Sleep training for babies: 10 tips to get baby to sleep

March 22, 2019, 5:45 PM GMT

/ Source: TODAY

By Julie Pennell

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“How can I get my baby to sleep through the night?”

We've all heard the age-old question. If you’ve got a little one who seems to be nocturnal, you’re not alone. A recent study in the American Journal of Pediatricsshowed that 38 percent of typically developing 6-month-olds and 28 percent of 1-year-olds were not yet sleeping at least six consecutive hours at night.

Tips to encourage good sleep habits

  1. Know that your baby is an individual. “Every baby is different,” explained Dr. Gretchen Petterway, a pediatrician at CHRISTUS Health System in Shreveport, Louisiana. One of the first things she tells distraught parents is that sleep tricks which might work for others might not work for your little one, and that’s okay.
  2. Have a routine. This is the most important message for parents who need help getting their kids to sleep better, Dr. Petterway said. “It’s important to establish a routine and do the same thing at the same time every day before bed,” she said. “Set the mood for sleep an hour before.”

What’s a good bedtime routine for babies?

1. Lower the lights

Lighting is important in establishing the sleep/wake cycle, Dr. Petterway explained. “You want your baby to understand that it’s dark now and time to go to sleep.” Dim the lights an hour before bed, and get blackout curtains to make it as dark as possible in the room while they sleep. These can also help for naps too, since they can block out the bright mid-day sun.

Gossip about your kids. Fact: What we overhear is far more potent than what we are told directly. Make praise more effective by letting your child "catch" you whispering a compliment about him to Grandma, Dad, or even his teddy.

  • Our recommendation: Nicetown Blackout Curtains Set, $19, Amazon

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This set of blackout curtains is a No. 1 best-seller on Amazon thanks to their inexpensive price and quality features. Besides blocking out the light and UV rays with their triple weave technology, the curtains are also said to help reduce outside noise and insulate temperatures. If you need a set of blackout curtains, these are probably a good bet.

2. Sit in a rocking chair with baby before bed.

Rocking your child is a great soothing technique, Dr. Petterway said. This is also a wonderful time to read books together. Besides the fact that it’s great for language development, your voice is calming to your baby. During this sweet cuddle session, it’s also important to remember your goal is to get them sleepy — not asleep. “Put them down groggy so they learn to fall asleep alone,” she said.

  • Our recommendation: Brayden Studio Welliver Rocking Chair, $183 (normally $214), Wayfair

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Rock your little one to sleep in this contemporary-styled chair that’s highly reviewed on Wayfair. It’s made of birch wood in a natural finish with fabric upholstery. Plus, it’s not too big, so it should fit in a small nursery nicely.

Don’t be too critical towards your child’s exploration of the Internet. Children may come across adult material by accident on the web. Also, a child may intentionally search for such websites; remember that it is natural for children to be curious about off-limits material. Try to use this as an opening to discuss the content with them, and perhaps make rules for this kind of activity. Be realistic in your assessment of how your child uses the internet.

  • Our book recommendation: “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown, $9, Amazon

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This classic bedtime book is a must-have staple in every baby’s library. It's so popular it's in the top 100 children’s books on Amazon 72 years after it was first published. Even Michelle Obama loves it . The soft rhythm of the words along with the lulling illustrations make it a relaxing read to put baby to sleep.

3. Consider using a calming scented lotion.

Lavender is a popular scent for baby lotions because it’s so relaxing. “It even helps to calm me down,” Dr. Petterway said. Giving your baby a little massage with a calming scent could be a nice addition to the bedtime routine. As with all products you use on your baby, be sure to watch out for allergic reactions.

  • Our pick: Aveeno Baby Calming Comfort Moisturizing Lotion with Lavender, Vanilla and Natural Oatmeal, $9, Amazon

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If you’re looking for a parent-approved lavender-scented lotion for babies, this is a popular one on Amazon. According to the company, it’s pediatrician-recommended, hypoallergenic, paraben-free, phthalate-free and made specifically for a baby’s sensitive skin.

