Let’s face it, momma, finding tricks to get your newborn to sleep that actually WORK can be one of the hardest things you’ll do as a new mom. If you’ve already given birth I’m sure you’ve already noticed. If not, prepare to start running for your money, lady.
At the end of the day (literally!) there are tricks to get a newborn to sleep that can make all the difference in the world. Well. For some of us.
Keep in mind, momma, every baby is different and you’ll have to experiment a little to find out what works for YOU.
If you’re interested, check out my NEW baby sleep course! I paired with an expert sleep consultant to help you deal with your baby sleep struggles the easy way.
Things like what time to put a newborn to sleep or how to lay a newborn down without waking them are just a few things that differ from child to child.
With the right research and preparation, though, we’ll get through this one together with no fuss and only as much muss as is healthy and natural!
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- How to get your newborn to sleep
- Understanding infant sleep
- Tricks to get your newborn to sleep (an in-depth look)
- Other tricks for getting your newborn to sleep
How to get your newborn to sleep
Sleep is one of those things we assume just comes naturally. For a little one who doesn’t know what the heck is going on around them, though, sleep is probably terrifying!
I mean, think about it. You’re going along on your day. Some nice lady just fed you and that warm wet diaper was changed out before you even noticed it. Life is grand.
And then you’re struck by this horrible, rolling feeling that tries to overtake your whole body. The world seems to swim and your eyelids stop responding to your brain.
And then… DARKNESS. Maybe even a weird slideshow of stuff you don’t even understand AWAKE, let alone ASLEEP.
And then everyone is in a different place, doing a different thing. You might even have magically transitioned from that nice warm space between boob and elbow to some cold and forsaken corner of the bedroom where you’ve literally been imprisoned for no crime you can remember committing!
Since you can’t remember committing anything.
Well, OK, let’s take a step back. Babies don’t have enough going on up there to really put all of this into the framework of worry or concern. It’s probably not terrifying, just strange and impossible to understand.
As with anything girl, the first thing to getting your newborn to sleep with minimal fuss is understanding infant sleep.
Understanding infant sleep
At a high level, let’s take a look at the best ways to get a baby to sleep. Because every baby is different, get to know what works for your baby.
Find and create the routine that allows your little to know when it’s time to start winding down, calmly drawn toward the expectation that soon they’ll be lying down alone, prepared to drift off on purpose in their own time.
Newborn sleep tips in the first week
Because you’ll be experimenting a little, the first week can be a little rough.
Follow these 5 tips and you should be well on your way to getting the newbie to sleep consistently
- Establish a sleepy time routine that signals your baby that it’s time to get sleepy. Focus on recognizing baby’s sleep cues and finding the right balance of sleep versus awake time.
- Align feedings with sleep times so baby goes to bed full and content. Match your feedings up so that they align as closely with nap time as possible–typically one feeding before and one feeding after.
- Create and protect a safe and sleepy environment in which baby can sleep undisturbed any hour of the day. Set the baby’s sleep space off from the main living areas and ensure you can keep the temperature comfortable and the space quiet and without distractions.
- Get enough rest for yourself, so that you’re alert and prepared to pay full attention to the littles while awake
- Trust your instincts and collaborate with your partner or helpers.
Above all, listen to that voice that bugs you when something just DOESN’T SEEM QUITE RIGHT.
If you have a feeling something’s not going to work, there’s no harm in TRYING it (well, most of the time), but you instinctually KNOW your little one better than the Internet does (much less your parents!), so take feedback with a grain of salt and do what you personally feel is best.
Related: Podcast: My Birth Story!
Related: How to Get Rid of Hemorrhoids Fast!
Baby sleep in the first month
The first month should literally just be an exploded view of the first week. With time (and error), you’ll learn what works to make it easier.
If you want to transition baby out of your room, here are some things to consider.
You’ve likely kept baby in a bassinet by your bed so far, so start thinking about what worked there and how you can translate that to the larger picture with a crib and a room of her own.
Depending on whether or not you found that nursing baby asleep or cuddling baby asleep seemed to work best, anticipate what you’ll need in the nursery to expand upon that practice in a way that doesn’t cripple your day or wake baby up every time you leave.
Keep in mind, this is general advice and I’m definitely not telling you to transition baby to the crib in that first month. The NIH actually recommends you keep the baby in your bedroom for AT LEAST six months and preferably the entire FIRST YEAR.
