Are you dealing with a typical parenting dilemma, which is how to put a baby to sleep at night? It’s not uncommon for babies to cry at bedtime, which can make it tricky to get them to settle down and nod off. This struggle to fall asleep can be due to anything from hunger or a wet diaper to gas or illness. Sometimes, it’s not possible to pinpoint exactly why your little one is wakeful or fussy, but there are some tips and tricks that can help you encourage your baby to fall asleep.
9 Tips and Tricks: How to Put a Baby to Sleep
If you’re trying to master how to put a newborn or older baby to sleep, it’s helpful to adopt a few strategies that encourage snoozing and soothe crying. We’ve rounded up nine tips and tricks that can support putting your baby to sleep—and using them consistently over time may help your little one learn how to settle down as bedtime (or naptime) approaches.
You’ll find our favorite tips in the following paragraphs, so continue reading to learn about them all. Or, if one sparks your interest first, click on the title below to jump to its description.
1. Keep Your Baby Comfortable
Before putting your baby in the crib, check that they’re comfortable. Does your little one need a diaper change or a feeding? Is your baby dressed in appropriate layers for warmth, but not overdressed? Is the room temperature cool but comfortable? A quiet, cozy, and calm environment will go a long way in helping your baby fall asleep.
A few other ways to keep your baby comfortable and soothed while falling asleep (and, hopefully, staying asleep) include the following:
Darken the room by turning off the main lights and drawing the shades.
Turn on a night-light so there’s a little light to calm your baby.
Play some soothing sounds to help make your baby sleepy, such as soft music or white noise.
2. Swaddle Your Baby
If you’re wondering how to put a newborn to sleep, you can use the swaddling method, which is perfect for infants.
When swaddled, many newborns and young infants fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Because their little bodies are still developing, newborns lack motor control and often involuntarily twitch, flail their arms, and move their legs during sleep. This unintentional movement can accidentally wake them, which is why swaddling can be a good solution, as it gives them a feeling of comfort and security and keeps their arms and legs from moving too much.
Here are some helpful tips when swaddling:
Use a lightweight cotton swaddling blanket or sleeping sack to help prevent your baby from overheating.
Be sure to leave plenty of room for your baby’s hips and legs to move, as swaddling too tightly can lead to future hip problems. Use our helpful swaddling guide to see exactly how it’s done!
Stop swaddling when your baby starts trying to roll over on their own, which often happens at about 2 months or a little later.
3. Establish a Sleep Schedule
It takes about 16 weeks for the circadian rhythm to mature, so during those first few months you can expect your baby’s sleep to be disorganized. That said it’s never too early (and it’s certainly never too late) to establish a sleep schedule for your baby.
Apps like the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ make light work of this thanks to their developmentally appropriate, AI powered scheduling tool. All you do is track sleeps and the app does the hard work for you, creating a schedule that is in line with your baby’s biological sleep rhythms, and notifying you each time your baby is ready for their next sleep.
If you think your baby’s schedule could use a boost, take this FREE sleep assessment and learn more about how the Smart Sleep Coach could help your baby fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer!
4. Give Your Baby Attention During the Day
Experts say that your baby will feel calmer and more secure (and ready for sleep in the evening) when you provide them with a good amount of attention and stimulation during the day. Go ahead and hold your little one, cuddle them, play with them, and talk to them. Your baby may be more likely to settle down for sleep once they’ve gotten their fill of love and attention while awake.
However, don’t shower your baby with attention during those middle-of-the-night feedings and diaper changes. Keep these necessary interactions quiet, brief, and “boring” so that your little one learns to associate the night with sleep and the day with activity and excitement.
5. Establish a Bedtime Routine
As early as 6 to 8 weeks old, you can start to create a soothing bedtime routine with your little one. Your routine can include anything you like, but keep the following in mind:
The routine should be calming and relaxing; avoid anything that’s active or too stimulating.
The final part of the routine (at least the last 10 minutes) should take place in your baby’s bedroom or your room (if you are room-sharing). This helps your baby associate the bedroom with positive, tranquil activities, where they can spend quality time with you while drifting off to sleep.
The point of a bedtime routine is to wind down and signal to your baby that the time for sleep is coming. Here’s a list of some things you could include in your baby’s bedtime routine:
A warm bath
A baby massage
Dressing your baby for sleep
Swaying, swinging, or rocking (in a rocking chair or glider, for example)
Dimming the bedroom lights (you might like to leave a night-light on)
Reading a story together
Singing a lullaby
Playing soft music or white noise, such as with a fan (pointed away from your baby) or a sound machine
Counting to 10 or singing the ABCs (with your older baby)
A goodnight hug and kiss
Swaddling (for infants).