What’s the best sleep environment for a baby?

  1. Make sure the room is ideal for sleeping.As we mentioned above, blackout curtains will make the room darker and more conducive for sleep. Dr. Petterway also said the temperature of the room should be comfortable. Anywhere between 68 to 72 degrees is usually a good range.
  2. Drown out noises. “White noise machines are really helpful to blunt outside noises,” Dr. Petterway said. Not only do they help prevent babies from waking up with things like sirens, television noises and voices outside of the room, they also provide a soothing sound, which can calm a baby.

Don't pay your kids to clean their rooms. "If you give them a buck to make their beds, then when you ask them to help you carry in the groceries, they'll say, 'How much? Why would I do that for free when you pay me to make my bed?'" says author and parenting expert Alyson Schafer. You can give your child an allowance as an introduction to money management and possibly for overall good behavior. But don't tie it dollar-for-dollar to everyday chores.

  • Our recommendation: HoMedics White Noise Sound Machine, $21, Amazon

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We love this simple white noise machine from HoMedics. It comes with six different soothing sounds including classic white noise, rain, summer night and ocean. It’s also portable so if you end up traveling with your little one, it can fit easily in your bag.

What should a baby sleep with?

1. Use a swaddling blanket for newborns.

If your baby isn’t rolling over yet, you can try a swaddling blanket. Newborns, who are used to being curled up in the womb, like the soothing closeness a swaddling creates, Dr. Petterway explained. She did, however warn that sometimes babies can break out of the swaddle, which could risk a baby's safety. So, be cautious.

  • Our pick: SwaddleMe Original Swaddle, $29 (normally $35), Amazon

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If you don’t know how to wrap a traditional swaddle or are scared of your baby breaking out of it in the middle of the night, this type is great because it can be securely fastened with a hook and loop attachment. Parents have raved in the reviews about how simple and effective these have been for their babies.

Repeat: I am not a short-order cook. "It's a child's job to learn to eat what the parents eat," says Ellyn Satter, a registered dietitian and the author of Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family. Instead of the all-or-nothing scenario, offer a variety of foods at mealtime: the main course, plus rice or pasta, a fruit or vegetable, and milk. This way, your child can eat just the pasta and the peas and get protein from the milk. "What a child eats over the course of a day or a week is more important than a balanced meal at one sitting," says Stephen Daniels, the chairman of the department of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, in Aurora.

2. You can give your baby a pacifier at bedtime.

The American Academy of Pediatrics endorses a pacifier in bed because they’ve been proven to reduce Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). And Dr. Petterway says that your child can be soothed by sucking on one.

  • Our pick: Philips Avent Soothie Pacifier, $4, Amazon

Philips Avent Soothie Pacifier, Pink/Purple, 0-3 Months, 2 Count

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With more than 3,000 reviews and a 4.5-star rating, this pacifier is the number one best-seller in its category on Amazon. Made of silicone, it is BPA-free and latex-free, plus it’s dishwasher safe, and comes in different sizes. This specific one is geared for those ages zero to three months, but you can also buy ones for older babies.

3. A lovey is safe for 1-year-olds.

After your kid is 12 months old, they can sleep with a lovey, a soft cloth toy, since the risk of suffocation drops significantly, said Dr. Petterway. It can provide reassurance and security to a baby, she added.

  • Our pick: Angel Dear Blankie, Blue Lamb, $13, Amazon

Angel Dear Blankie, Blue Lamb

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This small, soft blankie (which is a little bigger than a standard washcloth) is the perfect lovey for your baby to cuddle up with at night. Parents love it because their kids love it. One of the tips moms and dads have left in the reviews is to buy a couple of the same kind so you have a backup in case it gets lost or you have to wash it — after all, it can become a security blanket for some.