For every mom who claims that her baby slept through the night from day one (suuuure), there's one at the grocery store who is so tired, she forgot to put on a bra. New moms: You are not alone. To help you and your little one earn the much-needed shut-eye that you both so deserve, we share some of our favorite sleep tips, tricks and facts.
A Is for Avoiding Eye Contact
The last thing you want to do right before bed is excite your baby. Prolonged or animated eye contact with you is one of the most stimulating things for your little love. So, avert your eyes when you're putting him to sleep or calming her when she wakes.
B Is for Bath Time
Calgon, take my baby away! Warm water, combined with soft, loving strokes with a washcloth, can relax just about anyone. Forgo the squirt toys, and keep voices and activity low to make bath time a soothing experience for your little one.
C Is for Co-Sleeping
Whether you're for or against co-sleeping, studies show that children who co-sleep with their parents grow up with higher self-esteem and less anxiety. To co-sleep safely, place a co-sleeper or bassinet next to your bed. (The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend actually sharing a bed with your baby.)
D Is for Dreamfeed
If your baby is the type that wakes at night hungry, a dreamfeed might help. Coined by Robert Bucknam, M.D., in On Becoming Babywise, the term dreamfeed refers to a parent-directed, late-evening feeding. Instead of waiting for her to wake up hungry, feed your baby before you go to bed, while she is asleep. Some believe the extra feeding fills her belly just enough to earn a bit more uninterrupted sleep.
E Is for Empty the Crib
Cute decor elements are just that¬-cute-but safety is way more important. Keep the sleep surface free of everything but the cutest thing in the room, your baby. Blankets, bumpers and stuffed animals can be hazardous, increasing the odds of suffocation or choking. A fitted sheet is all he needs on his mattress. If you're worried about warmth, try a sleep sack instead of a loose blanket.
F Is for Fragrance
Some little noses can be lulled to sleep with the scent from a drop or two of natural lavender oil on a tissue near the bed. Although lavender and other essential oils are known for their relaxation and anti-anxiety benefits, fragrances are not recommended for children less than 6 months old. So for those too young as well as those with sensitive skin or noses, forgo the fragranced tissue and try an unscented laundry detergent when washing crib bedding to reduce discomfort.
G Is for GERD
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a commonly undiagnosed medical reason why some babies have problems sleeping. Caused by a malfunction in the muscle where the esophagus meets the stomach, GERD results in acids being drawn up into your baby's esophagus, causing pain. Symptoms to look for include spitting up, colic-like fussing, wheezing, choking or gagging, and feeding problems. If you have any concerns about GERD, check with your pediatrician.
H Is for Hands-On
When you transfer your baby into the crib at bedtime, try putting your hand gently on her stomach, arms and head to comfort and soothe her. Something as simple as having you close can do wonders for your little one's security at night.
I Is for Ideal Bedtime
An overtired baby is often impossible to get to sleep. Setting an established bedtime is important, and many experts believe that between 6:30 and 7 p.m. is an appropriate bedtime for most babies under 1 year old. "Take into account your work schedule and your little one's need to spend time with you," says Nancy M. Silva, M.D., fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and certified pediatrician in Brandon, Florida. "Once you have that special time, he is ready for bed. Routine is key, whether you are a working mommy or a mom who works in the home." Surprisingly, early to bed does not necessarily mean early to rise, and a good night's sleep often results in later wake-up times.
J Is for Jammies
Sleepy sweeties in their pajamas really couldn't be more adorable. But sometimes babies develop sensitivity to synthetic fabrics, which can hinder sleep. Try natural fibers, like cotton, to avoid irritation. Keep in mind that sleepwear that isn't flame-retardant (like jammies made of cotton) should fit snugly, according to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission.
K Is for Keeping Cool
You know how you always sleep better when the temperature is just right? Well, your little one is no different. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping the temperature in your baby's room between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent SIDS.
