Get Baby To Go Back To Sleep

It's the end of the day,  and you’ve done everything you think can to make the process go smoothly. You have completed  feedings, you're making sure the baby is on their back in their crib. You get them down to sleep, you finally have some quiet downtime and then they wake up. What now?

If you have ever experienced this type of frustration and confusion, you are not alone!

First of all, sleep disturbance in babies is completely normal. We have talked about sleep stages in previous blogs which if you haven’t read yet, do so here and here! To summarize a bit, new born babies are not going to sleep through the night. Babies will begin their life by sleeping in short bursts that usually total around 13-16 hours of non consecutive sleep as stated by the AAP. As the baby grows, sleep patterns should become more stable, especially when sleep training and routine are implemented. Many parents report sleep stretches of around 6-8 hours around the 6 month mark!

So this being said, assuming the baby is around that 6 month mark, but is still having a hard time with waking up at night, what can we do as parents or caretakers to help get baby to sleep again quickly and efficiently? Thankfully there are many tactics to be utilized but before we can talk about quick fixes for a baby that wakes up, let's talk about a few ways to try and prevent waking up before it happens..

Bedtime routines

This may seem like such an obvious thing but it can be easy for busy parents or caretakers to forget to be consistent with a bedtime routine. We often get caught up in day to day life and think that skipping the routine once or twice won't hurt. Think again! 

According to  we really need to begin the bedtime process around an hour before we want the baby to go to sleep. Just like in big people, babies need time to wind down to signal to their brain “it's time to sleep”. The Cleveland Clinic explains that this is directly related to cortisol levels which is the hormone that regulates our sleep wake cycle. In babies we need to help lower this level at the same time every night to start training their sleep cycle and circadian rhythm. 

Picking an easy to stick to routine is a great way to start! This could mean, giving the baby a warm bath, dimming the lights, reading a book, giving a massage, the list could go on and on! The point is there is no one right way to do a bedtime routine as long as it is a relaxing wind down time for the baby! You know your baby best, so whatever works for you that you can stick with is a great idea!

Bonus thought: a bedtime routine is also a bonding time for you and your baby! Even though it may not always feel like it, try and treasure those times you have as they are laying the foundation for a long term relationship! 

Bedroom Prep

This is also overlooked when analyzing why a baby may be waking up in the middle of the night. If a baby's room is too bright, too hot, too cold, too loud, or too quiet (to name a few), it could negatively affect their sleep cycle (talk about princess and the pea type pickiness!).

A couple things to implement in baby’s sleep space would be blackout curtains, a noise machine, and to make sure the temperature is set to around 68-72 degree fahrenheit (20-22 degrees celsius).  These may seem like minute details, but the best measures are preventative measures!

Try Swaddling

There are many benefits of swaddling, but one in particular  is the prevention of the Moro Reflex. According to Stanford Children's Health the Moro Reflex is a common occurrence in babies where the baby throws head and neck back in an arcing motion. This reflex is a response to loud noises, or sudden movement, but it can also be a startle reflex while asleep, causing the baby to wake up and be too scared to fall back to sleep.

Swaddling can in many babies prevent this reflex all together or atleast help the frequency of occurrence. Many babies feel safer in a swaddle as it mimics the safeness and warmness of a womb. When feeling safe babies are less likely to wake up to begin with.

At Embe, we know the importance of a swaddle catered to your baby's unique needs. This is why we have so many options  to choose from! Arms in or arms out, preemie, short sleeve or long sleeve, there is definitely something for you.

What to do if baby still wakes up

You may be thinking to yourself, “I have a nighttime routine, I have a great sleep space setup and I have an Embe swaddle (shameless plug!) that I absolutely adore and my baby STILL wakes up frequently throughout the night.”

Don’t worry! There are tactics we can use to help a baby get back to sleep quickly and quietly. Prefacing this, you know your baby best and if you feel something is truly wrong, always speak to a doctor about your concerns. But if you feel a baby is just waking up because they're waking up, here are some things you can do quickly to get them back to sleep!

Don’t Rush To Comfort

While this may seem controversial, what is meant by this is, do not take every sound coming from the baby as a sure sign that they need to be comforted. If the baby fusses, give them a couple seconds, see if they settled on their own. If they do start crying, try to get to them before they get too escalated (there are varying practices regarding this when sleep training).  BabyCenter speaks on the importance of catching baby before they are fully awake. Once you can learn the difference between normal fussing, and fully waking up, you will be better able to differentiate between when your intervention is needed or not!

Keep Soothing Calm

Babies are so easily stimulated since everything and anything is new to them. Even just maintaining eye contact with your baby can encourage them to stay awake longer. If a baby wakes up in the middle of the night and you need to soothe them, try to do so calmy, and quietly. 

Healthline suggests gentle rocking and consistent shushing noises to soothe an irritated baby. While doing so try not to create an exciting environment around the baby. Keep the lights dim or totally off, try not to talk to the baby in a loud way that encourages them to wake up further. Keep everything calm and quiet.

Feeding or Pacifier

If your baby seems to be waking up due to hunger, try feeding them until they are drowsy and almost asleep. At this point, put them in their crib so they fall asleep where they will wake up. This can help them feel more secure in their surroundings.

Another option is presenting a pacifier. Babies are comforted by the sucking reflex. This is why many breastfed babies will hang onto the breast even when done feeding. Having a bedtime pacifier to offer if baby wakes up can be a great way to help baby get back to sleep quickly

Reconsider the Diaper Change

Unless the baby is overly wet or has gone number two, it's really not a great idea. A diaper change is a great way to fully wake up a baby, and we want to do everything we can to calm down those cortisol levels so they can quickly and successfully get back to sleep!

You Know Your Baby Best!

Much like everything when having a baby, nothing is a cookie cutter approach. If you are feeling lost whenever the baby wakes up, experiment! Try humming, a massage, or rocking, try feeding or a pacifier, there are so many options! Once you figure out what works best for you, stick with it!

Just know, it does get easier.

March 15, 2022 — Janeve Helmbold

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