While the saying ‘sleep like a baby’ hints that teeny tots are great snoozers, babies under 12 months are actually lighter sleepers than adults. According to Health Direct, they spend more of their sleep in ‘active sleep’ rather than ‘quiet sleep’. That’s why babies are pretty noisy while sleeping.
Babies also breathe shallowly, flutter their eyes and twitch their limbs while asleep. And because they’re such light sleepers they’re easily woken.
An adults sleep cycle is around 90 minutes, but babies sleep in 40-minute cycles.
How much do babies need to sleep?
While there are general guidelines on how long babies should be sleeping, it’s important to remember every babe is different.
Newborn to three months: Babies this little sleep throughout the day and night, and the total can be anywhere from eight hours to 20 hours a day. Remember that because they need to be changed and fed often, newborn sleeps can be quite short.
Three to six months: As little buttons get older, they tend to work out their days and nights. They may be having up to three daytime naps, of up to two hours each. Most little ones at this age sleep 14 to 15 hours a day in total – some will be doing eight of those hours at night. But many babies will still be waking at least once a night at this age.
Six to 12 months: Once our cherubs get past the six-month mark, their sleep patterns begin to mimic ours more closely. They’ll be sleeping about 13 hours each day in total, with their longest stretch of sleep at night – it tends to average 11 hours. You may also notice they’re fighting one of their day naps at this age, and lots of bubs drop their daytimes naps down to two naps of one to two hours.
50 ways to getting baby to sleep
It’s all very well to spout recommendations and averages, but what if you’re one of the 68% of parents whose babies aren’t sleeping?
We asked the huge Mum’s Grapevine community of mums for tips they do to get little ones off to sleep. From using a tissue to tickle their faces (yes it really works!) to magical songs that send sleepy vibes, here are the top tricks to keep up your sleeve for when sleep just isn’t happening.
Prepare to watch sleep come, thanks to these 50 ways to get baby to sleep.
1. Face baby into the sunlight
Baby’s face into the sunlight: Like all of us, babies will close their eyes as soon as it gets too bright, so try shifting their focus towards the sunlight (not directly into the sun of course!) and watch those little peepers get heavier.
“I used to do this with my baby when we were out and he was struggling to sleep and it worked a charm!” – Caz
2. Face tickle
Face tickle: One’s as simple as running your fingers down baby’s face in a gentle, repetitive motion. Check out the video above to see just how quick it works.
3. Vacuum the nursery
Vacuum the nursery: We don’t know why but some babies just love the noise of the vacuum cleaner. So – two birds, one stone – get bub to sleep and get the nursery spick and span in one!
“I put the vacuum on under the bassinet.” – Christabelle
4. Use a white noise app
Sleeptot app: This one works on the idea that babies aren’t used to silence, so it creates everyday sounds to help baby fall asleep. It has more than 30 white noise sounds (like hairdryer, car ride and fan) and lullabies.
5. Rock the pram
Rockit ($59.95): Rocking the pram is a great bicep workout but if you’re keen to outsource, this nifty device does the rocking for you. Just attach it to the pram and it rocks the pram at adjustable speeds.
6. Use a tissue
Tissue trick: Use a simple tissue, and like magic, the eyes close and all is silent. Have a watch of the video above to see the technique at work.
7. Bounce around with baby
Bounce a little: Babies love movement, but if you’re too exhausted to keep jiggling on your feet, why not combine a home workout with getting tired little cub off to sleep.
“I bounce [with bub] on a yoga ball.” – Karli
8. Give a scalp massage
Baby scalp massage: Take one of the best parts of getting your hair washed and transform it into a baby sleep technique. Genius.
“Massage bub’s scalp. She is 13 now and will still ask for a scalp massage at bedtime, not all the time but if she is having trouble falling to sleep. Within 2 minutes of the scalp massage, she is sound.” – Julie
9. Do a sneaky feed
Feeding over the bassinet or cot: Some mums swear by feeding baby while they stand over their bassinet or cot. Then it’s just a case of quickly popping your sleepy bear straight into the cot.
“I would breastfeed him to sleep while hovering over the cot so I didn’t wake him up putting him down.” – Samantha
10. Try the bedtime fading technique
Bedtime fading: A smart little technique that’s worth knowing about. It involves gradually reducing the amount of time you help getting bub to sleep until eventually, they need less and less help from you. Find out more in our article about bedtime fading.
11. Get in the cot
Get in the cot: Ok, it may be a last resort, but if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Just work out an escape plan before you get too comfy, as the dad in the video above discovered!
