How to Get a Baby to Sleep

Babies usually get around 16 or 17 hours of sleep a day. [1] Much of this sleep happens in short stretches. This can be difficult for parents who are desperate to get their babies to sleep. Getting a little one to sleep depends on making the baby comfortable, having a welcoming sleep environment, and establishing good sleep habits.


EditMaking the Baby Comfortable

  1. Change the baby’s diaper. A baby may have a hard time getting to sleep if he/she has a wet or soiled diaper. Once he’s/she’s got a dry diaper on, he’ll/she’ll feel cozier and will be able to sleep better.
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  2. Feed the baby. Give the baby one more feeding to tank up his/her tummy before he/she goes to sleep. Don’t feed him/her too much though. If he’s/she’s eaten too much, he/she might be uncomfortable and have a harder time getting to sleep.
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  3. Give the baby a massage. Relax your baby by rubbing his/her body. Sit with the baby on the floor. Place him/her on his/her tummy and gently rub his/her feet, legs, back, arms and head. Then place him/her on his/her back and rub her chest, tummy and the fronts of his/her legs and arms. [2]
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    • Sing or talk softly with your baby while you give him/her a massage.
    • Use a fragrance-free baby oil if you want.
    • Wait about 45 minutes after feeding your baby before giving a massage. You might upset his/her stomach with any pressure on her body.[3]
  4. Soothe any teething pain. Oftentimes babies have trouble sleeping when they have new teeth coming in. If you suspect that your baby is getting a new tooth, give him/her a teething ring to gnaw on before bed.[4]
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    • If the teething pain is bad, give him/her a dose of Infant Tylenol. Be sure to follow the dosing instructions on the bottle.
  5. Dress the baby in comfortable clothing. If the baby’s pajamas are itchy or otherwise uncomfortable, he/she might not be able to relax enough to sleep well. Make sure your baby is wearing something cozy and comfortable. An outfit made of 100% cotton is a good choice.[5]
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  6. Check for rashes. Babies are often troubled by a diaper rash or a heat rash. Check his/her diaper area to make sure he/she does not have any uncomfortable red areas. Check under his/her clothes for a heat rash. If he’s/she’s dressed too warmly, he/she can get red, blotchy skin, which can be uncomfortable.
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  7. Make sure the baby’s not sick. When the baby has a cold or stomach flu, he/she may not sleep well. Soothe him/her with Infant Tylenol or a cool washcloth if he’s/she’s feverish or achy. Spend extra time cuddling and rocking the baby.
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EditChanging the Environment

  1. Turn the lights off. Keeping the lights on in the baby’s room may keep him/her awake. When it’s dark, the brain begins releasing melatonin, which triggers sleep. Keep the lights off at night, which will help the baby recognize when it’s time to sleep. [6]
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    • Dim the lights around the house when bedtime approaches. This will help the baby get ready to sleep by recognizing that the light is starting to fade.
    • If you need a nightlight in the room, use one that gives off bluish light, instead of yellow or white light. The bluish light will be less stimulating for the brain.
  2. Check the room temperature. The baby’s room should be around 70 degrees. This will be the most comfortable for the baby. Cover the baby with a light blanket and he/she should be warm enough.
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  3. Move the baby to a different room. If the baby shares a room with an older sibling, it might be too stimulating to sleep. If the baby sleeps in the parent’s room, and someone goes in and out of the room a lot, this can disrupt the baby’s sleep. Move the baby to a different, quieter room.
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  4. Turn on soothing music. Calming lullaby music can soothe the baby and lull him/her to sleep. Nature sounds, such as rain or ocean sounds, are also calming. Play the music at a low volume.
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    • Singing lullabies to the baby will also work.[7]
    • White noise can also help calm the baby. White noise machines can be purchased at major retailers. You can also use a fan or air filter for white noise. Just be sure to point the fan away from the baby.
  5. Try making the room quiet. While some babies respond to music, others need silence to sleep. Turn off music and eliminate other noises. Close the door to the baby’s room. This will help control sound traveling into the baby’s room.
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EditUsing Movement to Put Baby to Sleep

