How do I settle my baby to sleep?

Most babies need help to get to sleep in the first few months. We have age-specific advice below, but as a rule of thumb, try to settle your baby when they’re dry, warm, and drowsy.

baby sleeping

Tips for babies of all ages

  • Put baby down awake, but sleepy. This helps them get to sleep on their own. It also avoids them waking in a panic, not knowing where you are.
  • Look for signs your baby is tired before they get over-tired. These include rubbing their eyes, staring into the distance, and yawning.

Babies under three months

  • Try swaddling your baby with a light sheet or blanket. Ask your midwife or health visitor how to do this if you’re not sure.
  • Play ‘white noise’ in the background: a running washing machine, vacuum cleaner or app all work well. We recommend the White Noise Lite app.
  • While they’re in their crib, gently stroke your baby between their eyes and down their nose. This relaxes them and encourages them to close their eyes.
  • Rocking your baby will help them fall asleep, but beware of doing it too often, or after three months old. They may not be able to drop off without being rocked.

Babies three to six months

  • If your baby falls asleep while feeding, wake them by winding them, sitting them up or rubbing their back. Then put them down to sleep.
  • Keep a comforting soft toy or small, familiar-smelling blanket close by.
  • Don’t leave your baby if they’re distressed. Soothe them for a few minutes before laying them down again.
  • Start a bedtime routine: a regular routine lets baby know when it’s time to sleep.
  • If they continue to grizzle but aren’t distressed, try to comfort them without picking them up. Place your hand on their chest and gently shush them before retreating. Repeat this as you need, but leave longer gaps each time you go back to see if they settle.
  • If your baby is teething, massage their jaw area, or use a teething gel. Sometimes teething babies will only settle after a feed, so it can help to adjust feeding and bed times.
  • Try a baby sleeping bag to stop them wriggling out of their blankets and getting cold. Just make sure it’s the right thickness for the weather.

Babies above six months old

  • It’s common for a six-month-old to fall asleep on their last feed. If they do, try feeding them a little earlier, and read a story before bed.
  • Introduce a bedtime routine if you haven’t already.
  • Give your baby a soft toy or small blanket they can self-soothe with.
  • Around eight months, babies tend to have a little separation anxiety when you leave the room. Just stick to what you’ve been doing, and soothe your child by shushing and patting in the cot.
  • Avoid rocking baby to sleep at this age.
  • If your baby has started to stand in the cot, lay them back down, quietly say “it’s time to go to sleep” and leave the room. Do this as many times as needed – and remember, this phase won’t last. Taking turns with a partner, if you can, makes this less tiring on you too.
  • Think about moving your baby to their own room so you’re less likely to wake them.
  • Avoid bringing your child into your bed if you don’t normally co-sleep, except as a last resort. They’ll get used to this and will expect it every time they wake.
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