident your baby is ready to start this gentle transition, consider these 5 Dr. Sarah Mitchell-approved tips for getting baby to sleep through the night!
1. Establish An Empty Crib
The transition to sleeping through the night may take a while, but that’s okay! It is most important for you to have peace of mind and a solid understanding of how you can help provide the safest sleep for your baby. Crib bedding safety is a huge piece of the puzzle. Crib bumpers, pillows, toys, blankets, and even mobiles are no longer considered safe for sleeping babies.
Empty cribs should be at the top of your crib safety checklist — they provide your baby with the safest night’s sleep while they stir or roam around their crib.
How to Do It
- Stay informed on safe sleep for babies: As more research comes out on crib safety standards, many parents are realizing that once commonly-used crib accessories, comfort toys and other things to help baby sleep at night are no longer safe.
- Get a crib liner: A safe, empty crib means no more padded bumpers. Instead, buy a mesh crib liner to keep baby’s small fingers, toes, arms, and legs safe in the crib and free from boo-boos.
- Find other solutions that bring comfort: By adding white noise, you can provide your baby with soothing sounds to relax them in a room without your presence.
Helping you safely get through another milestone is important to us at Breathable Baby. For more information on crib bedding safety, learn how we’re a safer option!
2. Allow Baby Time to Settle
When you start to hear your child fuss or cry, your instinct may be to rush in and soothe them back to sleep. In reality, the one thing your baby really needs to sleep through the night is self-soothing skills. Teaching your baby to fall back asleep on their own is a tricky part of the transition — but there’s a safe line between hasty soothing and simply closing the door on your tearful child. With age appropriate sleep training, you can allow your baby time to learn how to fall back asleep on their own without either being too harsh or over-coddling.
How to Do It
- Take a pause: A stirring baby doesn’t always need your immediate response. It is okay to wait a minute or two before going in to check on your child. They may just be stirring and not in need of your comfort to stay peacefully asleep.
- Be aware of the “Sleep Crutch”: Rocking and feeding are often good methods to put baby to sleep in the early months. As they age, they’ll need to learn to self-soothe without their sleep crutch.
- Put baby to bed calm and awake: Stick to your pre-bedtime routine and lay baby down in their crib so they understand it’s time to start getting sleepy.
- Consult with a sleep coach: Chatting with a sleep coach can put you in control by providing you with a better idea of what may be affecting your child’s sleep and how to fix any issues.
3. Start to Wean off Late-Night Feedings
After a while, the late-night feedings become less and less necessary for your child. Starting to wean off of late-night feedings is just another one of those slow processes that are important to the development of your child.
How to Do It
- Know when to start: Fortunately, fewer late-night feedings and more sleep through the night generally go hand-in-hand. Dr. Mitchell notes this can differ depending on if your child was breastfed or bottle fed.
- Put them to bed full: Who doesn’t fall asleep easier on a full stomach? Feed your baby for a long night’s sleep for the both of you. It’s a simple trick you may already be doing, but it will help get your baby to sleep through the night as they continue to grow.
- Feed more during the day and less at night: As your baby starts to get more active, they’ll need to be fed more during the day and less in the middle of the night, which should start to be solely dedicated to sleep.
4.Create That Ideal Routine
It’s your turn to create a special bedtime routine for your child! Combine what you know works best for your baby and what you liked best about your childhood bedtime routine to create the most soothing night of sleep.
How To Do It
- Choose your method: Maybe it’s a warm bath. Maybe it’s singing a few lullabies or having a sibling practice their reading to your baby. Whatever your method is, make it consistent so your baby starts to understand that bedtime is coming.
- Avoid any extra activities: Getting your baby excited by letting them crawl around right before bedtime may get them too stimulated to fall asleep on their own. Try to avoid extra commotion and offer a soothing pre-routine activity like feeding or watching a quiet movie.
- Same time, same place: By now, you probably have an idea of what your baby’s routine may start to look like. Make sure you can keep up with a set time and place for each bedtime routine — books on the rocking chair, then a lullaby as they lay in their crib!
5. Be an Observer
Children will sleep when they are tired — Dr. Mitchell explains that it’s when they’re over-tired that routines and blissful sleep can go out the window. Being over-tired can lead to unexpected daytime naps or a restless night’s sleep for your child. Be a detective and learn what you can from the days leading up to a poor night’s sleep — even reaching out for help from a professional to notice signs you may be overlooking can make a huge difference.
How To Do It
- Don’t stray from your routine: You’ve created a sleep routine that your baby has grown accustomed to, so they’ll know when you’re not putting a good effort into it. We all have those days, but slipping from a routine may affect your child’s sleep, so it’s important to stay present.
- Stay informed: It’s important to realize which problems may need to be addressed by your pediatrician. Talk to your baby’s care provider to understand what signs and symptoms of poor sleeping habits may look like for your child.
- Know how much sleep your baby needs: Sleep is all about timing, and it’s a changing dynamic as your child ages. Sometimes the answer to a better night’s sleep for your child is understanding if your baby is getting too much or too little sleep during the day.
All the tips in the world will give you a general idea of how to get your baby to sleep through the night, but sometimes you’ll hit a bump in the road and that’s a-okay! If you’re looking to get your child’s sleep back on track and your “momma mojo” back, reaching out for expert advice may be your best parenting move yet.
After all, if your baby developed a bad cough, or if you experienced a lot of pregnancy pain, wouldn’t you reach out to a pediatrician? Your baby’s sleep is no different — it’s crucial to their growth and quality of life.
Thinking you’d like some guidance when teaching your baby or toddler to sleep? Check out Dr. Mitchell’s online sleep class “A to Zzzzs”, or reach out for a complimentary 15 minute call to discuss how her services can improve your child’s sleep and save your sanity.