Everything You Need to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night

Baby girl yawning on bed

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The minute you bring your new baby home from the hospital, you start working toward one singular goal—getting more sleep! It’s not an easy task for the first weeks and months, mostly because it’s not developmentally appropriate for a newborn to sleep for more than a few hours at a time, even at night.

But did you know that “sleeping through the night” is usually defined as any stretch of nighttime sleep that lasts between six and nine hours? So while you may not be able to bask in blissful, feeding-free silence from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. yet, by the time your baby is three or four months old it’s reasonable to expect one nice, uninterrupted snooze at some point during the evening hours.

The only problem is that your baby may not have gotten the memo that sleeping through the night is the next item on their milestone to-do list. (Plus, why sleep all night when you could wake your parents up and have food brought right to your bedroom instead, right?)

Thankfully, it’s not a lost cause. If you’re desperate for more restful hours at night, here are the products you can purchase that may just help your baby sleep longer.

Crib or Bassinet

If your baby has been sleeping literally anywhere they could catch some zzz’s, that’s fine in the short-term—but once you want your baby to log some serious sleep hours, it’s time to move them into a crib or bassinet. This will not only promote deeper, more restful sleep than if they were snoozing in a swing, rocker, or on your chest, it’s safer for them, too.

Putting your child in a safe sleep environment will reduce their risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and can help them become a more independent sleeper who is less reliant on you, or constant motion to sleep through the night.

What You Need

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all babies sleep on a flat surface free of soft bedding like pillows, crib bumpers, blankets, or stuffed animals. Any safety-rated crib or bassinet with a fitted sheet or mattress covering will suffice. 

Swaddles

If your baby is waking repeatedly during the night but doesn’t seem hungry, it may be that their moro reflex is still strong. Swaddling can help simulate the womb environment and keep them cozy, preventing them from constantly waking up.

There are several different kinds of swaddles available, from straps that wrap around your baby with velcro to ones that confine your baby’s arms and legs in a zippered sack, but always make sure that the swaddle you use allows your baby’s mouth and nose to remain clear of fabric.

What You Need

You probably won’t know what kind of swaddle your baby likes best until you try a few different styles. Your baby may prefer it when their arms are fixed down by their sides, or they may like having a little bit more freedom to move (like the ability to bring their hands up closer to their face).

Whatever you end up with, make sure you have several on hand. If your baby soaks through a diaper or spits up during the night, you may need to change swaddles as often as you change their jammies. 

White Noise

If you’re tiptoeing around the house at night trying not to wake your baby, you should invest in a white noise machine. Designed to create many different kinds of ambient noise, these nifty little devices can make your baby’s nursery sound like it’s inside an beachfront villa or a cabin in the woods, in the middle of a peaceful thunderstorm or the roaring center of a wind tunnel.

Either way, your baby will be less likely to notice—and be disrupted by—random noises outside their bedroom, plus many babies (and adults!) appreciate sleeping to some kind of sound rather than sheer silence.

What You Need

You can run out and buy a fancy white noise machine with all kinds of bells and whistles like remote operation and built-in, LED, color-changing nightlights, but there are quality machines that will just get the job done for cheap.

All you need is a few noise settings, volume control, and maybe a timer option if you don’t need the sound running all night. And in a pinch, a basic box or oscillating fan is a great “noise machine,” too.

Wearable Blankets

It’s important to keep your baby comfortable at night if you’re hoping to have them sleep for a long stretch, but since it’s not safe to tuck your baby into their crib with a blanket, you may want to dress them in a wearable option like a sleep sack.

Similar to a swaddle but without any restriction on movement, a sleep sack is basically a blanket with arm holes designed to fit over your baby’s pajamas. Because it’s closed at the bottom, it can’t ride up or accidentally cover their face during the night, and with options in lightweight cotton, flannel, and fleece, you can choose the sack best suited for the season or the temperature of your child’s room.

What You Need

At least two, in case you need to swap one out during the night for accidents or spit-ups. It’s smart to begin with two or three lightweight sleep sacks and have maybe one or two heavier-weight ones for cooler nights. 

Overnight Diapers

One of the most common reasons your baby may wake up during the night, aside from demands to be fed, is because their diaper is overly wet (and possibly everything else they’re wearing, too).

You can prevent this from happening at least some of the time by switching to overnight diapers, which are usually designed to hold more liquid, fit more snugly to the body, and cover your baby higher up on their stomach and back than daytime diapers. 

What You Need

You'll definitely need at least one overnight diaper per night, though two is a safer bet. The specific brand and style that works best for your baby is totally subjective, so start out buying small packages and experimenting with how well they work before committing to a value-size box.

A Bedtime Routine

Infant sleep specialists emphasize the importance of establishing a bedtime routine when it’s time to teach your baby to fall asleep—and stay asleep—on their own at night.

For the routine, consistency is key; performing the same activities at around the same time every night will create a sleep association to those activities, sending a message to your baby that sleepy time is happening soon. They’ll learn to pick up on those cues eventually and get to sleep faster.

What You Need

Anything that tells your baby it’s time to unwind: lavender-scented baby bath soaps or lotions, favorite board books (nothing too stimulating—stick to calm stories!), room darkening window treatments, cozy PJs, and anything that makes ambient noise.

As with most other sleep-related products, what helps your baby snooze will be very subjective—focus on finding patterns in what you do at bedtime and how well your baby sleeps that night to identify what you need to have on hand for a restful slumber.

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  1. SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment. Pediatrics. 2016; 138(5). doi:10.1542/peds.2016-2938