6. Place Your Baby in the Crib Before They Fall Asleep
When learning how to put a baby to sleep, this tip is one of the most important. By putting your baby in their crib before they fall asleep (and while drowsy), you help them form a positive sleep association, equating the crib with snoozes. By the same token, if your baby always falls asleep in your arms, they may struggle to sleep in the crib, as that won’t feel familiar. It may also result in your baby crying until you pick them up when waking during the night, because your arms are what they’ll associate with sleeping.
To know when it’s time to put your baby in the crib, look out for sleep cues, such as
rubbing of the eyes
Remember to practice safe sleep for babies by always placing your little one on their back when you put them down in the crib for napping or sleeping. Also, make sure that their crib is free of loose bedding, blankets, pillows, and toys. These precautions help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
7. Offer Your Baby a Pacifier
Research has shown that a pacifier can help calm your baby at night and also reduce the risk of SIDS. If you’re breastfeeding, wait until your baby is about 3 to 4 weeks old before offering a pacifier. If your baby’s pacifier falls out while sleeping, there’s no need to put it back in their mouth. However, don’t let your baby fall asleep with a bottle, as the milk or formula can pool in their mouth, leading to dental decay and ear infections.
8. Work With Your Baby’s Preferences
Although this might not sound like an appealing option, accommodating your baby’s night-owl or early-bird tendencies might work best. Consider adjusting your baby’s sleep schedule to take advantage of those periods when they naturally feel sleepier. This gives your little one the opportunity to sleep when they want to but doesn’t force sleep when they’re not tired and more likely to protest.
9. Strike a Balance When Attending to Your Baby’s Needs at Night
If your baby is particularly fussy at night and wakes up after falling asleep, try not to go to their side immediately. Instead, give your little one a chance to self-soothe and fall back asleep on their own. The Ferber Method is a well-known sleep training strategy that involves this approach.
But if your baby continues to cry and fuss, they may have a need that should be addressed, such as a feeding or diaper change. When attending to your baby’s needs at night, it’s best to do so without turning on the bedroom lights and while keeping things quiet and calm. After you’re done with the feeding or diaper change, put your baby back in the crib for sleep.
If you think your baby is fussy because they may be sick, check for a fever or any other symptoms of illness, and contact your child’s healthcare provider as needed.
To learn more about helpful sleep strategies, watch the video below!
Don’t miss these must-watch sleep tips from a pediatric sleep consultant.
How to Put a Baby to Sleep: What Not to Do
Now that you have a few tips and tricks to help you understand how to put your newborn or older baby to sleep, it’s also important to consider what not to do. Here are a few things to avoid when putting your baby to sleep:
Thinking you can “make” your baby fall asleep. It’s tempting to want to know how to make a baby go to sleep, but this idea is a misnomer. You can’t “make” a baby do anything! Unless you’re a fairy godmother, your baby’s actions and reactions are out of your control, and theirs. The best advice, as mentioned above, is to work with your baby’s preferences and take the time to gradually establish a sleep routine. Be patient and stay positive—if you respond negatively, sleep problems are likely to get worse.
Holding your baby until they fall asleep. We mentioned this piece of advice above, but it’s important, so we’re repeating it here, too. If you really want to master putting your baby to sleep, it’s best to avoid the temptation of holding them until they fall asleep. Your baby will get used to being held when drifting off and likely depend upon being held in your arms to fall asleep. That means crying to you when waking in the night and missing out on learning self-soothing techniques.
Keeping your baby awake all day so they’re extra sleepy at night. There are lots of ways to encourage your baby to sleep through the night, but causing them to be overtired is not one of them. The stress that babies feel from overtiredness will only make it harder for them to settle down to sleep.
If you’re new to the parenting world, download our New Parents’ Guide for some helpful tips.
The Bottom Line
If you’re trying to learn how to put a baby to sleep, the best piece of advice is to give the process time. Following our tips and tricks may help make it easier for your baby to fall asleep and become accustomed to a sleep routine. Consider things like creating a soothing bedtime routine, adjusting bedtimes and naptimes so they coincide with when your baby is naturally tired, and giving your little one lots of love and attention when awake. These strategies could all help make bedtime go more smoothly.
Hang in there. Getting your baby to sleep is a common challenge of parenthood, but soon enough, your baby (and you too, with any luck!) will be sleeping like, well, a baby!