New Study Shares Tips for Helping Baby Sleep Through the Night

The 10-year study points towards responsive parenting practices in helping significantly increase the length of baby’s nighttime sleep.
save article
profile picture of Wyndi Kappes
By Wyndi Kappes, Assistant Editor
Updated July 26, 2022
newborn baby yawning
Image: 2p2play/Shutterstock

A ten-year study conducted by Penn State Center for Childhood Obesity Research (CCOR) has found that parents trained in responsive parenting practices may be able to help baby sleep longer through the night.

The INSIGHT study—an acronym for “intervention nurses start infants growing on healthy trajectories”—began in 2012 with 279 mothers and their first-born babies and looked at the effect of responsive parenting practices on infant sleep. The mothers were specially trained on INSIGHT bedtime routines and how to respond to nighttime waking and fussiness.

Results showed that children in the INSIGHT intervention group not only slept longer each night and were better at soothing themselves than the control group, but they also had a lower BMI throughout the first three years of their life and had a higher capacity for emotional regulation and cognitive development. Reinforcing what we already know, sleep is good! So how can you help your baby sleep better? Researchers share their findings below.

Responsive Parenting Tips for Helping Baby Sleep Longer

  • Establish a strict bedtime. “People sometimes think that if they keep their babies awake with them later at night, then the baby will sleep later. But the research shows that early establishment of a bedtime between seven and eight o’clock will help babies sleep longer," said Emily Hohman, assistant research professor at CCOR, in a release about the study.
  • Create a calming bedtime routine. Research shows consistent bedtime routines promote longer sleep cycles. Craft a routine with soothing activities for your child, like reading or taking a bath. Hohman recommends that babies who aren’t rolling over yet should be swaddled to increase their sense of calm.
  • Put your child to bed when they are drowsy but still awake. This will help them learn to easily self-soothe when they are close to the brink of sleep.
  • Use “lighter touch” soothing methods when baby awakes. While your first instinct when baby wakes from sleep may be to feed them, Hohman encourages parents to use “lighter touch” soothing strategies like offering a pacifier or providing words of reassurance and gentle touches. More engaged soothing like rocking and feeding can always be used as a secondary soothing measure if baby remains distressed or shows signs of hunger. “During the daytime, parents should feel free to use more active soothing strategies like holding or rocking, but these should be used more judiciously at nighttime in order to promote better sleep,” says Hohman.

The benefits of better sleep for baby extend beyond your child’s health to your whole family’s health too. According to the study release, research shows that sleep-deprived parents are more likely to develop depression and be involved in traffic accidents, while well-rested parents are more likely to remember important tasks and be more vigilant when it comes to child safety.

Of course, every baby’s sleep journey is different—and what works for one family may not work for another. If you’re struggling with getting your baby to sleep through the night you aren’t alone. For more tips on getting baby to sleep, check out these suggestions from sleep experts and pediatricians. Plus, flag any specific questions or concerns to your pediatrician. They’re the best resource to ensure both baby and you get a good night’s rest.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

save article
Article removed.
Name added. View Your List

Next on Your Reading List

mom holding sleeping baby
What You Need to Know About Setting a Baby Schedule
Medically Reviewed by Lauren Crosby, MD
1 year old baby sleeping on stomach
When Can Babies Sleep on Their Stomach Safely?
Medically Reviewed by Lauren Crosby, MD
mother holding sleeping baby in arms
What to Do if Baby Only Sleeps When Held
Medically Reviewed by Lauren Crosby, MD
dad holding yawning baby
How to Recognize the Signs of an Overtired Baby
By Meredith Hoffa
mother kissing toddler goodnight
What to Know About Night Terrors in Toddlers
By Nehal Aggarwal
tired baby
How to Put Baby Down ‘Drowsy but Awake'
By Katherine Martinelli
close up of baby smiling showing teeth
Everything You Need to Know About Baby Grinding Their Teeth
By Nehal Aggarwal
mother comforting baby at night in nursery room
When Do Babies Start Sleeping Through the Night?
By Julie D. Andrews
snoo gets FDA approval
The Cult-Favorite SNOO Smart Sleeper Receives FDA Approval
By Wyndi Kappes
close up of mother holding baby at the end of the day
How to Help Baby Adjust to Daylight Savings Time
By Elena Donovan Mauer
father and baby asleep in bed during the day
Parents Lose This Many Nights of Sleep During Baby’s First Year
By Wyndi Kappes
father comforting baby at home
Here's the Best Way to Soothe a Crying Baby, According to Scientists
By Wyndi Kappes
one year old baby crying in crib
The Cry It Out Method: Is Extinction Sleep Training Right for You?
By Marygrace Taylor
baby sleeping in car seat in car
AAP: Letting Baby Sleep in the Car Seat When Not Traveling Can Be Fatal
By Stephanie Grassullo
father holding baby at home on couch
New Series Highlights How Every Baby’s Sleep Journey Is Different
By Wyndi Kappes
baby sleeping in mother's arms
Should You Hire a Baby Sleep Consultant? Here’s What to Know
By Christin Perry
These Are the Top Sleep Challenges for Parents With Young Kids
These Are the Top Sleep Challenges for Parents With Young Kids
By Nehal Aggarwal
smiling mother getting her baby ready for bed
How (and When) to Establish a Baby Bedtime Routine
By Nehal Aggarwal
mom holding sleepy baby as it yawns
6 Pro Tips for How to Get Baby to Nap Longer
By Rachel Mitchell
father holding sleeping baby in nursery at home
The 10 Most Popular Lullabies to Help Baby Sleep
By Nehal Aggarwal
Article removed.