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1. Try massage: After giving your little one a nice warm bath, gently massage him from head to toe. Focus on the little one's scalp. Lay him in bed (or his crib if you don't co-sleep) and continue massaging while humming a song or singing softly. Dim the lights. Brush your fingers over his eyebrows and forehead. Watch his eyelids get heavy!
2. Invest in a good sound machine*. The white noise from a sound machine drowns out other distracting noises and may be a subtle reminder of the environment of the womb, where baby felt safe and comfortable and slept with ease before birth. We have noisy neighbors; our LectroFan sound machines have helped Phil (and us) sleep through the night.
3. Use motion. Notice how the little one falls asleep easily in the stroller or the car? Motion can lull babies to sleep. For the first three months of life, Phil fell asleep in a baby swing. You'd want to avoid overusing the swing though because it could flatten the back of a baby's head. We really liked the Snugabunny Cradle-n-Swing from Fisher Price*. Phil was around 20 pounds when he didn't fit in the swing anymore, though it's supposed to carry up to 25 pounds of baby. :)
4. Read a long, boring book. Make sure you use a soft voice and speak in monotone. It also helps to read the same book every night to set up a routine. Try this book: The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep*.
5. Avoid blue lights and screens at least two hours before sleep time. That means baby (or toddler) does not watch tv or look at device screens. Also avoid letting your little one play with toys that have blue lights. If this is not possible, lower the brightness on your screens (Night Shift mode with the iPad and iPhone.) Blue and white lights keep humans awake and alert, while dim orange lighting facilitates rest.
6. Feed your child. Notice how around midday, you're dying to take a nap, especially after having lunch? Your body is working hard to digest the food, and naturally, you'll get tired. Try feeding your little one an hour or two before sleep time. Don't forget to clean her gums and teeth after feeding!
7. Be flexible. It's okay to co-sleep with your child, as long as it's safe. Don't compare yourselves with other parents. Recently, a grandpa boasted to me about how well-trained his grandchildren are. At exactly 1PM, they nap. At exactly 7PM, they're tucked into their cribs and the door to their room is closed. They sleep through the night and wake up at 6AM. They passed the cry-it-out method and their caregivers monitor them using baby monitors. At first, I envied this family. At 10-months old, Phil would cry for an hour while standing in his crib. He never gave up. He wanted to sleep with mommy and daddy. And so now, the hubs and I share our bed with Phil. It's okay. We love co-sleeping with him. He feels happy and secure next to mommy and daddy. And he sleeps through the night just fine.
8. Use "props" or "baby lovies." Does your child have a favorite teddy bear? A favorite blanket? Pillow? Tell her that it's teddy bear's time to sleep. Have the "prop" rest next to your baby. Phil hugs his favorite teddy bear to sleep. Having this prop familiarizes Phil to our bed and his "sleep routine." We also recommend doing less stimulating activities in bed such as playing and jumping before sleep time. The bed is for resting and sleeping, and reading bedtime stories, but not for playing.
9. Try "baby hypnotism." I wave a soft cloth over Phil's face and he closes his eyes automatically. While doing this, I sing a "suggesting" song. "When you see this "bo-bo" (little cloth in Cantonese), you go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep. When you see this bo-bo, you go to sleep." It's our little routine and it has worked wonders!
10. Let baby hear you breathing. There's something about your breathing sounds and the scent of your breath (when it's not garlicky!) that calms your baby. Try mimicking sleep breathing when lying down next to your child. This could calm your little one and lull him to sleep. Add in a little bit of soft, fake snoring. Try out this trick and see what happens!
What we don't believe in...
Limiting naps during the daytime. When your little one is tired, you shouldn't deliberately prevent her from sleeping during the day.
Forcing the cry-it-out method. Baby is crying his lungs out for more than a hour for days in a row. You're stressed out and want to rip out your hair. Obviously, the cry-it-out method is not working. Our ancestors did not have separate nurseries and rooms for our children. Children sleeping alone is not part of our evolution. It's an invention of the busy modern world, an invention of convenience for busy parents. If it's stressing out your child, skip it and try another sleeping method.
Do you have any top tips to help new parents put their babies and toddlers to bed? Please share them with us!