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Baby sleep

12 Baby Sleep Tips for Exhausted New Parents

We asked the sleep experts to share their best tricks for newborn babies (and their parents!) to get some shut-eye.

12 Baby Sleep Tips for Exhausted New Parents

Illustration: Olivia Mew

Whether you're in the newborn trenches or trying to encourage a two-year-old to sleep on their toddler mattress, sleep training can be tricky. But don't worry—these baby sleep tips will rock your world and give you plenty of sheep to count.

Invest in blackout curtains

You might not need them during the newborn stage, but they'll be so worth it later on. By the time you work your way up to a toddler alarm clocks and a kids mattress, keeping the room dark and stimulant-free is especially important.

Try massage

Some parents swear by infant massage strokes and even gently swiping a tissue over baby’s face to help calm them down and make them sleep— hey, whatever works!

Illustrated steps showing a baby getting a face massage Illustration: Olivia Mew

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Muffle door clicks

Illustration showing a rubber band tied across a door latch Illustration: Olivia Mew

Muffle that maddening door click by looping a thick rubber band between both door knobs to form an X shape over the latch. Stealthy!

Try the crib after they've dozed off

Watch their eyes. If your baby’s eyes are darting under their lids, they’re in deep sleep. Wait until their muscles are relaxed and they’re breathing deeply. Then administer the floppy-arm test: Lift up an arm and drop it. If baby doesn’t stir, you’re good to go.

Illustrated steps showing how to transfer your sleeping baby to a crib Illustration: Olivia Mew

As you ever-so-gently lay them in their crib, keep one hand on their back and the other on their tummy. That continued pressure will ease the transition. If they startle, try patting their belly before you slink away.

Try to maintain whatever position they’re in as you pick them up and put them down. Lay your baby flat (not head first) into the crib. Use a step-stool if you need the extra lift.

Watch for wakeful periods

Watch for newborns’ wakeful periods. They’re usually only 30 to 60 minutes in the first four months of life; put them to sleep as soon as they seem tired.

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Change your baby's diaper before the nighttime feed

And unless your baby has pooped or soaked through their diaper, you probably don’t want to change them at all in the middle of the night, to keep them in that sleepy state—especially if they’re only waking to feed.

Switch your lights

Buy an LED push night light that operates on batteries (so you can put it wherever you need it) and turns on with a quick touch. This also helps reduce the “wake-up” signals going to the parent and baby’s brains so it’s easier to fall back to sleep after feeding.

Put a hot water bottle in the bassinet or crib

This warms it up and can sometimes make the transfer from your arms to bed a little easier. (Don’t forget to remove the hot water bottle before the baby is in!)

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Honor your baby's well-developed circadian rhythm

They’re born with a rhythm already built-in. They awake in the middle of the night, and you can’t fix that, at least for the first few months. Plan for this by sleeping in shifts with your partner or support person.

Try white noise

If your baby is sleeping in your room (as per the Canadian Paediatric Society recommendation), you’ll want to be able to get yourself into bed without waking them up. Use a white noise machine, and do all your bedtime prep out of the bedroom, “so you’re just ninja-ing in.”

Relax about sleeping arrangements

If they fall asleep in your arms during the day, don’t worry about putting them in a crib or bassinet. Put them down somewhere safe, which may even be the floor. (Not applicable if you have dogs or toddlers at home with you!) And if you’re feeling very tired, be careful you don’t fall asleep with baby on you.

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Take sleep on the go

Enjoy this period of portable naps. Sit at the coffee shop with your baby sleeping at your feet. “Enjoy your mobility while you can, because there will be three years after that when you can’t.”

This article was originally published on May 29, 2020

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