This not only gives you the convenience of being close when baby awakens for night feeds (or denies your exhausted butt the ABILITY to sleep THROUGH baby’s crying fits… been there, lady) but is actually the VERY BEST THING to help prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
Attention and awareness are the MOST IMPORTANT things to help ensure your baby doesn’t fall prey to this tragic risk (although keep in mind..there’s absolutely no way to completely prevent it – we can just take steps to make it less likely).
There’s an awful lot we can say about sleep cues, but here are the nuts and bolts of it (well, fingers and ears of it, I guess).
Newborn sleep cues:
- Baby starts zoning out and startling back to attention randomly.
- Yawning (obvious, you’d think? Nothing is obvious when you haven’t slept in the last week).
- Baby’s arms and legs seem to have a mind of their own, jerking and waving around wildly.
- Baby rubs her eyes or ears–this one’s a huge cue–you’ll see it. There’s a huge diff between “gosh, I think there’s something in my eye” and “if I rub hard enough maybe I can reach the power button on my brain“.
- Baby starts sighing or grunting with exhaustion noises (trust me, you’ll recognize this).
- Crying fretfully (it’s a little like a worried sound, and probably the only time you’ll hear this at newbie’s age).
- Pulling random faces that aren’t accompanied by a smell or ::coughs:: bodily noise.
- Baby begins balling her fists into a white-knuckled grip.
Related: Newborn Checkup Schedule: Months 0-4
Tricks to get your newborn to sleep (an in-depth look)
Now let’s take a look at how to THRIVE with getting your newborn to sleep.
Remember that sleep is pretty natural, so your instincts will serve you really well here. The real tricks to get your newborn to sleep are more about removing barriers and accessing your little one’s needs in a way that encourages and supports CONSISTENCY.
Figure out what works for your baby
Every baby is different, which is why some of you are reading this article with your second or third or ELEVENTH child! These kiddos throw a crazy curveball sometimes.
How we survive as a race is sometimes a mystery, even to a Labor and Delivery nurse.
The most important thing you can do for yourself and your baby is to get to know them and let THEM get to know you. Don’t be a rigid warm body that secretes milk and intermittent humming noises that are strangely comforting. Talk sweetly to them. Be mindful in those moments.
Beyond that, KEEP TRACK. If you just nailed the bassinet landing and escaped without a sound, FIGURE OUT WHAT HAPPENED! Write it in a journal or keep it on a sleep tracker. Anything to help you puzzle through what’s working and what isn’t.
How to get a newborn to sleep at night
If you’re one of those mommas that find yourself wanting to scream “My baby doesn’t sleep at night!” every time someone glances at your hair, don’t worry honey! You’re NOT alone.
Regardless, there’s hope!
Establish a safe, soothing and consistent sleep zone
Making a good space for your baby to sleep can be really critical to setting the littles up for great sleep. It’s best if you have the baby-babes right beside your own bed or at least in your bedroom. They should have a comfortable but firm sleeping surface that is flat, following the recommended standards of the National Institute of Health.
IMPORTANT: NEVER EVER leave your baby to sleep in a rocker, stroller, car seat or in soft blankets and/or pillows. These are known SIDS risks that are EASILY preventable by just preparing for nap time in advance and making sure YOUR routine does not become more important than your baby’s SLEEP.
Minimize distractions so baby can sleep
Minimize distractions in the area where you’ll be putting baby down.
This doesn’t mean no light, no sound, nothing to hear or see or feel, momma. But if you have a mobile that has blinking Christmas lights that randomly short out or play Jingle Bell Rock all night, that’s probably not going to make for an easy sleep routine.
Instead, think in terms of what shows repetition and consistency while offering SOOTHING qualities. Blank unpatterned sheets (if you’re using fitted sheets that CANNOT come loose) or a spot against a blank wall will help avoid capturing and stimulating the baby’s attention.
Use a swaddle
You’ve probably heard this one – but don’t underestimate the importance of it. It’s definitely more than just a swaddle though, you need to use a quality one.
Most babies can ninja their way out of a crappy swaddle, so if you can swing it I’d recommend going with one like this. It is great quality, breathable, and best of all it’s super easy to use.
A swaddle is also another thing you can use to help lower the risk of SIDS, so there’s no reason not to try it.
Engage baby’s every sense with comfort qualities
When you think about it, absolute silence and total darkness can sometimes be more distracting than a gentle, repetitive sound or song and softly glowing lights. There’s a reason we use nightlights, after all.
Consider a white noise machine (like this one!) for sound (this also helps cover up the sounds of the house outside baby’s space). For visual and auditory soothing, you can get a projector set.
A friend of mine used this one, which plays soothing music and casts gently moving stars across the ceiling. Their little girl uses it to this day and fiercely protects its battery life.
