Getting Your Baby to Sleep - What Worked for Us

by TerriRexson

Are you having trouble getting your baby to sleep? Awful isn't it. Here's what worked for us.

My older son was a reasonable sleeper. He was fairly easy to get off to sleep and from a few months old he just woke once in the night at a predictable time.

My younger son on the other hand ... We had great difficultly getting him to sleep and he woke regularly throughout the night. We couldn't seem to establish any kind of routine. If he had been our first child we would have been sure we were doing something very wrong!

We even bought books and DVDs offering to solve our son's sleep issues. Did they work? No. My theory is that if you match the right kind of baby with the right kind of book then maybe they work. We didn't find a match.

But we did find a solution eventually. And it didn't involve cry it out or ritual sacrifice. Actually the solutions were as much about the parents as the baby and technology was involved. Very fitting in a gadget-loving household.

Step 1: Co-sleeping

Co-sleeping, was part of our approach, but the other techniques I'll talk about can be used whether you co-sleep or not. Cuddling to sleep is the important part. 

We tried getting my son to sleep in a separate crib as all the manuals suggested. He was not impressed. He clearly wanted to be next to his Mum. 

We tried cry it out. And well he cried and cried. It was horrible. Yes, I know, you're supposed to stick it out. But if that's the solution it was worse than the problem. Definitely not the option for us. 

Our boy wanted cuddling to sleep and co-sleeping was the best approach for us. We tried cuddling him to sleep and then putting him in his crib. He woke up. 

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Step 2: Relax

Once we'd decided that the best approach was to stay with our son until he got to sleep each evening, the next step was to enjoy that time and not feel resentful. 

I realized that I didn't have to just lie there thinking about all the things I should be getting done. Or falling asleep at 8pm and messing up my own sleep pattern!

This was a few years ago so I didn't have a tablet PC, but I did have a phone and a laptop. I would just take a device with a backlight with me and either read or play a game. Then the time became enjoyable time to snuggle up with my baby and enjoy the time. 

This worked pretty well, but my son still often took a long time to actually fall asleep. But at least he was calm. 

Step 3: Wake Up at the Same Time Each Day

The next step was either a stroke of genius or an act of desperation. We remembered that before we had kids we used to use an alarm clock with a wake-up light to wake us up gently. 

We tried setting it in the morning so that the room would gradually get light and my son would wake up. This seems counter-intuitive. You want to get a baby to go to sleep, so you wake them up. 

But it seemed to help set his body clock. Once we started waking my son at 6am each morning, he started going to sleep more easily. 

He was about 1 year old by the time we worked this out, but I think it would have helped much earlier. 

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And Now He's a Good Sleeper

My son is now 3.5 and a brilliant sleeper. He goes to sleep at 7pm and wakes when the wake-up light comes on at 6am. I still read while my boys go to sleep and they both go to sleep very quickly and sleep well. 

I guess we just found the right method for our son. I have no idea if this approach will work for your baby. 

If you're in that horrible place of sleep deprivation, I hope it gets better soon. 

Updated: 03/30/2012, TerriRexson
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Do you have any tips for getting a baby to sleep?

TerriRexson on 04/12/2012

Thanks for the thoughtful comment 2uesday. Oh yes, I remember my Nan phoning me up and saying "you're not cuddling that baby too much are you?" Well-meaning, but I'll never regret time spent cuddling my babies. And yes, good point about relaxing toys, I remember a mobile with gentle lights working its magic for a friend's baby. They are all different.

2uesday on 04/12/2012

This is a reassuring article for anyone with a baby or child with what some would call a sleep problem. Both of my children went through stages of this; for different reasons. It is not helpful when other parents act smug because they have a child that sleeps perfectly to fit in with the parent's routine.
I think the approach you advise is a good one and useful as mothers can get desperate over this problem at times. It is not easy when you are feeling tired and sleep deprived to realize that this stage will not last for ever. People use to say it was not a good idea to spend so much time cuddling my little ones. Now, looking back I do not regret the time spent on this.
One thought about helping to get baby to sleep better; the baby toys that make sounds that relax the child might be useful.

TerriRexson on 03/30/2012

@Pinkchic18 Your friend has my sympathy! It's awful when you're going through it.

Pinkchic18 on 03/30/2012

Lovely article. I'm glad I came across it. A friend of mine is having the same issues!

sheilamarie on 03/06/2012

This is a common problem for sure. You're right that different solutions work for different children and for different parents, too.
When my babies were small we called "co-sleeping" "the family bed." Worked for us. I couldn't bear to let them cry either. For some families, having babies learn to sleep in their own beds is really important, and some of the "solutions" work for them. I guess, in the end, we all need to find what works for us.

dustytoes on 03/06/2012

Wish I had read this 14 years ago! All good advice for helping the baby (and parents!) get some sleep.

TerriRexson on 03/06/2012

Ah yes, swaddling worked well for our first son. It just seemed to make the second one very angry! We never managed to get him to sleep that way. I think they are all different.

kajohu on 03/06/2012

My grandson, 5 months old, is swaddled so he sleeps longer, otherwise he jerks himself awake after 45 minutes or so. I'm not sure how much longer that will work for him, because he hates the process of being swaddled :-) My son and daughter-in-law also co-sleep with him at night. That way they can all get a reasonable amount of sleep at night!

Marie on 03/06/2012

My daughter suffered from colic and endless crying bouts for the first 5 months. We were so tired all the time that we ended up moving her cot right up against my side of the bed and lowering the side of the cot down so she was sleeping right next to me but still in her cot. It worked very well - she found it much easier to get to sleep because I was right there and I found night-time interruptions much easier.

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