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How to Help Baby Sleep Better—So You Do, Too!

It’s never too early (or too late) to establish good sleep habits.
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profile picture of Diana Kelly Levey
Contributing Writer
Published
September 29, 2022
mom sitting on bed looking at baby sleeping in bassinet

Every new parent knows that if baby doesn’t sleep, nobody sleeps. Some newborns figure out how to settle down for the night early on, while others…well, don’t. In my first few weeks as a parent, I read, with bloodshot eyes, tons of books, articles and blogs about baby sleep, and while it took some time for my firstborn to get the hang of it, I found a few tips and tricks that seem to make a difference in helping your little one (and therefore you) catch some ZZZ’s. Here’s how to develop better sleep habits and hopefully get a better night’s rest for both baby and parents.

1. Have a bedtime routine.

Yes, you’ve no doubt heard this one before, but it’s worth repeating since a predictable routine can help cue baby that it’s time for some shut-eye. Some steps might be:

  • A warm bath (up to 3 times a week)
  • A relaxing massage with lotion
  • A diaper change and pajamas
  • Nursing or a bottle
  • A song or book and a cuddle with dimmed lights
  • Placing baby down on their back
  • Turning on white noise
  • Lights out

But the important thing is to find the evening routine that consistently works best for your family. Try to stick to it as often as possible, but don’t stress if you need to pivot now and then.

Parent Sleep Tip: You may be past the age for lullabies, but it doesn’t hurt to have a relaxing bedtime routine for yourself (especially when your mind won’t stop running in circles). Try incorporating a warm drink or a short guided meditation before you hit the sack.

2. Wrap ’em up.

Newborn babies are swaddled for several reasons: they like tight spaces that remind them of the womb (hey, it feels like home!); it keeps them warm and cozy; and it reduces their Moro (startle) reflex, which causes them to flail and wake up. Swaddle your baby in a large, lightweight blanket or put them in a sleep sack with Velcro, so you can keep them snug and secure. Keep in mind, some babies want their hands out to suck on or prefer one arm out, so experiment with your little one.

Parent Sleep Tip: Swaddling is a handy calming technique when baby is brand-new, but if you find yourself waking in the night to check if baby has rolled over, it’s time to leave the habit behind. Once baby starts rolling during the day (or gets close enough to make you nervous), switch to a sleep sack or a wearable blanket.

3. Invest in a video monitor.

As a first-time mom, I made plenty of mistakes. One thing I regret not doing sooner was getting a video monitor so I could keep an eye on my son while he slept during a nap or in my room before I went to bed. I thought I’d be able to hear him when he cried and that would be enough. But now I realize it would have given me so much peace of mind if I could have waited a minute to see if he could put himself back to sleep before I rushed in. The CuboAi Sleep Safety Bundle comes with a smart monitor that includes covered face detection and a rollover alert, plus a separate sleep sensor pad for under the mattress that picks up breathing motions (and sends you a warning if it doesn’t detect any). Having all of these safety features at your fingertips can calm your nerves while baby sleeps—eliminating the urge to constantly check on them throughout the night. It can also send sleep analytics to your phone, so you can see how any changes you make affect baby’s snooze time.

Parent Sleep Tip: Once baby moves to the nursery, a smart monitor can put your mind at ease knowing the technology can alert you should anything go wrong.

Our Pick: CuboAi Sleep Safety Bundle, $449; us.getcubo.com

4. Use a white noise machine.

I already had a white noise machine to help with my sleep, so it was easy to introduce it to my newborn, since it can help calm them—and even mimic the sounds in the womb. Studies have found that white noise can help some babies fall asleep faster and even shorten the duration of crying. Look for a sound machine that has different options and lets you change the volume. If it’s Bluetooth compatible, even better—you can increase the sound a few decibels (below 50 dB is recommended for baby) remotely on your phone when other members of your family are getting noisy. Some baby monitors, including the CuboAi, even come with a white noise feature built into the app, so there’s no need to buy a separate device.

Parent Sleep Tip: White noise has been shown to help adults fall asleep too: 38 percent faster, in one study. So once baby is no longer your roommate, you might want to keep a sound machine for yourself.

5. Don’t change a wet diaper if you don’t need to.

First-time mom version of me? I’d see that telltale blue wetness line on his diaper and think, “That must be the reason he isn’t sleeping well. I have to change it!” Second-time mom? “Baby’s staying in the bassinet as long as he doesn’t leak through his clothes.” Thankfully, my second would often fall back asleep fast because I didn’t overstimulate him with a diaper change. If you have to change a newborn during their overnight sleep, try to do it before feeding or when they’re halfway done so they can doze off easily afterward.

Parent Sleep Tip: Choose pajamas for baby that are easy to take off, in case they do experience a middle-of-the-night blowout (read: zippers, not snaps). That way you can get back to dreamland quickly instead of fumbling with buttons in the dark.

6. Keep it dim during late-night feedings.

Using a soft night-light for feedings will help both of you fall back to sleep faster. Lights that are too bright can stimulate the brain and cause baby (or you) to feel more awake. Lower-wattage bulbs or a specialty red- or orange-toned night-light can help keep the room darker. Some video camera monitors—like the CuboAi—or sound machines or bassinets even have night-lights that are perfect for late-night wake-ups. Baby gear that serves multiple purposes and doesn’t clutter my nightstand? Sign me up!

Parent Sleep Tip: Blackout blinds or curtains can help you get extra ZZZ’s. When it’s been a long night with baby, the last thing you want is sunshine jolting you awake before baby is even stirring.

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