“I had to get into the cot with my bub on a handful of occasions when she was younger!” – Mandy
12. Play music
Some babes just love the sound of music as they go to sleep, but you may be surprised what actually works to lull them off. Some do adore a good lullaby, but according to the mums we asked, these are some the songs that work a treat to get their bubs to sleep:
- Blackbird – The Beatles
- Moonshadow – Cat Stevens
- Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley
- Here Comes the Sun – The Beatles
- Don’t Funk With My Heart – Black Eyed Peas
- Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You – Lauryn Hill
- Who Let The Dogs Out – Baha Men
- She Will Be Loved – Maroon 5
- All My Loving – The Beatles
- Don’t Want to Miss a Thing – Aerosmith
- Isn’t She Lovely – Stevie Wonder
- Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple
Find the full list in our article on the best 25 songs to help baby sleep.
13. Use a sleep balm
Badger Sleep Balm ($14.95): A little natural hit of essential oils that promote relaxation, this balm is olive oil and beeswax based, and only has a mild scent.
“Love Badger balm for my baby. All natural, no nasties, and not too pungent” – Tanya
14. Bumpy pram ride
Sleep Rumbler ($69): Some babies just love falling asleep in the pram, but prefer a rougher ride with bumps. It’s not really ideal to bundle them into the pram at 9pm when they won’t sleep, so this device gives a simulated bumpy pram ride. All you need to do is push the pram back and forth over it.
15. Go for a drive
Drive baby around: If day naps are a struggle, the bump and hum of a car ride may just do the trick to get your little speedster into the right mindset for sleep.
16. A calming bath
Calm Baby Oil Bath Milk ($34.95): A calming bath with lavender and chamomile is a tried and true way to get wee ones into the right mood for sleep. This bath milk by Gilly Goat transforms the bath into a magical, soothing soak for tired bubs.
17. Try a shushing sound
The Baby Shusher ($44.95): Sometimes all it takes a is the rhythmic sound of ‘shhh’ to get a tired tot to sleep. This nifty device outsources the ‘shushing’, and repeats a gentle shhh sound until bub is asleep.
18. Use a baby carrier
Use a baby carrier: Very young babies love to fall asleep with the warmth of mum or dad next to them, so to give your arms a rest, pop bub in a carrier and walk around. Once they’re asleep, transfer them to a cot or bassinet.
19. Pick up, put down method
Pick up, put down: This involves comforting bub by holding them, then putting them into the cot before they’re fully asleep. If they wake, just keep repeating – pick up and comfort, but put down before fully asleep – until they are asleep. The goal here is that this will eventually become a cue for sleep.
20. Pram ride in the fresh air
Pram ride: A combination of movement and fresh air is usually a winner for babies who are fighting sleep. So lace up your runners and get pavement pounding.
21. Try a dummy
Try a dummy: Some babies just need the comfort of sucking to get them settled for a sleep. Even if you’ve tried a dummy previously, some babies take a few goes before they get the hang of it, so it’s always worth another try.
22. Give bub a massage
Jack N’ Jill Serenity Moisturiser ($14.95): Settling and grounding, a gentle massage gets babies into a calm state, ready for sleep. Use a little of this moisturiser for a gentle massage, with its soothing aromatherapy blend of White Cyprus extract, Australian Lavender oil, Clary Sage oil and Chamomile oil and you’ll be wanting a nap too!
23. Trying swaddling
Snuggle Hunny Kids Wrap & Beanie set ($49.95): A soft, stretchy jersey wrap to keep snuggly little bunnies warm and content. So many babies sleep better swaddled, with their arms kept close to their bodies, to avoid being woken by their own startle reflexes.
24. Do squats holding baby
Baby squats: Get your workout done while getting baby to sleep. The up and down movement mimics some of the movements while bub was still in the womb, and babies love it!
25. Diffuse essential oils
Aroma Diffuser Night Light ($79.95): Using soft lighting and a hint of calming essential oil this diffuser blankets baby’s room with dreamy scents and mood lighting. Just add a few drops of essential oil and the ultrasonic fairies will do the rest.
26. Try a sound sleep aid
Ewan The Dream Sheep ($89.95): This smart little guy can sense when baby is stirring and will come to life with soothing heartbeat sounds to gentle steer baby back to sleep.
27. Read this magic book
The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep ($19.99): The number one best-selling book that is helping kids to fall asleep the world over. It’s worth a try! Work it into your nightly routine even before baby can understand the language, the soothing sound of your voice may just be enough to send them off to sleep.
28. Put on a light show
Oricom Secure 870WH ($359): Get a baby monitor that does double duty as a sleep machine, like this Oricom beauty which has a built-in starry night show. Bub watches the shapes dance on the nursery ceiling and drifts off to sleep.
29. Try the football hold
Baby football hold: Sometimes just a change of position makes a world of difference in getting bub to sleep. Some babies prefer to drift off on their bellies so do it safely by using the football hold, then placing them to bed on their back once asleep.
30. Use mum’s scent
Use mum’s scent: Watch this precious poppet instantly settle once they can smell mum. Some mums slip their t-shirt over the baby’s mattress so they are laying on their scent. Just remember to keep safe sleeping guidelines in mind.
