Quick Tips: Getting Baby to Sleep

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A newborn goes back and forth between sleeping and waking during a 24-hour day. Over the first 3 months, the baby gradually sleeps for longer periods. By the third or fourth month, most babies sleep for their longest period (up to 7 to 8 hours) during the night and develop set nap times.

You can help your baby—and yourself—sleep better. The goal is to help your baby learn self-comfort so that he or she can get to sleep, and get back to sleep, with little help from you.

Bedtime tips:

  • At night, set up a soothing routine. Give your baby a bath, sing lullabies, read a book, or tell a story. These activities can help your baby relax. They also signal that it is time to sleep. Don't get your baby excited with active play right before sleep.
  • Put your baby down for sleep in a quiet, darkened room.
  • Don't rock your baby to sleep after about age 4 to 6 months. Rock your baby, but lay the baby down to sleep while he or she is drowsy but still awake.
  • Don't add cereal to your baby's bottle. Adding cereal to a bottle won't make a baby sleep through the night. Babies don't need solid foods until they are at least 4 to 6 months old. Check with your doctor to see when your baby is ready for solid food.
  • Put your baby down for a nap as soon as he or she acts sleepy. If your baby gets too tired, it may be hard for him or her to get to sleep.
  • Remember to put your baby down to sleep on his or her back. This helps prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). When a baby is at least 4 weeks old, falling asleep with a pacifier has also been shown to reduce SIDS.

Getting baby to go back to sleep:

  • Act quickly—but not too quickly—when your newborn wakes up for a feeding, so he or she doesn't have a chance to fully wake up. But wait a minute or so to see if the child goes right back to sleep.
  • Keep the light off during nighttime feedings, and use a soft voice.
  • Settle your baby down to sleep as quickly as possible if he or she is not acting hungry during a nighttime feeding.
  • If your baby does not settle down, check to see if he or she is hungry or needs a diaper change. Feed or change your baby quietly. Keep the light low. Don't play with or sing to your baby. Put him or her back in the crib as soon as you can.
  • Talk to your doctor about whether to let your baby "cry it out."
  • Try to stay calm. Young children are very sensitive to a parent's feelings of frustration.
  • Be consistent. If you change your plan for how to handle nighttime crying, make sure that you and your partner agree on it before you go to bed.

Credits

Author Cynthia Tank
Editor Marianne Flagg
Associate Editor Michele Cronen
Primary Medical Reviewer Michael J. Sexton, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Ernest Charles Norlin, MD - Pediatrics
Last Updated October 15, 2009

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