L Is for Lights Out
To help your little night owl understand when it's bedtime, keep her room dark. Forgo nightlights and use dark curtains or blackout shades to simulate nighttime during the day. When it's time for her to wake up, whether in the morning or after a nap, open the curtains and let light in to help her to understand the difference.
M Is for Massage
Babies and toddlers who enjoy a 15-minute bedtime massage fall asleep faster than those who are only read a story, according to studies conducted at the University of Miami Touch Research Institute. So break out the baby-safe oil and rub him down using soft strokes and moderate pressure.
N Is for Naps
Aside from the obvious benefits of napping (you have time to shower, check your e-mail, return phone calls), naps are also important to your baby's mental and physical growth. Don't omit naps in hopes that your baby will sleep longer at night, as the opposite is usually true.
O Is for Overnight Diapers
Wet diapers at night can be bothersome. If she sleeps through a wet diaper (bowel movements should be changed immediately), and you're not treating a diaper rash, don't wake her. Super-absorbent overnight diapers, along with an application of diaper cream for skin protection, if needed, will keep her comfortable and, one hopes, asleep.
P Is for Pacifiers
A binky at bedtime can help your little one soothe himself to sleep, and studies show that it may also protect against SIDS. Mom trick: When your baby is sound asleep, remove the pacifier from his mouth so he doesn't wake up if it falls out. Make sure the pacifier you use is soft like the Soothie (soothie-pacifier.com), so it doesn't hurt if he rolls onto it.
Q Is for Quirky Fixes
You never know what might work -- and what you might be willing to try in the middle of the night. We've heard stories of baby swaying in an infant swing all night, daddy driving slowly around the block (over and over again), and mom sitting on the clothes dryer cradling her little one. No one is judging; we've been there. Whatever works, as long as it's safe.
R Is for Routines
It's no secret that consistent nighttime routines can help your baby understand that it's time to sleep. Choose a soothing ritual and stick with it. Consistency is key.
S Is for Swaddling
Ask any new parent, and many will tell you that learning to make a "baby burrito" is one of the most important skills when it comes to your baby's slumber. Your newborn was used to being tightly packed in your womb, so being wrapped in a swaddling blanket duplicates the experience, helping him to sleep better. To learn how, visit parenting.com/article/Baby/Care/How-to-Swaddle-Your-Baby.
T Is for Telling a Story
It doesn't really matter at this point if it's Goodnight Moon or Twilight (she can't understand yet and you might as well entertain yourself), reading a story before bed in a soothing voice is relaxing. It's also a great habit to carry on throughout childhood.
U Is for Understanding Cues
Instead of waiting for a full-on meltdown, look for cues that he's tired. He might rub his eyes, become whiny or yawn. Some overtired babies may do just the opposite and act wound-up, confusing parents. Pay attention to your baby's unique cues, and it will be easier to determine when he's ready for bed. The American Academy of Pediatrics actually recommends that you put your baby to sleep before seeing these signs, so look for patterns in the time of day your child gets tired, and use that to gauge his bedtime.
V Is for Voice
When your baby is born, your voice is already familiar and thus has a positive effect on her. Shhhh-ing or speaking or in a soothing tone can help baby drift into dreamland knowing mama is safely nearby.
W Is for White Noise
Don't give your baby the silent treatment! In utero, your baby was used to constant sounds, like your beating heart and noisy stomach, so silence might be startling for her. Some babies sleep easier if you turn on a white noise machine or a fan.
X Is for XOXO
As if you needed another reason to shower him with hugs and kisses: "When you snuggle with your little angel before bedtime, you make him feel more secure and loved, allowing him to sleep deeper and longer," says Silva.
Y Is for You Are My Sunshine
From Brahms to Beyoncé, no matter what your song choice (one baby's rock concert is another's lullaby), singing is an excellent way to calm your sleepy sweetie and show off your vocal chops. Research shows singing helps to relieve stress levels, so your little American Idol session might leave you feeling relaxed too.
Z Is for Zzz
What's that sound? Nothing. Baby is sleeping. Now stop talking and enjoy the silence.