If you’re wondering where to put a newborn down during the day, wonder no more! You should put baby down in the same place EVERY time you want them to sleep. Napping them somewhere else during the day is asking for disruption, even if it might be more convenient for you sometimes.
Create a sleep routine
Beyond setting up the space, be sure to develop an ACTUAL routine by reading, singing, and/or cuddling your baby in a manner that is consistent every time baby’s headed to bed.
NOTHING is so important to your baby’s sleep as having a routine. NOTHING.
Well OK, maybe the environment is important too, but in most situations, a good routine can take the cake.
Why? Well, let’s put it this way.
Can you sleep on command? If someone just walked up randomly in the middle of your day and dropped you into a bin from which you can’t escape and said “sleep now”, how well would that work?
No, you need to either spend all your energy and attentional space so you’re totally worn out or get lulled into it. As an adult, you have the benefit of practice and a little education on what to listen for and feel for in order to recognize when it’s time for a nap or a good night’s sleep.
From womb to room
Baby’s been in a warm wet closet full of goo for 9 months. She hasn’t the first idea about “night time” or “nap time”.
For this reason, you need to TEACH HER what to watch and listen AND feel for. Is there a particular quality of light that you can associate with sleepy time? Are there specific sounds you can make or words you can use? Do you only ever go to a specific chair when it’s time to start winding down?
An example routine that a friend of mine used was bathtime, jammies, a story, and a song. Every night. Her babies slept great.
These are the things you can do to make a great routine.
When you think about it, you do this for YOURSELF too. Some of us read a book in bed, some of us take the last few minutes to indulge a favorite vice or walk through the house turning lights off in a specific order.
We all have routines we follow when it’s time to go to bed. Part of this is housekeeping, but another part is sending signals to your network of neural transmitters (your brain) that is responsible for knowing when and where it’s time to go to sleep.
The most important thing with a sleep routine is that you are consistent. Not only you, but EVERYONE who is EVER going to be in a place to get baby down for nap or night.
Get everyone on the same page by providing clear and specific instructions.
That quality of light I mentioned? Get some blackout curtains to shut the sunlight out and plug in a colored night light or a projector that will give baby a clear visual cue that it’s “night time” for her.
Consistent sounds that you can make to cue the baby that’s time for sleep? We call those sounds “bedtime stories” and “goodnight songs” in my household.
Reading to baby–even as a newborn–isn’t just a good idea for routine, it is DEVELOPMENTALLY VITAL.
Yep, even as a newborn.
In short, consistently move to your sleeping space, read 1-3 board books (this is one of my personal favorites) in a gentle voice, then sing 2-3 songs. Baby will associate ALL of that with the shutdown program and start winking like a faulty lightbulb once you’ve hit the far end of the routine.
Related: Baby is Screaming In Pain From Gas
Mom hacks for getting a newborn to sleep
I say “hacks”, but these are just some personal tidbits (from me – a mom!) that helped us with baby sleep.
How to get a newborn to sleep without being held
Getting your baby to sleep without holding them and rocking them can be a HUGE STRUGGLE.
I’ll be honest, momma, I think most of us end up caving on this some (or all?) of the time. Not only does it make for great snuggle time, but it’s just easier and blends well with goodnight feeding and/or dream feeding your baby.
When it boils down to it, though, if you’re rocking or holding or feeding your baby to sleep, what you ACTUALLY want to do is rock or hold or feed them until they’re sleepFUL. Sleepy. If they’re falling asleep before you are ready to put them down, you are waiting too long.
The trick is to pay close attention to breathing.
You will start to notice a definite change in the little one’s breathing rhythms if you pay close attention. If you think she hasn’t got enough milk yet (assuming you’re feeding to sleep), gently rub her body until she snaps back on.
Change her position or talk to her until you’re pretty sure it’s time to hand her over to Mr. Sandman.
Once you’ve got her SLEEPY but AWAKE, lay her down gently and keep your hands on her body for a few seconds to see if she stirs awake or cries.
If not, slowly move your hands away and then quickly (but quietly) exit the room.
I’ve found that this is a little like pulling a bandaid. If you go slow to be quiet, you tend to make more noise. If you make a minimum of noise but make it quickly, it’s less disruptive than making almost no noise but making it again and again over several seconds.
How to get a newborn to sleep in a bassinet
If you find that putting her down always wakes her up or she always cries once your hands are away, sometimes it’s necessary to sit by and either rock the bassinet or reach your hand in where you can touch her (or help hold her binky in, if that’s the way you’ve gone).
