Best Sleep Advice for Babies

One of the most difficult things for parents is getting enough sleep. Newborn babies cry at all hours of the night to be fed, to get affection, or because they are cold or wet. At this stage, most parents are aware that when a baby cries, day or night, it is because they need something. After several months, parents develop new concerns. First, is the need to ensure that baby is getting enough sleep, and second is the need to regain some sort of semblance of schedule so that Mom and Dad can start getting enough sleep as well.

Best Baby Sleep Books

A baby who doesn’t get enough sleep can be a nightmare. A baby who isn’t sleeping enough is more likely to be cranky and irritable. In addition, a baby who isn’t getting enough sleep is very likely keeping one or both parents awake as well, and just like babies, a Mom or Dad who isn’t getting enough sleep will also be cranky and irritable.

It is no surprise that there are hundreds or even thousands of books out there about how to get babies to fall asleep and to sleep through the night. They all have their little "tricks" but in the end, there really isn’t too much they can tell you because every baby and every toddler is different.

One school of thought suggests just letting the baby cry it out. The idea is that the baby will eventually figure out how to fall asleep, if from nothing else than pure exhaustion, on their own. Obviously, this strikes many parents as cold hearted and goes against the natural instinct to provide love and care for a distressed child. For parents not willing to just let the baby cry, there are plenty of other suggestions, not all of which are any good.

The best book about getting babies to sleep I have read is called The Happiest Baby on the Block. The main premise of the book is that babies are not ready to sleep on their own when they are born. Actually, the author goes so far as to suggest that developmentally, babies would be better off with another month or two in the womb, but that is impossible due to the increasing size of the infant.

Whether you buy into that logic or not, there author does describe an actual methodology that worked very well for our children. Ironically, the author’s method for helping babies fall asleep and stay asleep can be described in just a few paragraphs. In order to fill out a book, there is plenty of theory and stories from other parents.

Basically, there are the five S’s. You can break it down to actually two Ss. The first is to Swaddle the baby and the second is to make the "Shhh" sound. This works for two reasons very simple reasons, although the author expounds in great detail in order to fill out the book.

Swaddling the infant eliminates two major causes of babies waking up. The first is that when putting an infant to sleep you have to put them on their back to minimize the risk of SIDS. Doing so means there is a point where the baby transitions from being held to being laid down where their arm may fall backward due to gravity. This action often wakes a baby up just as they were ready to fall asleep and Mom or Dad have to start over. The second is similar to the first. Infants are very prone to have movements in their sleep. Some of these movements are sudden and jerky. They may wake the infant on their own, or they may cause the infant to be awoken when she accidentally hits herself with her hand, or she accidentally kicks out and hits the side of the crib. Swaddling effectively pins the limbs in such a way that they can neither fall out nor lash out, thus improving the amount of sleep.

The "Shh" sound is really nothing more than being your own walking white-noise machine. It’s a soothing reminder that you are there without being too loud or too distinct to keep the baby stimulated and awake.

This was all we needed to get our daughter sleeping through the night. Our son, unfortunately, had some stomach issues and was too strong and determined to be kept in a swaddle before he started sleeping through the night which led to me reading some spectacularly terrible baby sleep advice, much of which is widely repeated.

Bad Baby Sleep Advice

Some advice is bad because it is wrong or harmful. Other advice is bad because it is not helpful. Much baby advice and many baby books fall squarely in the second category.

The number one bit of advice to help babies sleep involves a routine. That is a good idea, but no matter what any author tells you, it isn’t enough. Even if it were, the routines suggested are laughable.

Almost every baby book suggests a nighttime routine that includes a warm bath and then a song in a darkened room.

That’s just great. That covers exactly ONE time of putting the baby to sleep. Even if it worked perfectly, you are still stuck for six to twelve more times of putting your baby to sleep. Are you going to give them a bath before every nap? Are you going to give them a bath every time they wake up in the middle of the night?

In other words, the whole "routine" thing is useful only for babies or toddlers that are already sleeping well enough that the only real problem is getting them to fall asleep for the night. Any parent will tell you that getting a baby to sleep once per day is a cakewalk. Keeping them asleep and making sure they get to sleep every time they need is the challenge.

The other worthless idea that is constantly prattled on about is the idea of letting the baby "fuss for a little bit."

Really?

If the only issue with getting babies to take their naps was "letting them fuss" for a few minutes, there would be no need for sleep books. We all try that or get told that pretty quickly, What these books are silent on is what to do if the baby screams bloody murder for 45 minutes straight. What about the baby who falls asleep then wakes up screaming hysterically?

My advice is to quickly return any book that makes more than a passing mention of letting a baby fuss and to return any book whose only advice revolves around getting a baby to sleep ONCE, at night, with no inclusion of how to put a baby down for a nap or back to sleep in the middle of the night.

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