10 Valuable Solutions for Helping Children to Sleep

A toddler in a crib trying to sleep for helping children to sleep main header image.

As parents, we know that a good night’s sleep is not just vital for our child’s well-being but also crucial for our sanity. Let’s face it: a tired mom can find it challenging to prioritize their health and self-care needs amidst the demands of parenting. Listed below are 10 tried and true sleep solutions for helping children to sleep so that us moms can work on our own health and self-care needs.

I want to preface this by saying I am not a sleep consultant- but I am an avid researcher. I have spent hours upon hours researching baby and toddler sleep. There are many great sources of sleep information online and my favorite ones are listed at the end of this post.

Good sleep has been shown to help with brain development and improve language, attention span, and mood – just to name a few. This post is for the moms that understand that their child getting adequate sleep is so beneficial not only for their kids, but for us moms too!

While every child may be different, I am confident that some of the following points on this list may help a struggling mom out.

helping children to sleep quote: prioritizing sleep to you can get more self-care

10 Valuable Solutions for Helping Children to Sleep

Initiate an age-appropriate sleep schedule

Babies and toddlers thrive on routine. When they know what to expect from their day, children can anticipate when their naps and bedtime will be. 

A sleep schedule can be started as young as 6 weeks old. It usually consists of following wake times specific to your child’s age and adjusting the schedule as the child ages.

 A schedule adjustment may also be needed if you’ve had a well-established schedule and you notice your child taking longer to fall asleep or they are waking up from their naps earlier than usual. 

Follow Wake Times and Sleepy Cues

Wake times are crucial in determining your baby’s sleep needs. I remember when my 6-week old wouldn’t sleep the ENTIRE day – and all I wanted was an hour to myself. I didn’t understand why she was not sleeping! 

When I discovered what wake times were my whole post-partum experience changed! Who knew that babies should only be awake for a certain, specific time? And that if I followed this wake time and prevented them from getting overtired, then it was so much easier to get them to sleep? 

There are many wake time charts for each specific age that you can find on google. Wake times are just a guide – they are usually pretty accurate but it is also important to watch for sleepy cues. Sleepy cues are most reliable for babies under 4 months old and they can really help to nail down what your child’s wake time is.

wake time chart for babies

Practice Drowsy but Awake From a Young Age

I’m sure you’ve heard the term “drowsy but awake” and thought it seemed ridiculous. The truth is it can be a bit unrealistic. It is definitely worth a try, though, as it can help teach babies to follow asleep by themselves and lengthen their naps or night sleep. 

The key to this is finding that “sweet spot” where your baby isn’t overtired but also not under tired. Using the above tip, try to follow their wake time and watch for those sleepy cues (yawning, red eyebrows, rubbing eyes, “the stare”). You may need to play around with wake times within 5-10 minute increments from the recommended guide to find that perfect balance. 

Try setting them in their crib or bassinet super drowsy, not completely asleep, and walk away. Laying the baby down while they are sleeping and then lightly tapping them so their eyes open, then drift back to sleep, is another option.

If your baby just will not let you put them down drowsy after a couple attempts, it is best to just get them to sleep however you can and preserve the schedule. Also, you don’t want them to get too overtired. Keep trying. With time-  it may just happen!

Feed More During the Day

The more your baby is fed during the day, the less they will need at night. As babies, this is typically every 2-3 hours. If you’re breastfeeding, this is making sure they have full feedings (eating from both breasts) and no snacking. 

Do whatever you have to do to keep them awake so you can ensure they are getting enough to eat during the day! When your baby naps for longer than three hours, you should wake them up. 

Don’t Feed Them Right Away During Night Wakings

Once you get permission from your pediatrician to not have to wake your baby for feedings at night, you can work on eliminating some night feedings. Often, babies wake up in the middle of the night and it might be out of habit, comfort or they just don’t understand they are supposed to be sleeping for longer periods yet. It may not necessarily be because they are hungry.

You can try various redirection techniques, such as putting their pacifier back in, turning up the sound machine, rocking them, or shushing prior to feeding them. If all efforts fail, then feed. The Taking Cara Babies newborn class goes over this in great detail and is a valuable resource if you’re really struggling.

Both my kids had one night feeding at three months, and dropped to zero by six months of age. From my research, most experts agree that no night feedings are needed after seven months.  

Once you feel your baby is ready to drop night feedings altogether, you can google “night weaning” as there are many guides to do this.

Use an “OK to Wake” Clock

This is a game-changer and a must have for any parent! There are quite a few options out there but I have been using the Hatch Rest + sound machine. It can be used to signal when it’s time to wake up and teach your child to lay quietly and wait for this “signal”.

helping children to sleep

The key is to select a time you want your baby to wake up each morning. Most sleep blogs that I have followed recommend a morning wake up by 7 am at the latest if your children are still napping to ensure there is time to get the naps in that they need. 

Once you have the morning wake up time, you can either pick a color to schedule to come on at that time every morning or check your monitor and turn it on manually.

You then have to immediately go into their room so that they understand the direct correlation of the light coming on. If you wait too long, they won’t understand that it’s “time to wake up”. This can be used for nap times too!

