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For me, how to get newborn to sleep has always been a mystery. I had difficulty in this area from the very beginning. He would immediately start screaming as soon as I would put him down. I remember my first 3 months – I was stuck on the couch because my baby was sleeping on me, so I couldn’t move. Good thing Netflix was around!
Luckily, things got better over time and now (18 months later) I am proudly being able to say that he’s sleeping around 10-12 hours at night and around 1-3 hours during the day.
His sleeping patterns changed a lot over time and he started having a sleeping routine at around 13 months. That’s when he started sleeping through the night and soon after this, I started letting him fall asleep on his own.
I’d like to also mention that I started doing this, while I was weaning him from breastfeeding.
If you’re interested in our gently weaning approach, I do have an article about this, in-depth and step-by-step that will walk you through everything I’ve done. Check it out here!
Basically, throughout this entire article, you’ll find out how to help your baby to sleep better and learn about our experience with sleeping in general. You’ll also find things that I’ve noticed at my baby, how we overcame sleep regression as well as other things we’ve implemented to make our whole sleeping experience much better.
Please remember that everything takes time, so don’t feel discouraged if you can’t see changes in your baby’s sleeping pattern. It won’t happen overnight. Every child is different and for some it may take 2 days to adapt to change, whereas for others might take months.
Consistency is key here!
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How do I get my baby to sleep without being held?
This is one of the biggest questions first-time moms have. You don’t know what to expect. All you know is what you’ve read or what other people have told you.
Things are VERY different for EVERY single baby!
So you can’t really rely on what other people tell you. All you can do is take notes and learn from their experiences. That was the case for us as well.
0-3 months old
There are A LOT of articles with tips on how to help your newborn sleep on his own. There are also a lot of mommies asking for these tips.
But the truth is you can’t really make a newborn fall asleep without being held, especially at this age. Yes, you can try out the suggestions, but you are going to struggle and cry together.
Newborns, are still attached to you, even though they are not in your womb anymore, that’s why they want to be held. They want to feel mommy close, that’s how they feel safe. For the past 9 months, this is what they had, so you can’t change that overnight.
They need to adapt to the outside world and they need you to help and guide them through this change. They would feel alone and abandoned, even though that’s not what you are doing.
When my baby was a newborn he didn’t sleep very well, but most importantly he didn’t sleep on his own. I always had to carry him and walk with him so that he would sleep.
And whenever I wanted to put him down, he would immediately wake up, screaming. It was like I was putting him on needles. Crazy stuff!
It’s understandable though, they are adjusting to the outside world, suddenly they feel alone and everything is new for them.
Because I knew how important is for a newborn to sleep, I decided to let him sleep on me. So he would always fell asleep while nursing and I’d hold him until he would wake up.
Maybe for some moms, this is unacceptable, but for me, it was totally normal. I loved holding him and watching him sleep, especially because he was a newborn.
That’s how I spent the first 3 months of his life. Yep, that’s right – 3 months! haha
Not sure what happened, but after 3 months something’s changed. All of a sudden I was being able to put him down and he wouldn’t wake up anymore.
That’s when I got some of my life back!
So, what I’ve learned from this experience was that whenever babies are ready for something they will do it. As a mommy, all you need to do is accept and try again after a while. Babies constantly change and they’ll show you when they are ready for a particular thing. You just have to pay attention to it.
3-12 months old
I knew that I wanted to be able to teach my baby how to fall asleep on his own and I also knew that I didn’t want to let him cry it out. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with this approach, but I just couldn’t let my baby cry for minutes and minutes hoping that he’ll understand and learn to fall asleep.
Usually, most parents are ready for sleep teaching at about 5-6 months of age. I feel like babies are more “prepared” at this age, but I personally tried sleep teaching my baby at around 10 months. This wasn’t the best age, because he already started pulling himself up. So I would definitely start before that.