Eventually, you’ll be able to withdraw without waking her up.
A great rule to count on is listening to her breath until it sounds like she’s actually out, and then count to 60 five times.
That’s enough time for littles to get into her first sleep cycle, where she’ll be harder to wake.
How to get a newborn to sleep in a crib
A crib presents some difference in challenges since you can’t typically rock it and the walls tend to have gaps through which your little one can see you and get excited for no stupid reason at all.
Position yourself so that the rascal can’t glance you through the bars (yes, it gets awkward sometimes). Then either prop your arm over the sidewall (OUCH!) or slip your wrist through the bars (DOUBLE-OUCH, if you have large wrists).
Doctors say never to leave a bottle inside the crib. Always talk to your healthcare professional if you think it’s necessary.
What time to put a newborn to sleep
Timing is another thing that really takes some practice and tracking.
No two babies go to sleep at exactly the same time. Be sure not to just count the hours and then say “It’s time for sleep, baby!”
We made this mistake and it ended up that OUR schedule was interfering with our BABY’s schedule. She knows what time she feels tired, even if she may not know what to do about it.
You can either be attentive and catch those cues or miss them and have some seriously sleepless… all the times.
Your pediatrician will have the best recommendation, but if baby is getting any less than 14 hours of sleep, chances are you’re missing some quiet time, momma. Not to mention a friggin’ break!
How to break the cycle of an overtired baby
Do you have an overtired baby who won’t stop crying? Newborn sleepy but won’t sleep?
The very hardest thing to deal with is an overtired baby. When one type of cry starts running up against another type of cry, the two seem to feed from each other and turn your adorable little bundle of joy into feral little SACK OF CATS.
Add your own exhaustion and a complete lack of patience to the mix, and it’s a perfect storm.
These are BY FAR the roughest nights.
Your saving grace? I’ll give you a hint. You have two of them and your partner probably likes to stare at them.
Yup, the answer is BOOBIES.
Get good at and coordinate feeding & sleeping
There is nothing that can help an overtired baby get untired quite so well as a good, quiet cluster feed.
Get good at feeding baby right next to the sleeping space. Get REALLY good at transferring baby from boob to bed. You can’t cluster feed for long before your little person will become pudding in your arms.
That said, be sure you know how to keep newborn AWAKE during feeding. If littles takes a power nap every three sucks, it’s going to be a long road without any actual rest to speak of.
For either of you.
Other tricks for getting your newborn to sleep
Beyond that, there are various other tips and tricks regarding newborn sleep that can help you really dial into a peaceful and well-rested state for both momma and baby.
Some of them can be found by asking mothers you know and trust. I’d LOVE LOVE LOVE to know if there’s more that I’ve missed, so PLEASE PLEASE comment below, because YOUR experience is the MOST IMPORTANT EXPERIENCE.
Beyond that, here are a few extra things to ponder:
Teach by example
Babies are designed to emulate. They are little mimics that are literally programmed to copy.
Don’t believe me? Stick your tongue out at your baby every time you get her out of the crib. She will start sticking her tongue out too. Fun little science experiment there.
Get enough sleep for yourself
If you don’t get as much sleep as you need, why would you expect your baby to do it?
I know it’s rough, and a few of you probably just swore at me and determined never to read my stuff again.
For those of you that are still reading, however, really push for this, even if it means getting some backup. If your baby sees you tired and rushed and persisting through the thick of it without enough rest, they might just pick up on that behavior and try to “tough it out” beside you.
Follow your baby’s sleep routines
I can’t really stress this enough. If you don’t make a routine, you’ll never have a routine.
And if you don’t have one, NO ONE knows what the heck is going on and your baby will probably grow up to be an angry person. If they survive that long with how stressed and tired YOU’RE inevitably going to be.
Live mindfully and quietly
A real art and science to good baby sleep is being mindful and conscious all the time of your baby’s state.
If you gently and deliberately settle their sleeping form into a cotton candy dreamland and then step out the bedroom door and start screaming at the dogs with everything you’ve got, you’re probably working against your own ends.
Learn to listen to silence with interest and awe, find ways to meditate while being chewed on, and LOVE EVERY MOMENT, even when you’re tired or stressed or positively furious that the dog just did that one thing in that one place that must now be cleaned up AGAIN.
Embrace the quiet, honey. Make a gentle voice your ONLY setting, and these tricks to get your newborn to sleep will become second nature and carry you onward to toddlerhood in no time flat.
You’re amazing, and I love you! Don’t forget to comment!
Happy baby-rocking, momma!