I implemented a “wake up” light for both of my children and found that they caught on quickly that it was not time to wake up until that light came on. Using the Hatch nightlight, I would have the white noise on all night long and schedule the light to come on by 7 am. If I woke up earlier than this, and looked at the monitor and they were awake – I would sometimes wake them up earlier (as long as it was after 6:30 am).

There doesn’t seem to be an age limit to begin this trick. With my youngest, I started as early as 3 months old. By 6 months, I could check the monitor at 5:30 or 6 am and sometimes she would be awake, just lying there quietly until I turned her light on. 

This also worked with my oldest until she learned she could get out of bed around 3 years of age. Now at age 4, we still encourage it, but sleep behavior just gets more complicated when they know they can get out of bed at night!

how to use the OK to wake light to train your child to lay quietly in the crib until the light turns on

Pre-Nap and Bedtime Routine

Having a routine before any kind of sleep not only helps your child wind down, but also lets them know what they can expect. Again, routine and expectations really help your child learn that you’re not messing around when it comes to their sleep. You can even use the Hatch nightlight as part of your ritual as well! 

Prior to naps and bedtime, I will play a “lullaby” song on my sound machine to signal it is time for bed. We will then read books, change diaper, rock, etc. then change to white noise when it’s time to go in the crib. I usually spend about five minutes on a nap routine, but 10-15 minutes at bedtime.

Teach Your Child to Fall Asleep Independently

This is probably the most valuable point on this list. While sleep training is a highly debated topic, I have found that it is so beneficial for both the mother and the baby. You’re teaching your baby a skill that will ultimately improve their livelihood, and yours as well. 

When your baby knows how to fall asleep on their own, they will often put themselves back to sleep in the middle of the night or in the middle of a nap – leading to more sleep for YOU and more TIME to yourself. 

There are many ways to teach your child to fall asleep independently – it does NOT have to be “cry it out”. There are a few no cry options online to, but I am personally a big fan of the Ferber method. This was seriously a lifesaver with my oldest. 

This method allows you to check on your child after short intervals of crying. It really only took 1-2 nights of interval training for her to fall asleep without making a peep. 

While the Ferber method recommends gradually increasing the interval times you check in on your child, you could try keeping them shorter if you’re scared or nervous to try it. If you’re only comfortable letting your child cry for 3 minutes at a time it is still helping them learn to fall asleep on their own as you are still not assisting them to sleep.

With my youngest, I implemented the drowsy but awake from the newborn stage and I NEVER had to sleep train her. She already knew how to fall asleep independently. I think a big part of this was I had a very needy high maintenance toddler, and I couldn’t always get to her as fast as I wanted to when she was crying or awake from a nap. 

Crib Hour

Essentially, this is nap training. Leave your child in their crib for one full hour after they fall asleep if they are on two to three naps per day, and two hours if they are on one nap per day. 

If your child is already trained with the OK to wake clock, and comfortable lying in their crib awake, this solution should go smoothly. The goal is for the baby or toddler to learn that they should be napping for this length of time, and hopefully teach them to fall back asleep. 

Be Consistent Through Sleep Regressions

Once you have a great routine in place, and have successfully taught your child how to fall asleep independently, it is very important to be consistent! Sleep regressions happen and as your baby gets older, they will try to test you more and more. 

It’s OK to give in occasionally, but from experience, sometimes they need a little tough love for the behavior to change. 

For example, my almost two-year-old would start crying for me at bedtime until I stayed in the room with her until she fell asleep. I did this for two nights, and realized the behavior was not changing. Finally, I had to try the Ferber method with her again and let her cry for short periods. The good news – it only took one night of training and she was back to her old ways!

Don’t let all your had work and well-established routines go down the drain, and try not to let bad sleep habits become the new normal.

My Favorite Sleep Resources

Motherhood comes with a unique set of challenges, and carving out time for self-care may seem like an unattainable dream. By providing your baby with healthy sleep habits, you’re not only ensuring their health and happiness but also making your well-being a priority as well. 

These 10 valuable solutions to helping your child sleep are just a small fraction of the information that is available out there. I have two favorites when it comes to everything sleep. 

1. Taking Cara Babies: You can follow her on Instagram for TONS of free tips and resources, and she has a website with a lot of free information as well. Comprehensive sleep courses and phone calls are also available for a price. I did pay for the newborn sleep course when my first child was born and it helped IMMENSELY.

2. The BabyCenter App Sleep Forum: Do yourself a favor and download the BabyCenter app. Join the group “Teaching Your Baby and Toddler To Sleep”. The very first post in this group says “Featured”, and has very detailed information on newborn and toddler sleep. Click on “Sample Sleep Schedules and FAQ” and you can find wake times, example schedules, and a FAQ answering all your sleep questions. 

You can also make your own posts that can be answered by sleep experts, or search for specific posts in the forum that may answer your questions.

Hope These Help You Prioritize Self-Care

Whatever it is that you need to prioritize your health and well-being – these tips are for you. The moms that get when their child is getting better sleep this means they are thriving, and everyone else in the household can thrive too.

Which of these solutions did you find the most helpful? Did you try any of them, and what are your thoughts?

*This post does contain Amazon affiliate links. I only promote products that I truly believe will help other mothers, and receive a small compensation when a purchase is made.

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