  1. Rock the baby to sleep. Motion will lull most babies to sleep. They will also respond to your snuggling and will feel safe and loved. Hold the baby in your arms and sway back and forth. Try different patterns of rocking: up and down, side to side, and so on.[8]
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    • Try sitting in a rocking chair while rocking the baby.
    • Some sources caution against rocking your baby to sleep after 4-6 months. The baby may grow dependent on you to put them to sleep. This decision is up to you.[9]
  2. Wear the baby. Put the baby in a sling or baby carrier. When the baby is close to your body’s warmth, listening to your heart beat, he/she will relax and start to drift off. This is especially helpful if you are trying to get the baby to take a nap during the day. Using a carrier or sling allows you to move around the house or go for a walk while the baby sleeps. [10]
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  3. Try a baby swing. A baby swing is a handy piece of equipment with a motor to rock the baby automatically. Place the baby in the swing and tuck him/her in with a cozy blanket. Switch on the swing and watch his/her eyelids start to droop.
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    • Some babies do not fall asleep in a swing. Instead, they are more stimulated by the movement and will keep their eyes open to watch the world move around them.
  4. Take a stroll. For some babies, getting out in the fresh air can make them tired. Put your baby in a stroller and go for a walk. The combination of the stroller’s movement and the fresh air might make him/her fall asleep.
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  5. Go for a car ride. Some babies fall asleep easily when riding in a car. The movement of the car is just enough to make them drowsy, while the “white noise” of the engine also soothes them. Bundle your baby in comfortable clothes and tuck him/her into his/her car seat with a cozy blanket.
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EditMaking a Bedtime Routine

  1. Have a consistent bedtime. Putting the baby to bed at the same time every night will help his/her body expect to sleep at a certain time. Aim for putting the baby to bed between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. every night.
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  2. Play quiet games before bed. Help your baby wind down in the evening by playing quiet games. Keep activity and noise for the daytime. Play your baby’s favorite game right before bedtime so he/she knows he’ll/she’ll do something fun right before bedtime. [11]
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  3. Give the baby a bath. A warm bath can be a relaxing way to wind down. Let the baby splash around in the tub for a little while and then dress him/her in cozy clothes for sleeping.
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  4. Read a book to your baby. Cuddle up with your baby and read a book to him/her in a calm, quiet voice. Even if he/she is too little to understand it, he/she will respond well to your closeness and relax with the sound of your voice.
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  5. Try to have the same bedtime routine every night. Consistency is key with babies. Aim to have the same bedtime routine every night. For instance, try giving the baby a bath, then playing a few games, then reading a book and then turning off the light. [12]
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EditEstablishing Good Sleep Habits

  1. Feed the baby lots during the day. Keep the baby’s tummy full during the day. Babies often get distracted by play that they forget they’re hungry. When nighttime comes, they realize they are hungry and need to eat more frequently throughout the night. Give the baby full feedings throughout the day so her tummy will remain full at night. [13]
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  2. Keep a regular nap schedule. Babies should start having a regular nap schedule starting around 2-4 months of age. Babies take at least 2-3 naps per day, depending on age. A baby will not sleep better if he/she skips a nap during the day. Instead, he/she will sleep worse because the brain will release cortisol, a hormone that responds to stress. This will make him/her sleep more fitfully. [14] Make a consistent nap routine to ensure that sleep comes more easily at night.
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  3. Keep noisy activities for the daytime. Promote good sleep habits by doing noisy activities during the day and quiet activities at night. Your baby will be stimulated during the day, but will learn to calm down at night. He/she won’t expect to play and be entertained at night.
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  4. Put the baby to bed when he/she is drowsy. Try laying down the baby when he’s/she’s drowsy but not fully asleep. He/she will start learning how to fall asleep on his/her own instead of relying on you to help him/her. [15]
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  • Always place your baby on his/her back to sleep. It is considered safer than having the baby sleep on her side or front, which may make breathing more difficult (unless the doctor recommends you to do so, according to the baby’s health). Back sleeping is thought to help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).[16]

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EditSources and Citations

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