Help Your Baby or Toddler Go to Sleep

Edited by Yuliya, Eng

How to get your baby or toddler to sleep

It's a struggle that many parents are all too familiar with: the dreaded bedtime. Getting your baby or toddler to go to sleep for the night or even for nap-time can be one of the hardest parts of parenting. Often, it's met with fussing, crying, and extreme frustration for both the child and parent.

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But it doesn't have to be like that! There are a number of tried and tested methods and tips that can help bedtime become less of a struggle. Believe it or not, you and your child may actually grow to enjoy it as a special time you share together as you wind down at the end of the day.

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Below are some of the most popular sleep training methods, as well as tips that have worked for struggling parents. Remember: every child is different; every family is different. What works for someone may not work for you. Just stay positive and keep trying, until you discover the one perfect method that gets your baby to sleep, well, like a baby.

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Sleep training methods developed by experts

Sleep training is mainly divided into two categories: tears and no tears. In other words, do you let your baby cry, or not? It's up to you to determine where you fall along this spectrum.

  1. 1
    Ferber method, aka Cry-it-Out. Developed by Dr. Richard Ferber (and supported by a number of other doctors), this method lets your baby cry while offering less and less soothing, and is considered by many to be controversial. This method shouldn't be attempted with babies younger than 3 or 4 months old, which is around the time your child is physically and emotionally ready to deal with it.

    The method involves putting your baby down when she is drowsy but not already asleep. You then leave your baby alone, even if she is crying. You then return to your baby after progressively longer periods of time - first 1 minute, then 3, then 7, and so on, until your baby falls asleep. The Ferber method encourages patting and soothing, but discourages picking the baby up.

    If done correctly, and if the baby's personality is the right kind for this method to work, this method has the benefit of teaching your baby to self-soothe, making bedtimes much easier as your child grows.
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  2. 2
    Sears method. Dr. Williams Sears is the polar opposite of Dr. Ferber. Sears is a supporter of "attachment parenting," or letting your baby call the shots. The Sears method encourages parents to be as nurturing and soothing as possible, since the first few months and years are when kids need the most nurture and reassurance.

    Sears recommends baby-LED sleep training, in which the parents observe their baby and go by his cues. He is also a proponent of co-sleeping, as well as rocking and nursing the baby to sleep. Developing a feeling of closeness with your baby, Sears believes, will help him associate positive nurturing feelings with bedtime, which will help him later on.
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  3. 3
    Hogg method. If Sears and Ferber both seem too extreme for you, Nurse Tracy Hogg's method might be more to your liking. Hogg falls right in between the two, encouraging comfort while maintaining enough distance to allow your child to develop self-soothing skills.

    The Hogg method simply says that every time your baby cries, you go and pick him up, soothing him, then put him back down. You repeat this until your baby is asleep.
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Tips for getting your child to sleep at night

Aside from these methods, there are plenty of little things you can do to make bedtime more enjoyable for everyone involved.

  1. 1
    Swaddle newborn babies. The tightness and warmth of the blanket reminds the baby of the womb, which is comforting to them. To find out how to properly swaddle a baby, check out our guide.
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  • 2
    Make sure nothing is bothering your baby before you try to put him down to sleep. Is your baby hungry? Cold? Make your baby as comfortable as possible to reduce the chance of fussing.
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  • 3
    Help your baby deal with gas. Your baby may be unhappy at bedtime because she's gassy. Try burping her, or lifting her knees to her stomach a few times to reduce the buildup of gas. If your baby seems to always have a problem with gas, you may want to consider changing your diet if you're breastfeeding, or the type of formula if you're not.
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  • 4
    Implement a bedtime routine from an early age. A bedtime routine gives your baby the comfort of set routine, and signals that it's almost time for bed. Make it fun but relaxing. It doesn't have to be fancy: bath time, story time, bottle or breastfeed, then sleep. A bedtime routine will also save you trouble when your child grows older!
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  • 5
    If your child is always full of energy, help her burn some. Try engaging her in a high-energy activity, followed by a wind-down (like a bath and story).
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  • 6
    Don't rely on feeding a baby to sleep. You may risk making your baby rely on the feeding, and that will make it more difficult for him to fall asleep at night after he is weaned.
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  • 7
    Try playing some soothing music or white noise. White noise, like static on the radio or a running vacuum cleaner, remind your baby of the womb and are often soothing. If white noise doesn't work, try music: you might discover that classical music works wonders.
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  • 8
    If your baby is old enough to have items in the crib, try a safe toy or small blankie. Getting her attached to a nighttime toy can help comfort her at bedtime. (Do not put anything large or with strings into the crib - nothing that can wrap around your baby's neck or cover her nose).
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  • 9
    Be flexible. As your child grows older, his routine will evolve with him. Bedtime might get earlier or later, depending on how many hours of sleep your baby needs at various stages of development. Teething, growth spurts, and many other factors can throw bedtime off. Don't get discouraged! Read your baby's cues. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for getting kids to sleep. Every child is different. Find what works for him!
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  • Tips for getting your child to nap

    Getting your baby to sleep during nap time is about the same as for bedtime, but with a shorter sleep-time routine. Often parents may find that their child takes a nap without a fuss but has trouble falling asleep at night, or vice versa. If your baby cries and objects to a nap, here are some things you can try:

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    1. 1
      As your baby grows, nap-time will change in frequency and timing. Young babies need more sleep than older kids, and might nap anywhere from three to four times a day. A one year old child may only need one nap.
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    2. 2
      Watch for signs of sleepiness like grumpiness and eye rubbing. They key is to put your baby down to sleep before he gets over-tired. Being too sleepy actually makes it harder for babies to fall asleep!
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    3. 3
      Don't let your child nap too close to bedtime. You can throw off her schedule that way, and make it harder for her to fall asleep at bedtime.
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    4. 4
      Try a snack or a drink a little while before nap time. If baby's tummy is empty or he's thirsty, he may not want to nap.
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    5. 5
      Check the baby's diaper, especially if you're doing a cry-it-out method. It can be hard to tell if your baby is crying because she doesn't want to sleep, or because she's filled up her diaper!
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    6. 6
      If your child absolutely refuses to sleep and nothing works, it's okay! Maybe he just doesn't need a nap that day. Some kids drop naps altogether shortly after their first birthday. Choose your battles - bedtime is more important than nap time. If all else fails, just try an earlier bedtime that day.
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    Additional notes

    • Be aware of SIDS: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. It's uncertain what causes this, but experts encourage putting your baby down on her back, not stomach, until she can turn over on her own. Do not put heavy blankets into the crib, and make sure your baby is not overheating.
    • Dentists recommend not putting your baby down with a bottle, as this has been shown to lead to cavities.
    • Remember that it will get easier with time! Many sleep problems are just phases. Expect ups and downs.



    • Andy Eick - Baby holding feet [1]
    • Lies Through a Lens - A Fathers Love [2]
    • D. Sharon Pruitt - Sleeping baby with arm extended [3]
    • Paul Goyette - Sleeping baby in crib [4]


    • About Health: Pediatrics - The Ferber Method [5]
    • Ask Dr. Sears - Get Your Baby to Sleep and Stay Asleep [6]
    • Tracy Hogg - Top Tips from the Baby Whisperer: Sleep [7]
    • Sleep Foundation - Perfecting Your Child's Bedtime Routine [8]
    • CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) - Sudden Unexpected Infant Death and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome [9]
    • Fisher-Price - Why shouldn't I put my baby to bed with a bottle? [10]


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    Categories : Baby & Toddler

    Recent edits by: Yuliya

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