There’s a book about gentle sleep teaching – the no-cry method – that I truly loved, but it didn’t work for us. I know so many moms tried it and succeeded, but not for us. I tried implementing the methods explained there, I thought they worked, but after a while, I realised that my baby wasn’t sleep trained at all. So I dropped and postponed everything. I think that he just wasn’t prepared. I continued holding him or nursing him to sleep until he was 12 months.
After his 1st birthday, something shifted. I didn’t want to walk with him anymore in order to fall asleep. He also started to get heavier.
Around this time was his first ever cold. First night with the cold he couldn’t sleep, so I put him on my chest (like when he was a newborn) so that both of us could have some sleep. Of course, that this created a new habit, one that I didn’t mind at all. I was so happy to hold him on my chest and just enjoying him until he falls asleep.
I didn’t mention, that around 12 months, I also decided to start night weaning him, that’s why this “new” sleeping technique was working for both of us. I would let him be half asleep and then put him into his cot.
We continued with this technique (1-2 months) until he decided that he wants to sleep on his own. I was very surprised when I realised what’s going on.
How can you get a newborn to sleep longer at night?
Another great question that most first-time mommies ask. The thing is that newborns, especially from birth to 3 months, sleep A LOT. Meaning that they could sleep up to 17 hours per day.
In the beginning, your newborn will sleep very irregularly and you can quickly notice that he’ll be wide awake during the night and sleeping during the day. This is completely fine!
You should also give your baby some time (approx. 2-4 weeks) before teaching him to distinguish day from night. Let them adjust to the outside world and then soon you are going to notice a shift into your baby’s sleeping patterns.
After you start noticing these changes, there are a few things you could do to help him to adjust and to get longer sleep sessions during the night.
When he’s wide awake during the day you should:
- keep him active – so interact with him, play with him, read a book;
- let in as much light as possible in the room where your baby stays during the day;
- don’t worry about your daily noises (washing machine, dishwasher, tv, music, etc)
- wake him up if he falls asleep during a feeding session – I couldn’t do this! I let him sleep as much as he wanted. But it’s up to you what you decide to do with your baby.
At night time you should:
- slowly integrate a night time routine – but don’t stress too much about it
- keep the noises to the minimum
- keep your baby’s room as dark as possible
- don’t start playing with him or winding him up close to bedtime or nap time
- try to not talk to him too much
If you’ve been reading my articles for a while, you should know that I am very honest and transparent with you. Therefore I’d like to add that you can’t really do much at the beginning when it comes to sleeping longer. Eventually he will get there.
My son managed to sleep through the night after I weaned him from breastfeeding, at 12 months. But other babies might sleep through the night earlier.
The thing is that as long as you offer them milk or some kind of comfort during the night, they tend to wake up to get that comfort. I wasn’t bothered to wake up to breastfeed him until he got 1. Not sure what happened then, but after he turned 1 he started waking up more and more during the night. That’s why I’ve decided to night wean him first. Looking back, he maybe went through a growth spurt.
How do you sleep with a newborn – co-sleeping
Co-sleeping wasn’t on my wishlist, it kind of happened.
In order to be able to breastfeed my newborn, and needed to hold him, but because of my emergency Caesarean section, I couldn’t do it, especially in those early weeks. The doctors told me that I shouldn’t lift him up from his crib for at least 6 weeks. Someone had to bring him to me. I was devastated. I felt so bad because I always depended on someone to bring him to me.
That’s why I would always nurse him laying down. Day & night.
So…in order for me to get more sleep at night – he used to wake up every 5 – 10 minutes to feed during his growth spurts. Therefore sleeping in the same bed seemed to be the best option for both of us.
Let me warn you! Co-sleeping can be very dangerous if you don’t do it right. There are some things to consider before you start in order to find out if this is what you want.
First of all, you need to educate yourself about co-sleeping and how to do it safely. There are a lot of articles out there about this subject. After you’ve done your research, it’s time to ensure that everything is how it’s supposed to be.
In order to double-check this, I recommend this checklist created by MommyPotamus on Safe Co-sleeping.
