When I was pregnant, some of the most repeated advice that I received was to sleep when my baby slept. So when my son was up night after night and refused to take naps, I wondered how I was supposed to get any rest if my baby never slept for more than an hour or two at a time. I tried just about anything I could find to try to get my son to sleep more. If you've ever had a baby who wouldn't sleep, you probably tried several holistic ways to get your baby to sleep, just like I did.
Luckily, my wise aunt suggested getting my son on a sleep schedule and implementing a regular bedtime routine to help him drift off soundly and stay asleep. A gentle massage with lavender scented lotion before bedtime and a white noise machine in his room finally did the trick.
According to Dana Stone, an infant and toddler sleep consultant with Rest Assured Consulting, parents will try just about anything to get their babies to sleep. "As a pediatric sleep consultant, I work with families daily that are feeling the effects of sleep deprivation. There are so many lotions and potions and gadgets that claim to improve sleep. Simply put, parents are so tired, but they still want safe and effective strategies for their most precious gifts. They don't want to sacrifice their child's health or mental well being for a good nights sleep," she tells Romper.
This explains why parents might try going the holistic route when trying to find ways to get their babies to sleep. "Today more than ever parents are turning to a more holistic approach to wellness. And when we look at our total health, sleep is the absolute foundation," Stone says.
Have you ever gotten a massage and felt so relaxed that you just wanted to go right to sleep afterward? Just like a massage helps to relax adults, babies can benefit from the soothing aspects of massage therapy as well. According to The Baby Sleep Site, the practice of gently massaging infants to encourage sleep has been around for centuries, but has just recently gained traction here in the United States.
Stone says that babies can definitely benefit from massage before bedtime. "Incorporating infant massage in the sleep routine helps to not only create bonds, but can be effective in calming and managing stress at bedtime," she explains.
The Mayo Clinic suggested that parents wait until at least 45 minutes after babies eat to begin any massage in order to reduce the chances of vomiting. They also suggest that parents who want to massage their babies before bedtime do so in a quiet, calm environment, gently stroking their babies arms, legs, head, and torso, spending a few minutes in each area.
According to Stone, aromatherapy helps trigger sleep in babies. "Aromatherapy can be a great signal to the body that sleep is coming, the brain says 'OK, let's gear up all our sleep settings'" she says.
The use of essential oils is a hot topic of conversation in just about every mom group I am a part of. According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, some essential oils (such as those containing menthol) are not safe for babies and young children. However, they do recommend that when properly diluted or diffused, some oils can be safely used around babies.
The American Academy of Naturopathic Physicians recommends adding a drop or two of chamomile or lavender oil to your baby's bath in order to help them relax before bedtime. They also suggest the aromatherapy option of creating a scented sleep sachet of a cloth bag filled with loose chamomile flowers, lavender flowers, rosebuds, and lemon balm to place near your baby's crib. (Safely outside of it and out of reach, of course.)
3. Following Sleep Schedules
Jamie Engleman, a pediatric sleep consultant and owner of Oh Baby Consulting, says that keeping babies on a sleep schedule can help ease bedtime troubles. "I am a huge proponent of following age-appropriate 'wake times' when considering schedules for babies. I encourage my clients to follow averages for their child's age (i.e. newborn babies can really only tolerate 45-60 minutes of awake time before they need their next nap whereas 9-month-olds have the stamina and can handle wake times closer to 3-3.5 hours) especially until a nap schedule is established," she tells Romper. "Following age-appropriate wake times can make falling asleep and staying asleep much easier, so it is vital when teaching your baby healthy, independent sleep habits.
"When our body gets overtired, it begins to produce stimulating hormones that can lead to nap/bedtime protests and more frequent night waking. Being mindful and honoring our babies' sleep needs is just as important as all the other ways we as parents help to keep our children safe and healthy."
Stone agrees, saying, "I would say at the absolute core of understand a baby's sleep is setting them up for success with an age appropriate schedule the gets them to the perfect window of tiredness without crossing the border into over tiredness or exhaustion."
4. White Noise
As I mentioned earlier, using white noise is one of the ways I was finally able to get my son to sleep on a more consistent basis. Engleman is also an advocate of using white noise to soothe babies into sleep. "Not only is it reminiscent of the womb environment and can help fussy babies to settle, but it can block out environmental noise to keep babies sleeping — especially in those early morning hours."
White noise machines are typically inexpensive, and the volume can be adjusted to you and your baby's liking. In a pinch, there are several smart phone apps and YouTube videos that offer white noise that you can use to lull your baby to sleep.
According to a recent Romper article by Kristina Johnson who spoke with acupuncturist Ashley Flores, a point right between a baby's eyebrows is said to be the "sweet spot" when using acupressure for helping babies fall asleep. Gently massaging this area for even 30 seconds can help soothe your baby and guide them into a restful sleep. Flores also pointed out areas on a baby's back and the palm of their hand that may help to soothe your baby to sleep depending on what might be keeping them awake, whether it be tummy troubles or another type of ailment.
6. Adjusting Sleep Environment
Tonja Bizor, a certified Sleep Sense consultant and owner of Toja B's Sleep Consulting, recommends a dark room and comfortable temperature to help encourage better sleep for your baby. "As adults, we don’t remember what it was like to be a baby and not sleep so well at first. If you think about it, your own room is probably nice and comfortable temperature wise, your pillow is fluffed, and it’s dark and quiet. You’ve been doing this for so many years that you don’t think twice about it! Well, your baby needs the same type of environment," she tells Romper. "Make their room nice and dark. Use the blackout panels — these curtains work wonders at getting the room pitch black. The objective is to keep the sun out when it rises at 5 a.m. as we don’t want baby waking anytime before 6 a.m. to start their day. Keep baby dressed light so that they don’t overheat and are comfortable in a temperature between 70 to 73 degrees."