While everyone knows someone whose baby slept 12 hours straight every night starting at 6 weeks, most of us are not that lucky. So we need to develop effective strategies for getting our little ones to sleep at least four hours at a stretch — and to do it at night. Yet we want to make sure those strategies are safe or even beneficial to our babies.
Prepare the Bedroom
Whether your baby sleeps in a nursery or in your room, make sure you keep the room dark and cool. This helps all people sleep better, with the added bonus of having absolutely no side effects.
Use a white noise machine, ceiling fan or soft music as a go-to-sleep signal and to remind baby of the consistent noise of the womb. If baby wakes during the night make sure to start the music or noise over again.
Place a drop of lavender oil on the crib mattress, then cover with a crib pad and sheet. Lavender is known for its calming qualities. If you are reluctant to stain the mattress, use a detergent with lavender, such as Seventh Generation.
Prepare the Baby
Develop a bedtime routine as soon as possible. Even if your newborn is only sleeping an hour at a time, do that routine before the time you’d ideally like her to start sleeping at night. Be consistent and soothing and eventually it will pay off. A warm bath with lavender body wash and a massage with baby lotion will do a lot to relax both of you. Then try swaddling a younger baby in a soft blanket.
Nurse or bottle feed the baby in a quiet room. Turn the lights down and read a short story as you switch sides or take a break. Finish nursing or feeding and gently lay baby in his bed. Turn on the music or the white noise machine.
Prepare for the Night
If you and the baby are sharing a room, restrain yourself from responding every time the baby makes a noise. Full blown crying is a different matter, of course. But avoid scooping the baby up every time she makes a noise. Give her a minute to self-soothe first.
Don’t change the baby’s diaper unless it’s necessary. And if you do need to change his diaper, keep the lights as low as possible while you do so. Don’t do your normal tickling and singing routine. Babies need to understand that it’s not time to wake up and play.