Face it. Doctors are pretty lame with practical advice on stuff that should come naturally to babies. So here are a few tricks we’ve picked – none risky, we promise – that might help you get your baby to sleep or back on track sleep-wise.
1. Dads, take charge. This is one area where dads can really add some value. Sadly, it’s because we have nothing more to add than just being odd and different though. Send dad in to do the final diapering and reading and baby won’t get distracted by the thought of mommy milk or the comforting sensations of the mommy aura. This goes also, unfortunately, for midnight diaper changes when you’re weaning the baby off breastfeeding. Babies won’t think “food!” when they see daddy’s breast-less chest and dad has a better chance of getting baby back to sleep.
2. Pump up the volume. Don’t let your child get used to a completely quiet house, or you may be subject to a baby who wakes to every siren or dog bark. Usually, yes, babies sleep through anything, unless they are conditioned to complete silence. If you’re using complete silence as a tactic in the sleep wars, you may be doing more harm than good.
3. Be all business at night. While moms and dads often can’t resist a cuddle with the baby or even trying to get the baby to smile or laugh while changing and feeding, everyone will get back to sleep faster if you are calm and efficient in the semi-dark, getting the baby back in bed with as little distraction as possible. This way, baby knows that daytime is playtime and nighttime is “get back to sleep as soon as possible.”
4. Let the baby fall asleep on his own. Every doctor or sleep specialist will encourage strict routines to help the sleep ritual. What some won’t think of though is making sure you put your baby in bed when he or she is drowsy rather than completely asleep. Falling asleep on your own is an important development step for a baby, which you can help by getting your baby in bed when you sense he is getting drowsy.
5. Treat your baby like he or she has jet lag. Experts recommend that when adjusting to new time zones, you should spend daylight hours in bright sunlight and keep out all light at times you should be sleeping. The same goes for babies. Make sure his or her internal time clock knows it’s nighttime.
6. Turn down the baby monitor. If you’re so sleep-obsessed that you have to check on your baby every few minutes, you’re going to end up teaching the baby that every gurgle or whimper gets mom or dad’s attention. I am definitely not a “let them cry it out” dad, but I do know that giving in to the temptation to just peek in on them usually reset the timer on my efforts to get my kids to sleep.
7. Skip the diaper change? Yes, maybe, if you don’t smell #2 and you think the diaper isn’t really full. A full diaper change, complete with baby wipe hitting warm skin in the night air, will definitely wake up a sleeping baby. Wake up a baby for one last feeding before you go to bed. This might be the one trick that scores you some extra sleep. While it might be risky to wake up a baby for more stimulation, if you can accomplish the feeding to a half asleep baby, it might mean your baby remains full and satisfied all the way until morning. This means you get some much needed baby sleep of your own.