So Your New Baby’s a Night Owl: 5 Secret Tips Every Parent Should Know for Getting Baby to Sleep at Night
By Joan Whetzel
If you are reading this, you’ve either have a baby who stays awake nights, or you know someone who does. It’s not that the baby stays up all night crying, it’s just that the baby has his or her clock reversed, Your little night owl was born into a family of day people. So how do you change your little night owl’s clock? Well it may take a few days to a weeks, but it can be accomplished.
Changing Baby’s Clock – The Basics
The first thing you will need to do is observe the baby to see what conditions help him or her sleep better, and what conditions keep the baby awake. For example, with my second child, I noticed that when it was dark and quiet, it triggered him to stay awake, and when it was bright (lights on) and noisy (TV blaring, dishwasher running, vacuum purring away), he fell right to sleep. Spend about 2 to 3 days paying attention to these triggers. Once you figure out your baby’s sleeping and waking triggers, you have an arsenal of ideas to begin reversing their clocks. Use the sleeping triggers to get the child to sleep at night and the waking triggers to keep them awake during the day. And it may take a little time to get your baby’s clock reversed, but once you do, you can cut back on the triggers and use only one or maybe a few (2 to 3) to make sure the cycle change really kicks in.
1. Music and Sound
Some babies sleep better when it’s quiet and, in fact, are disturbed when sounds interrupt their sleep cycles. Other babies, like my son and one of my granddaughters, love sound and can’t get to sleep without it. Try a multitude of sounds to see what works
- Turn on the stereo, either with CDs or a favorite radio station. Find a style of music that the baby likes to listen to: easy listening, jazz, classical, rock, or even the style of music that seems to be lumped under the New Age genre.
- MTV or any TV show that provides continuous sound is often a help. Think about it, if you’re watching TV during the day, and you notice the baby dropping off every time the TV turns on, well you might have to watch a little late night TV in order to get him or her to fall asleep.
- Singing has been known to work for centuries. And no you don’t have to be a professional singer. Your basic shower singer skills are just fine.
- Have a party. Both of my kids could fall asleep anywhere as long as there were people around and it sounded like they were either going about their everyday business or having fun. They just needed the commotion.
- Invest in a white noise machine. They make sounds like a heartbeat, the ocean surf, the lapping of water on a lake shore, the wind in the trees, frogs and crickets. These natural sounds are soft and continual, and they drown out the silence.
- Turn on the vacuum, the washer and dryer, run a bath. Normal household activities like these produce sound that the baby probably heard while you were pregnant (speaking to the moms here). These sounds are familiar to most babies and have been known to trigger sleep.
As an alternative, if you find that a lack of sound keeps your baby awake, then turn off all these things and watch the silence bring them to full consciousness during the daytime.
Yes, I’m coming back to the television. Sometimes it’s not just sound that triggers sleep, but a combination of sound and something visual that works as the trigger. TV offers not only the sound but light and motion. For those babies who are wide awake when it gets dark, you can keep them awake during the daylight hours by turning off the TV and anything else that produces the sound and light show.
Some babies have visual triggers that help them sleep. Night lights, hall lights, turning on all the lights in the house, or using one of those units that display a light show on the ceiling may work wonders in getting them to sleep at night. To keep the baby awake during the day. Turn off all the lights and the TV, close the curtains, and make it as dark as possible during the day.
Some babies respond to vibration as a sleep trigger. Taking them on a car ride or placing them in a car seat on top of the dryer, and turning the dryer on, knocks them right out. Keeping the still keeps them awake.
It may not be vibration, but gentle motion that puts your baby to sleep. Try using a walker or baby swing, walking around or dancing with them in your arms (or in a papoose), swinging with them at the park or on a porch swing. As with the vibration technique, the lack of motion keeps them awake.
Try any of these techniques, in any order and in any combination, until you find the combination that gets your baby to sleep at night and keeps him or her awake during the daytime. Gradually pare back until you use only those that keep the baby asleep at night. Once your baby sleeps well at night, he or she will be more likely to stay awake more during the day. On the other hand, if you find ways to keep the baby more active and awake during the day, you will most likely find that the baby sleeps better at night. Play around with the ideas, tweak them to your needs, and soon enough you will find your baby’s clock on the same schedule as yours.