Baby won’t sleep. Baby. Won’t. Sleep. Baby, won’t sleep? The first year of life is full of joy, hard work, celebration, and, there’s no way around it, sleeplessness. No matter how many sleep books one reads or how disciplined a parent is with sleep training, there will be hiccups. There will be bleary, red-eyed mornings. There will be a need for coffee. Fortunately, you’re not alone and there are a ton of supportive advice from experts to get you through the tough stuff. Think of this as your curated cheat sheet.
1. Turn off all screens. Your infant probably isn’t watching TV just yet (please no). But screens and blue light are everywhere and, especially if they’re in their room, they can be disrupting sleep.
2. Block out all light. Blackout curtains are essential baby sleep gear. But before you set them up and call it a day, go into the room, turn out the lights, and stand there and look for more light leakage. Power strips glowing? Humidifier blasting out blue light? Cover it up with electric tape. Is it a little paranoid? Yes, but this is your sleep we’re talking about.
3. Be more boring. Babies thrive on routine. So come up with one, especially around sleep and naps, and stick to it. Will your life be a little more boring? Yes. But it will also be healthier and happier for it.
4. But also know that your baby will not be boring. Developmental growth happens so fast in your baby’s first year that routines will be disrupted — for a sleep regression or tooth pain — and you’ll have to deal with it. It happens. Work to get back to your boring life. It won’t seem so dull after.
5. Check the room temp. You’ll be tempted to crank up the heat and get your infant all warm and cuddly. Avoid this temptation. A nursery should be around 68 degrees. ANy more, and your baby can overheat.
6. Crank up the static sounds. White noise not only drowns out your Netflix binges, it mimics the sound of the womb. Use it.
7. Nap often. Is your kid waking up at 3AM wide-eyed and annoyed? Before you try shortening a nap, do the opposite. An overtired baby will struggle to sleep, so a well-rested baby will sleep longer.
8. Go to sleep earlier. The same logic prevails for an early bedtime. Keeping your baby up late will make them overtired and cause them to get nice and hyperactive in the middle of the night. Move up the bedtime in 15-30 minute increments to find the sweet spot.
9. Take five. If your baby wakes in the middle of the night, try to wait it out until they’re properly screaming. If you find this tough — the fussing can go straight to your brain, we get it — find something to occupy yourself. Maybe it’s a set of push-ups. Or maybe it’s 5 minutes of YouTube. Whatever you do, try to find a routine that is enjoyable so that you don’t go into a baby-waking panic. Go in the room too soon and everyone suffers.
10. Listen to your baby. Your baby will tell you they’re tired — if you’re listening. Some babies become vocal, cooing and gurgling when they’re sleepy. Others, more obviously, start batting those lashes. Pay attention. Find yours. Then get to action the second the signs come.
11. Find a teething routine. Teething is the great sleep disruptor and you’ll want to comfort your baby in any way you can. Keep a teether in the fridge, ask your doctor about how and when to use pain killers, and bear with it. Some teeth are worse than others.
12. Swaddle them. Or don’t. Some babies will pass the hell out the second they’re swaddles. Others hate it and would rather pass out sucking fingers and thumbs. Roll with it.
13. Dip a pacifier in… their mouths. Rember when grandma used to dip a pacifier in whiskey? Yeah, don’t do that. But also don’t worry about using a pacifier. It’s not like an addictive drug (whiskey, on the other hand, is). Now, in their infancy, is the time to use it.
14. Suck it up. Ok, this isn’t the most helpful advice, but this sleep deficit thing is temporary and no worse than what you did your first year of college. So go easy on the complaining, get a cup of coffee, and go take a look at that sweet thing you brought into this world.