Caring for a baby is equally exciting and exhausting, especially if your child is having a difficult time sleeping through the night. The good news: Sleepless nights won’t last forever, and there are some ways you can help your baby drift off to sleep.
Most babies don't start sleeping through the night—6 to 8 hours—until they are about 3 months old or until they weigh about 12 to 13 pounds. About two-thirds of babies are able to sleep through the night on a regular basis by age 6 months. But all children are different, and you might need to try a few different ideas to figure out what works best for your child.
Very simple bedtime routines can help your baby go from daytime wakefulness to nighttime sleepiness. Routines reinforce your baby’s circadian rhythms, the body’s natural clock. During daylight hours, our body’s clock tells us it’s time to be awake and active. As we transition to nighttime, our bodies start to wind down to go to sleep. A bedtime routine is another signal to your baby’s mind and body that it’s time for bed. Bonus: Establishing a bedtime routine with your baby can help you transition to sleep too!
A good time to start a bedtime routine is when your baby is about 6–8 weeks old. The best routine is one that works with your family's schedule and that you can keep up with most nights:
Reading a book together: Reading in a calm, soft voice is a great way to help your baby doze off. When you read to your baby each night, it’s a sign to your baby that it’s time to sleep, and it will help them get ready for bed. To get started, here’s a free book you can read to your baby tonight.
Nighttime cuddles and breathing exercises: Cuddling and practicing deep breaths with your baby can be a calming bedtime ritual. Hug your baby, and show them how to breathe in deeply and breathe out slowly. Learn more about calming breathing techniques.
A gentle massage: Massaging your baby has many benefits. It can help relieve gas, cramping, colic, and constipation. It can also encourage muscles to grow. Research has shown that a nighttime massage can help babies produce more of the hormone melatonin, which helps them fall asleep. Babies of any age can be gently massaged. When your baby is relaxed and content, get started by placing your baby on a towel or blanket on their back. Gently rub each body part, starting with their head and working down to their feet. If you’re going to give your baby a massage, here are two recommendations from doctors to keep in mind. First, stop the massage if your baby turns their head or stiffens their arms. If this happens, you can try the massage again another time. Second, don’t give a massage right after feeding.
Listening to calming lullabies: The soft, rhythmic music of lullabies helps babies drift off to sleep. To bring on sleepiness, hold your baby and rock them. The combination of soft music and rocking gives babies a sense of calm and security that helps them drift off to sleep.