How to teach baby to fall asleep yourself

Get sleep coach Jeanette's best advice for getting baby to sleep even without screaming.

Once you've taught baby to fall asleep on his own, you can say goodbye to hours of rocking in your tired arms, or miles of stroller rides. Learning to fall asleep on your own doesn't have to involve the infamous goodnight-and-sleep method, but can easily be done on your and baby's terms. Read on to learn more about your baby and sleep.

Life as a new parent can undoubtedly be tough. One of the hardest things for many is probably the battle for sleep. Walking around with a dead tired baby in your arms who just won't surrender is frustrating in itself.

If you want your baby to be able to be put to bed and then close his eyes and sleep soundly, read this page.

We've consulted sleep coach Jeanette Wegge-Larsen. She says: If sleep is an area that can challenge many families with young children, it's because children (in the same way as adults) expect to fall asleep in the same way every time they go to sleep. Children sleep in waves of light and deep sleep, including during their naps and at night. And if their sleep association means food, jumping on a ball or being cradled in mum or dad's arms, they are likely to wake during sleep and expect this to be repeated. "

Read on to find out how your family and your new baby can get started with good sleep routines, and especially what expectations you can have of your toddler.

How can you teach baby to fall asleep by himself?

When your baby comes into the world, he or she doesn't know the difference between day and night. There will therefore be limited rhythm for the first 3 months of your baby's life. Sleep coach Jeanette says "Newborns fall asleep while eating and sleep in phases of light and deep sleep evenly distributed throughout the day. Therefore, knowing the difference between night and day is something that we parents can help children with over time. "

But what do you do if baby parties all night and sleeps long hours during the day? Here's the answer.

Knowing the difference between night and day is something that needs to be learned. In the first months, you can keep baby in a dark room and at night, and not start activities such as toys or TV at night. For most tired parents, however, this will come naturally, as we sleep at night ourselves and want peace and quiet.

Focus on security in the first months of baby's life

"In the first 3-4 months, parents should focus on getting to know their child and giving them a safe and loving start in life. But beyond that, even before children become too conscious, it can be wise to help them develop good sleep habits by guiding them in the right direction. " says Jeanette, going on to stress that there is no hard and fast rule as to when babies can fall asleep on their own. Every child is different. She finds that children with sleep challenges can have personalities that mean they are very alert, attentive, curious and full of life.

Does your baby need to be rocked or breastfed to sleep?

Will your baby only sleep with his breast in his mouth? Or should you cradle your little one in your arms until you feel your body is about to say no? It could also be jumping on a pilates ball with your little one, going for a walk in a pushchair or a wrap, or any other habit you think has got out of hand.

The frustration of bad habits can be great. But for your baby, it's not a bad habit, it's a sleep association. That is, a ritual or movement that your baby has associated with falling asleep.

When children are used to being e.g. rocked or breastfed to sleep, they will expect to be so every time they wake up. It is therefore a habit that you can help your baby to "step out of" in a safe way over time. "If their sleep association means food, jumping on a ball or being cradled in mum or dad's arms, then they are likely to wake during sleep and expect this to be repeated. " says Jeanette.

So even if you want to put your baby to sleep easily, you can't expect him or her to fall asleep on their own if they're not used to it. It's something you'll have to work on eventually to wean your baby off, and it can take time.

Create a cosy nap routine

Time is your friend when you have a baby with sleep challenges. Remember that the vast majority of babies are more than 3 months before they start sleeping at fairly regular times. And even after that, there will be periods of teething, tetling or illness that can mess up the routine.

Nevertheless, you can help yourself and your baby along by creating a cosy nap routine that you repeat every time baby goes to sleep.

The routine may consist of a particular song, a book or a reassuring massage. Try to work on separating food and sleep before nap time. Create an enjoyable but manageable ritual that you repeat over and over again. Children love repetition as it makes them feel safe and then they know what's going to happen.

However, make sure you keep the ritual manageable for yourself, so that it doesn't become exhausting for baby to have a bath or 8 bedtime songs every night, for example.

Jeantte's best advice for a good nap routine

  • Eventually, separate eating and sleeping so that children don't expect to eat in order to sleep. 
  • Keep the temperature in the bedroom cool
  • Close the curtains when you start to put so the room is dark
  • Your baby should be tired, but not overtired
  • Remember that all babies are different and there is no fixed age at which you can expect them to fall asleep on their own

Repeat this again and again until your child is comfortable and falls asleep

  • If your baby gets upset, angry or frustrated, don't hesitate to pick them up in a vertical position, comfort them and then put them back to bed.
  • Say to the child "I am here", "I am comforting you" and "You are just supposed to sleep".
  • Put them gently and lovingly back to bed

Little ones can quickly become uncomfortable at nap time, worried that mum and dad might not be there. So as a parent, you need to show your child that it's okay and safe to fall asleep in their own bed.

Safety is always the most important

If your baby is completely out of it and your own patience no longer exists, Jeanette advises parents to pick up the baby and hold it close until things calm down again, then try again tomorrow. The most important thing is that your baby is safe at all times and doesn't get scared or too upset in the changing situation.

Is your baby tired or overtired?

It may sound obvious, but it's important that your baby is tired enough to sleep, but not overtired of course. "Children's reaction to fatigue is quite the opposite to adults'. You will typically find that instead of becoming lethargic and inactive, children become more active and will often subconsciously try to produce adrenaline when they become tired. This is because it is the only way they can stay awake. If parents misinterpret this reaction, children can become overtired. And overtired children are even harder to get to sleep. " says sleep coach jeanette. The key is to put your child to bed when he or she is tired, but not too tired.

Some children are hard to read and may have turned night and day. That's why it's a good idea to work on bedtime being around 7-7.30pm. This is because children need to sleep between 10 and 12 hours a night until well into school age.

This article has been prepared in collaboration with sleepcoach.co.uk where you can find more information and help.