We’ve all been there before. You put your baby down for bed and he starts to cry. You leave the room and the crying escalates to a non-stop symphony. All. Night. Long.
As a mom, your instinct may be to run in the room and pick him up and hold him until he stops. But, when you do that the same cycle may rev up again. So, the big question is what do you do when your baby cries to sleep and how do you stop it?
The first thing to remember here is that there is no right or wrong answer. Some tactics are going to work for some babies, while others just aren’t having it. The same goes for parents.
The secret is to find out what works in your house and run with it. Let’s take a look at several solutions to try if your baby cries when put down for the night or a nap.
1. Make Sure all Needs Are Met
If your baby cries in sleep, there could be a viable reason. She could be hungry to the point that she’s become hangry or she may have just had a diaper explosion. Either situation would make you cry too, so don’t expect anything less from your baby.
Before bed, be sure that your baby has had a feeding or a bottle. However, you don’t want to get in the habit of them nursing or eating and falling asleep immediately. Eating or nursing can then become a crutch for falling asleep. Essentially you would be replacing one bad habit with another.
Try to feed your baby before they get too sleepy so that they’re full and ready for sleep. By the six-month mark, babies usually stop waking up in the middle of the night to eat.
If they still appear to cry for milk in the middle of the night, this may have just become a habit. Breaking this habit as soon as you can is very important. Although it can be hard to feel like you are ‘starving’ your baby, try not to think like that!
Most babies over the age of 3 months do NOT have to eat in the middle of the night. The reason that they cry for milk is because it soothes them back to sleep.
As for the diapers, we all know baby explosions can happen at any time. Checking your baby’s diaper before bed can at least put you in a good starting position for bedtime.
Make sure that your baby isn’t experiencing any discomfort. They don’t have to be sick to be uncomfortable. First, make sure that they don’t have a fever. Then check to see if anything could be bothering them. Is there a clothing tag that could be irritating their skin? Light shining in the room right into their eyes? A crease in their sock that is itching their foot? A hair tourniquet on their toe?
You may be surprised that simple things can cause them discomfort. If you don’t notice any external issues, they may be having digestive issues, such as gas, bloating, or acid reflux.
It’s hard to detect these issues, but pay close attention to times of day that your baby cries to sleep and take good notes! When you have enough data collected, let your pediatrician know. There may be a milk protein allergy or acid reflux issue that you had no idea about!
Related post: Six Month Old Daily Schedule: Feeding and Sleep Routine
2. Soothe Your Baby Before Bed
Babies like to feel safe and soothed. Before bed, you can try rocking him to sleep and even reading a story. When babies feel safe there may be less of a chance that your baby cries to sleep.
For newborns, doctors even recommend some non-nutritive time on your breast if you’re breastfeeding. Some parents opt for the pacifier, while others see this as a crutch. Again, it’s your call to find what works best for your baby.
Another pointer in the soothing department is to swaddle your baby if he’s small. This is something else that makes babies feel safe and can reduce the amount of time a baby cries in sleep.
Related Post: Establishing Healthy Sleep Habits for Your Baby
3. Make a Quick Appearance
Some parents like to go into the room and talk softly to their babies to help them get back to sleep. They’ll even give them a quick tummy rub to help soothe them. Sometimes if a baby just sees or hears their mother or father’s voice, they’ll feel safe again and can fall back to sleep.
The trick here is not to linger. If you do, you may become a crutch for your baby to fall asleep. This is one of those things that some parents try while others shy away from. You need to figure out if it’s something that works for you.
The Ferber method is a widely known technique for sleep training and one that I’ve used with my infants. It relies on the premise reducing the amount of comfort that you give your baby so they can learn how to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own. Read about How I Sleep Trained My Babies at 5 Months Old and Got Them Sleeping Through The Night Fast
4. Get in a Routine Early
Many sleep experts will tell you that a daily bedtime routine can be the key to your baby getting a good night’s sleep. Even when they’re little, babies can start to pick up on things. Your routine can go something like this:
When you put them to bed, make it quick. Sometimes if your baby cries in their sleep it may be because they don’t know how to self-soothe themselves back to sleep. If they can learn how to fall asleep by themselves, it can make it that much easier for them to soothe themselves in the middle of the night.
Also, when you put your baby down to sleep, try to put them down when they’re drowsy and not completely exhausted. Although they may cry at first because mom or dad isn’t close by, this can really help them to stay asleep longer and could minimize crying down the road.
5. Keep the Room Temperature Comfortable
Sometimes a baby cries in sleep because they’re too hot or too cold. Experts usually recommend a room temperature between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
While you never want to have loose blankets in the crib, you can try a sleep sack if you think the room is too cold for your baby. Some baby monitors come with a temperature room check that alerts you when the room gets too hot or too cold for your baby. This can also help if you’re not sure about the room temperature.
6. Be a Diaper Changing Ninja
If you realize that your baby is crying because of a dirty diaper, you obviously need to change it. But don’t turn all the lights on and make it a production.
If you can be a diaper changing ninja, you can stop the crying and the night can continue, hopefully without any more crying. To do this, have all your supplies ready and work with a dim light. Try keeping a nightlight close by or a small lamp to make it easier. I love the touch lights or even your smart phone’s flashlight.
Once the diaper is changed, put your baby back to sleep (on his back of course), give him a quick kiss and be on your way. This will decrease the stimulation and hopefully get him back to sleep quicker.
Should You Let Them Cry it Out?
There is a lot of debate about whether you should just let your baby cry it out until they eventually fall to sleep. That’s a decision only you can make.
Some parents worry that this will cause other health problems, however there is no research or evidence that it can. In most cases, the cry-it-out, or Ferber method, can work wonders on a baby’s sleep routine and give both mom and infant their first good night’s sleep in awhile!
Others are often concerned that there is something wrong if their baby cries for sleep or during sleep. If you notice the crying getting worse and uncontrollable, call your pediatrician to have your baby checked out. It will give you the peace of mind you need.
If all is well, keep calm and mom on, you’ve got this. Sweet dreams!