How to get your baby to self soothe (and sleep longer stretches at night)!

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 “Is your baby sleeping through the night yet?” The well-intentioned, yet super annoying, question new parents get asked all the time. Whether in the grocery line, family get-together or Facebook moms group- nothing can send a tired mom into a rampage quite like asking her this. 

The truth is, she’s tried to teach her baby to self soothe and start sleeping longer stretches at night. But this makes her baby cry, which brings on the mom guilt and anxiety, and any hopes of baby sleeping through the night are gone. 

I feel your stress and overwhelm, mama. I’ve been there- twice! But after working with tired families for many years, I’m here to assure you that it is possible to get your baby sleeping through the night (once your baby is old enough and your doctor approves.) 


This article walks you through the steps of getting your baby to learn self soothing, which leads to sleeping longer stretches at night. And next thing you know, your little one will be sleeping all night. Let’s do it! (If you have any questions, you can post them in the comments below.)

This post may contain affiliate links.

 

When do babies sleep through the night?

 

Newborns and young babies need to eat every few hours. They aren’t developmentally ready to sleep longer stretches at night. Most parents realize that having a baby will mean waking during the night. But there comes a point when every parent wonders when (and if) their baby will ever start sleeping through the night. 

As a baby sleep consultant, I’ve found that the majority of babies are able to fully night wean and sleep 11-12 hours straight, between the ages of 7-10 months old. 

Babies 5 -7 months old can learn to sleep longer stretches at night, while keeping 1-2 night feeds, if needed. 

As a lactation consultant, my first priority is your baby’s nutrition, growth and breastfeeding bond. With your pediatrician’s approval, you can begin reducing night feedings around 5-6 months old, with the goal of weaning off night feeds between 7-10 months. 

Here is my guide on weaning night feedings.

 

How to get your baby to self soothe (and sleep longer stretches at night )

 

Tip #1: Create a calming bedtime routine

Tip #2: Find the ideal bedtime for your baby

Tip #3: Create a sleep-friendly space for your baby

Tip #4: Teach your baby to self soothe

 

 

Tip #1: Create a calming bedtime routine

 

A research study conducted by Mindell & Williamson in 2018 showed that bedtime routines help babies sleep longer at night, and also aid babies’ development and general well-being. These benefits can last for years!

Certain activities have been proven to relax babies, and when done in the right order, it sets your baby up for sleeping long stretches every night.

Doing the same activities, in the same order, at the same time each evening, signals to your baby’s body and brain that it’s time to relax and welcome sleep. Over time, your little one will adapt and settle in peacefully for sleep.

My Exhausted Mom’s Starter Kit walks you through setting up a peaceful bedtime routine for your little one. 

 

RELATED: Sleep Training Methods Explained

 

 

 

Tip #2: Find the ideal bedtime for your baby​

 

I’ve worked with thousands of tired parents over the years, and I’ve found that the “sweet spot” for bedtime is between 6:30-7:30 pm. 

I’m sure this is probably much earlier than you expected, but the truth is that babies sleep best with an early bedtime. Putting your baby to bed later, especially after 8 pm, typically leads to night wakings and early risings. Baby sleep is counterintuitive!

When your baby has an age-appropriate bedtime, they’re more likely to sleep longer stretches at night. 

If your baby’s bedtime is currently later than this, move it earlier by 20 minutes every two days until you reach a time between 6:30-7:30 pm. Once you’re there, aim for your baby to be asleep at the same time each night. Try to keep bedtime tight, not varying by more than 15 minutes every night. This sets your baby’s body clock to sleep at the same time everyday, which helps them fall asleep easier. 

Worried that an early bedtime will lead to early morning wakings? This guide helps you prevent your baby waking at 5 am ready to start the day. 

 

 

Tip #3: Create a sleep-friendly space for your baby

 

This part is so simple yet so important!

You can learn how to set up your baby’s sleep space in my Exhausted Mom’s Starter Kit. This guide walks you through exactly how to do this and why it’s so important.

Most parents see results overnight, and the best part is – you can start ALL of these tips tonight.

 

 

Tip #4: Teach your baby to self soothe

 

Teaching babies to self soothe involves teaching them to fall asleep on their own, without any external soothing like rocking or feeding. The key to getting your baby sleeping through the night is to teach them to self soothe at bedtime and during any night wakings. 

When babies are helped to sleep (whether by rocking, bouncing, feeding, holding, or patting) they’re also going to need help falling back to sleep when they wake or stir during the night. Please know that there is nothing inherently wrong or “bad” about helping your baby fall asleep. It’s perfectly natural, and when our babies are young, it’s necessary. But many parents discover that their older babies don’t settle as easily or start waking more often at night, needing to be helped back to sleep several times. That’s a sign that it’s time for your baby to learn to self soothe. 

Once babies pass through the 4th month development (and sleep regression) they develop the ability to learn self-soothing. That’s why my sleep training program begins at 5 months old. 

RELATED: My baby stands (or sits up) in the crib and won’t sleep!

 

How to get your baby to self soothe

 

 

1. Your baby goes into the crib awake at bedtime

 

When we teach babies how to self soothe, we always begin at bedtime. That’s because bedtime is the time of the day when your baby is the most tired and more likely to accept changes in their sleep routine. 

You can start off by putting baby in the crib drowsy but not yet asleep, so they get familiar with falling asleep there, rather than in your arms. Every day, place your baby in the crib a little more awake. The more awake they are, the more aware they are that they’re falling asleep on their own. This is essential for your baby to learn to sleep through the night. Once they know how to fall asleep on their own at bedtime, resettling back to sleep on their own during the night becomes possible.

 

 

 

2. Give your baby the opportunity to self soothe during the night

 

Sometimes, we parents rush to scoop our baby up as soon as we hear them at night. Either we don’t want them waking an older sibling or we’re still half-asleep ourselves!

