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Making sense of sleep advice for babies

The most common topic new parents Google is sleep. And it's no wonder why: when the baby isn't sleeping, you're not sleeping.

Unfortunately, when your tired eyes fall on the list of search results, you see a lot of contradicting information and advice. You must "Ferberize" your baby, but also sleep training is bad, but it's okay if you wait til they're 6 months but only if you do it this way. Co-sleeping is dangerous and should be avoided completely but never let your child sleep alone in a separate room. Give your child a dark, quiet environment to sleep in but also expose them to light and noise so they can't only sleep in silence.

It's enough to make anyone feel like their head might explode, even someone fully rested.

The best advice is probably also the least helpful up front, which is that every baby and every family is different and you have to figure out what is best for you (as long as it's safe, of course).

Many people start their parenting journey with firm opinions on the things they'll never do: I'll never sleep train! I'll never let my children sleep in my bed! But that's a mistake. Not the methods, but the approach and the attitude. By drawing those lines in the sand, you're making decisions without all the information and putting too much pressure on yourself to stick to it.

One of the important lessons of parenting is learning to take things as they come, to pivot when you need to and to give yourself a break. If you haven't had a good sleep in days or weeks or months, you're not doing your family any favours by trying to "tough it out" to stick to your plan.

Instead, have an open mind and give yourself some options that are safe. If all your baby wants is to sleep next to you, plan for that. It's far better to have learned about safe bed-sharing and have your bed set up properly than to accidentally fall asleep with baby surrounded by pillows and blankets and wake up in a panic.

If you just have to put baby down to get a breath, a drink of water, a minute alone, that's okay. Letting your baby fuss or cry briefly to get yourself a mental health break is not the same thing as leaving them to cry it out to exhaustion.

The most important thing is to know that sometimes your plans and ideas don't go exactly the way you want them to and to be as prepared as you can. Because the truth is, sometimes nothing you try will work and those nights are rough. If you can limit them, though, they're a little easier to handle.

If you read this and are now saying, "Thanks for nothing!", I get it. And I won't take offense because I know you're tired. ;)
But just to try to earn back your favour, here are a few things to try to get baby to sleep:

  • Get them moving: try a swing, bouncer or something with vibration to soothe your little one to dreamland. Or grab your tennis shoes and take them for a relaxing walk to lull them to sleep and get some fresh air for yourself.

  • White noise: there are TONS of white noise options - many toys and baby gear comes ready with nature sounds, white noise and music - but not all work for every baby. Rythmic white noise like womb sounds can be effective for calming crying babies and soothing them to sleep. For some it needs to be relatively loud, especially if they're upset.

  • Wrap them up: Some babies need that snug feeling to sleep, to calm their startle reflex and feel secure even out of mama's arms. Try out swaddle sacks like this one sold here at Moonbun and swaddling blankets to see if it's the trick to a longer sleep.

  • Check your schedule: some babies are more adaptable than others, some need a firm schedule to get into good sleep patterns. Follow your baby's cues and if it seems like things aren't structured enough, look at things like keeping a consistent nap schedule, enforcing day and night with lights and noise during the day and quiet at night, or starting early on a predictable bedtime routine.

Whatever it is that works for your family and keeps everyone sane and as well rested as possible is best. And once you figure out what that is, get ready because it's all probably about to change. 😁

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