31. Try a rocking chair
Sleepytime Rocker ($849): It may be soothing motion, or the cuddles, or a combination of both, but babies just adore rocking chairs and are very partial to falling asleep in someone’s arms while they’re rocked.
32. Use a heartbeat sleep aid
Heartbeat Animals ($39.95): Capture the sound of baby’s heartbeat during an ultrasound and record it on the special heart, which is then placed inside the adorable animal. Pop it next to your little pudding’s cot and they can be comforted by the same sound they heard inside the womb.
33. Turn on a fan
Turn on a fan: Have a fan going in the nursery and the white noise sound is said to be golden for sending babies off to sleep.
34. Give co-sleeping a go
Bednest Co-Sleeper ($399.95): Sleeping right next to mum or dad is sometimes all it takes for baby to drift off to sleep. The Bednest makes co-sleeping a cinch and comforting in the middle of the night is so much easier.
35. Try a teething gel
Jack N’ Jill Teething Gel ($12.95): It could be fresh little toothy pegs coming through that’s keeping bub from sleeping, so trying dabbing on a little natural teething gel to take away the ache.
36. Block out the light
ergoPouch Window Blockout ($34.95): Bub may need the room a little darker, so invest in some of these clever, re-usable window blockouts, which also help regulate the room temperature.
37. Use a pram cover
Cozigo ($99.95): A universal pram cover that fits all stroller, bassinets and airlines cots giving bub the best chance of sleeping if they prefer less distractions and light, while still being able to feel the fresh breeze while out walking.
38. Play a lullaby
Star Glow Cube ($25): A clever cube that plays a variety of lullabies including Baa Baa Black Sheep, Home Sweet Home. Mary Had A Little Lamb, Oh My Darling and London Bridge is Falling Down.
39. Use a dim light
Meelight ($79.95): If your little mini-me likes to stare into your eyes while falling asleep, use a dim light like the Meelight to maintain a presence, without needing bright lights switched on.
40. Try a room spray
Euky Bear Sleepy Time Room Mist ($5.99): Spray the soothing scents of lavender and Chamomile around the nursery if things are taking a turn for the worst. The calming smell may even start a new sleep association.
41. Pop baby on the dryer
Moses basket on the dryer: So many mums swear by this one! Pop bub’s moses basket on top of the dryer as it’s going. There’s something about the vibration that sends babies to sleep. Of course, you have stand with at least one hand on the basket and watch over bub if you’re going to try this one.
42. Use a cuddly comforter
Kippins Cotton Cuddle Blankie ($35.95): A lightweight, cotton cuddle buddy perfect for snuggling and having close by. Include it in the wind-down routine early on in bub’s life so it becomes a sleep association when they’re old enough to snuggle it in their cot.
43. Play this magic song
Magic sleep song: Scientists have crowned the song ‘Weightless’ as the most relaxing song on earth. Have a listen and see if it puts bub to sleep before you nod off!
44. No eye contact
No eye contact: Some experts recommend reducing the amount of eye contact you make with your little cutie-pie for about 20 minutes before bedtime. It aims to reduce stimulation and excitement.
45. Pop on a sleeping bag
ergoPouch Swaddle Bags ($54.95): Getting bear cubs all comfy and cosy with their arms safe from startling is a brilliant sleep association. Just pop bub into the swaddle bag and up goes the zip – that’s it, sleepy bears are ready for bed.
46. Make the room cooler
Drop the temperature: We’re all worried that our bubs are going to be cold while sleeping and that sometimes mean we have the heat too high. A safe sleeping temperature for babies is between 18 and 22 degrees.
47. Change into natural fibre clothing
Nature Baby Organic Cotton Pointelle Kimono Onesie ($29.95): Nobody likes itchy pjs and this could be the reason why bub won’t settle. Pop something natural next to their skin like this organic cotton onesie for a peaceful slumber.
48. Sit next to baby
Sit next to baby: Similar to bedtime fading, in that you sit next to your sleep fighter’s cot in a chair until they go to sleep. Each night, move the chair a little further away until it’s finally out of the nursery.
49. Try these hypnotic tricks
Hypnotic tricks: More than one million people have watched this video by hypnotherapist Scott Sandland, who shares four easy techniques to get baby to fall asleep. No, they won’t wake up clucking like a chicken!
50. Give it a rest
Try again later: It may be that your little nugget just isn’t tired, is over-tired, or just doesn’t know what they want. Try a change of scenery, pop on some Netflix and just relax together and when bub is settled again, start the sleep routine again.
Read next …
Looking for more ways to help baby sleep at night? Pop into one of these articles for handy tips and ideas:
- 10 tips for a calmer bedtime routine
- Healthy habits to help babies sleep through the night
- The best baby sleep aids available in Australia