The thing is, if you always rush in and “rescue” your baby right away, they’ll never learn to fall back asleep on their own. I know it’s hard, mama. I’ve been there! But the biggest part of teaching your baby to self soothe is giving them time to resettle on their own. Don’t worry though, you can start small and wait only 1-2 minutes before going to your little one during the night. This gives them a small opportunity to practice falling back asleep. 

 

 

Now it’s time to begin sleep training

 

Now that you’ve warmed your baby up to the idea of self-soothing, it’s time to begin sleep training. 

Sleep training is the process of teaching your baby how to fall asleep independently at bedtime and resettle back to sleep during the night. It’s the process of placing your baby in the crib awake, giving them a kiss, leaving the room and having them happily fall asleep on their own. If your little one stirs during the night, they easily settle back down to sleep without your help. And it’s 100% possible from the age of 5 months. I help families do this everyday in my sleep training program, 21 Days to Peace and Quiet

A common myth about sleep training is that it involves lots of crying and abandoning your baby at bedtime. This is simply not true! My sleep training program offers several step-by-step methods varying from gentle, hands-on sleep training to quick, hands-off methods. All of the methods are effective and show you how to get your baby sleeping through the night. The best sleep training method is one that matches your baby’s age and personality and we cover this in my sleep training program. 

When you sleep train, you’re setting your baby up to sleep well for YEARS.  Research shows that sleep training not only helps your baby sleep well, it also supports your baby’s development and improves parental mental health! (That’s a triple win!)

There you have it! These are my top tips for getting your baby to self soothe and sleep longer stretches at night. First, make sure your baby is old enough to learn self-soothing. If they are, begin a calming bedtime routine and give your little one an age-appropriate bedtime. Make sure their bedroom is conducive for sleeping great all night. And finally, begin sleep training by teaching baby how to self soothe. 

Remember, if you ever need step-by-step help on getting your baby sleeping through the night, join us in my sleep training program here. 

a guide for parents to help their baby sleep better

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6 Comments

  1. Sarah Dugger

    Im so glad i found your articles. My 15mo is not sleeping well at night. He wakes 7-8 times nightly…not usually hungry, just fussy. Sometimes its every 30-45 minutes. Its exhausting. He is usually rocked to sleep by my husband between 8-9 pm and takes a cup of milk before bed (while being rocked). He does take naps still…never the same amount of time or at the same time of day…but he fights them even when he seems tired and fussy. I’m sure we have ruined this baby’s sleep schedule at this point. At this point, I feel like we either have an angry tired fussy baby all day with no naps, or a miserable night of broken sleep…or both. Any suggestions???

    Reply
    • Artemis

      Hi Sarah,

      We’re glad we found you, too!

      I’m so so sorry to hear that. It’s exhausting to be trapped in the cycle of bad sleep with a fussy little one.

      Honestly, the best way for your 15 month old to start loving his crib, fall asleep independently and peacefully and sleep all night long, is to join our program. It’s life changing, and it has helped thousands of parents get their little ones sleeping well:
      https://www.babysleepmadesimple.com/baby-sleep-consultant/

      We would LOVE to turn your miserable nights into peaceful and restful nights. Can’t wait to work with you!
      Artemis, BSMS Support Team

      Reply
  2. Devanna

    My baby is 6 months and I’d now becoming more difficult to get to sleep. Our story is basically like the one above. He used to sleep this same way and this last week he’s just becoming, it feels needy. He will scream to get me to pick him up and still scream until I put him on boob or take him outside and then he will just stop. No wind down or anything. Just stops screaming. I can’t put him down drowsy because of this screaming. All his needs are met he just wants to pacify on me. He does not use a pacifier. HELP please
    -on tired momma

    Reply
    • Artemis

      Hi Devanna,

      Sorry to hear this. We help parents like you every single day in our program, and more than half of our clients get their babies sleeping peacefully and independently through the night within a week.

      Here is the link:
      https://www.babysleepmadesimple.com/baby-sleep-consultant/

      We would love to work with you.
      Artemis, BSMS Support Team

      Reply
  3. Kristen

    My son is 5 months old and is sleeping through the night only needing one feeding, which I guess is still normal at this point. When he wakes up I just go ahead and feed him because he goes right back to sleep, it’s hard to try anything else since we share a room and my husband works so we try not to wake him up too. He usually wakes around 8:30am and takes 30min-1.5hr naps at 11am, 2pm, and 4:30pm usually. He doesn’t fall asleep at night until about 10pm though, I try a nighttime routine around 8pm, but he doesn’t seem tired enough to fall asleep then and if he does it’s only for a short nap. For his naps he doesn’t usually get to sleep by himself, I try to put him down drowsy so he will fall asleep on his own but he usually just gets really fussy and then I just rock him and use the pacifier. For falling asleep at night, I usually end up nursing him to sleep because nothing else works at that point. Sleep hasn’t been bad since he goes to bed when we do and only wakes up once, but I want him to have better sleeping habits and earlier bedtime and I just wonder if I’m doing things wrong.

    Reply
    • Artemis

      Hi Kristen,

      First of all – you’re not doing anything ‘wrong’. You’re doing your best!

      There are definitely a few schedule and routine tweaks we can make to get your little one falling asleep earlier and sleeping all through the night. You can also talk to your baby’s doctor and see if he’s ready to wean off night feeds, or if we still should hold on to that 1 night feed.

      In any case, we can help you get your baby sleeping amazingly in our program:
      https://www.babysleepmadesimple.com/baby-sleep-consultant/

      I hope you join us so you can finally get a good night’s sleep, and feel more confident as a parent in regards to your baby’s sleep.
      Artemis, BSMS Support Team

      Reply

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