I loved co-sleeping with our baby. We had a next-to-me cot that he didn’t use. I was purely as decoration and to make sure that my baby wouldn’t roll over.
I always slept in the middle. I didn’t want my husband to roll over a tiny baby. As mothers we have this instinct that I can’t really explain and after you’ve had your baby you won’t be a heavy sleeper anymore. So you are more aware of what’s going on.
I remember waking up at every single noise and I would always double check if he was breathing. That’s what I do now, 18 months later. I guess this is something that you experience as a mom and it never goes away, no matter the age of your child.
So I highly recommend, that you sleep in the middle and let your baby sleep at the outside of your bed. But please make sure you have something there that would prevent your baby from rolling down. If you ask me, the next-to-me-cot we had, was just perfect.
How do I get my baby to sleep alone?
There are a few things you could do in order to help your baby fall asleep on his own. But, let me warn you, it’s HARD work! If you don’t like hearing your baby cry, this will be very painful for you.
Even if you won’t go for the Crying Out Method (very sensitive subject by the way), he’ll still be crying. Like I said at the beginning of this article, I didn’t want to let him cry it out. So I always looked for the way he cried. If I could sense desperation, I would immediately go to him and stop everything.
I highly recommend “The No-cry Sleep Solution” written by Elizabeth Pantley. It’s a great book because the author is a parent. So she knows all the struggles and comes up with solutions that worked for her and many other families. She explains everything you need to know about “teaching” and helping your baby fall asleep on his own. She also encourages breastfeeding whilst teaching your baby fall asleep on his own.
How did we do it?
Again, I mentioned at the beginning of this article that I tried to sleep teaching him at 9 months but it turned out to be a total FAIL. So I didn’t bother anymore.
These are the things we did at that point in time that made me believe he managed to learn how to fall asleep alone:
- still nursing him to sleep, but put him in his bed semi-asleep
- I always listened to the way he cried and went back to him as soon as it sounded upset (usually after 1-2 minutes). I just couldn’t let him cry for longer than 3 minutes
- calm him down in the cot and if he wouldn’t settle, I would pick him up and put him down after he’d settle.
I used to do this entire process for about an hour. After that it is recommended that you pick up your child and keep him awake for another hour and start again.
Again, just to be honest, I just let him fall asleep on me and everybody was happy.
The second attempt of sleep-teaching was around 12-13 months. The same period when I started night weaning. I wanted him to be able to sleep through the night without waking up. After 2 months of sleepless nights, and struggles he started sleeping through the night without waking up. but he would still fall asleep on my chest.
One night he decided he didn’t want to sleep on my chest anymore (I believe he was 15 months) so I put him down and stayed in the room with him until he fell asleep. I did that for a week and then I slowly started to go out the room after 10-15 minutes. It would take him around 30-45 minutes to fall asleep. After another week, I would put him down, say prayers, “night-night”, kisses and then leave the room. Did not have any issues ever since.
How do I get my baby to nap better?
If you’re going to pay attention to your baby, he’ll “tell” you when he doesn’t need the same amount of naps as he used to. I know this from experience.
I remember how upset I was because my baby wouldn’t nap anymore and I was really struggling to put him down every time.
These are the things I’ve noticed at my baby and when I changed them, it was much better for both me and my little man.
- He wouldn’t fall asleep easily anymore
- He will have short naps
So what to do to help him with his naps?
- ensure you have blackout curtains
- have a nap time routine
- try to put your baby down about the same time every day
- get your baby tired (this works best especially for toddlers) take him out for a walk or playgroups
These are all my tips and tricks in order to achieve better baby sleeping experience. you at the moment about
Watch out for your baby’s (or toddler’s) sleeping patterns and remember to always test things out and keep whatever works best for you and your baby.
If you are looking to No-Cry Sleep Solution, Elizabeth Pantley’s book is the perfect resource for you.
I hope you found this article helpful in your sleeping journey and please share your sleep tips in the comments. Love to hear from you!
Until next time, take care & stay beautiful!