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How to Get Your Baby to Sleep Faster
Cover all the essentials...
I'm assuming you've already covered these areas many times over, but make sure your baby isn't hungry, gassy, sick or in need of a new diaper. That way you can make sure the essentials are taken care of. They are really the only thing your baby needs to have taken care of before bed, every thing else is extra and often only provided by parents who feel guilty when their baby cries at being put down in bed.
Soothing Lavendar Bath
If bath time is already a part of your nightly bedtime routine, grab some organic lavender bath oil to add to the water. If bathing isn't a part of your regular night time schedule, you might want to consider it to help with bedtime. Lavender is a unique herb that has a scent that is very soothing and relaxing. If you add it to your regular routine, you'll find it much less of a hassle to get your baby down into bed at night.
A Little Camomile Tea
You only want a few teaspoons for a baby any younger than 8 months, and only a little more than that for a baby over 8 months. Camomile tea is really useful, especially if your baby is particularly gassy and/or generally restless at bedtime. You can add some to a bottle of milk, have it in it's own bottle or just use a dropper to give it to your babe. Just make sure you either make the tea yourself, purchase your tea from a trusted organic store or get your tea from a source you trust. You only want chamomile and water in it, nothing else.
This is one my mom used when I was a baby that worked very well. Simply turn on a radio, tape, CD or record player with some soothing quiet time music. You can use meditation music with the sounds of the ocean, some kids bedtime songs or just some soft music you enjoy. Make sure it is loud enough for them to hear it, while not being loud enough to keep them awake listening to it.
Tick Tock Clock
Your little darling might just enjoy sleeping on you or having you hold them because they can hear your heart beat, and that is very comforting, especially if they haven't slept on there own to much since they were born. So you might consider adding an older style clock to their bed, as the "tick tock" rhythm of the clock is just like your heart beat.
I have also heard of some toy companies who have manufactured teddy bears and other plush toys that come with a heart beat sound maker. Either way, this might just be your ticket to getting your babe to sleep on their own a bit easier at night.
Let Them Cry
This seems to be the hardest thing for most parents to do, while it's also the best way to get your baby to sleep at night. It's commonly called "sleep training", and it's best to begin it by 3 months of age at the latest.
Once your little darling has been fed, burped, gotten a fresh diaper and been held for 30 minutes or so, it's time for them to lay down in their own crib to sleep. After that, you should either leave the room for a little while or you should sit at the opposite end of the room. Sitting in the room is often harder on the parents then leaving the room, but if you really feel that bad about letting them cry it out for a bit, then sitting in the room can allow you to talk to your baby occasionally to let them know you haven't abandoned them, but that you're not going to pick them up every time they cry.
Personally, I find that it's best to start out as early as possible with sleep training, usually with small increments that increase over time, especially if you are a parent that likes to sleep with your infant as long as possible. If you start out during the day at nap times when you already have things you can busy yourself with, it will make it easier. Take care of their immediate needs and then set them down for a nap. If they are already asleep it will make things easier, but put them down even if they aren't fully asleep, then leave the room. When you hear them cry, first give them between 2 and 5 minutes before you rush in. When you go in, check their diaper, make sure they aren't gassy, maybe give them a hug and then leave the room again.
After a few days of that, take a longer pause between going to see them. Turn that 2 to 5 minute wait into a 5 to 8 minute wait, then 8 to 10 minutes, then 10 to 15 minutes and so on. By doing it this way, you slowly get them used to the idea that when you put them down for a nap and leave the room, you aren't abandoning them and you will make sure they are safe, taken care of and loved, but that you aren't going to rush in right the second they cry just because they want you to.
This process might seem difficult when they are so young, but it is much easier then trying to get a toddler or preschooler out of your bed later on down the road. Especially since young babies just don't realize that you're not disappearing. Once your little one reached 6 to 12 months, they start to realize they can use crying and tantrums to get attention from you, even if they really don't need it. So if you start sleep training them early, you and they will both develop healthy sleeping habits and a stronger bond.
Just remember, letting your baby cry themselves to sleep sometimes is not going to hurt them or you. It might feel wrong at first, it might seem sort of mean and make you feel guilty for a while, but even if you're starting late in the game, you are still doing what is best for your child. They need healthy sleeping habits and they need to feel secure. When they cry just to get you to hold them or give them attention and you keep giving it to them, you are continuing to make them feel insecure. By sleep training your youngin, you are helping them to develop confidence in you and in themselves.
In complimentary fashion to the above tips, if your little one is still having a hard time getting to sleep at night and you are tired of it taking hours to get them to sleep, you might consider having them nap less during the day. If they are still very young infants, this might not be a viable option, but if they are at least more than 6 months old, you can keep them up and active through nap times to get them to sleep easier at night.