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Tips for Getting Your Newborn to Fall Asleep

Tips for Getting Your Newborn to Fall Asleep

We've all heard the expression 'sleeping like a baby'.....but in reality, getting your baby to sleep is often harder than it sounds!!!

We find that the most common reasons for a baby crying are hunger and tiredness. In hospital there is often a big focus on learning to breastfeed (or dealing with learning to bottle feed if that is your option or choice)......but it's rare to be taught to identify when your baby is tired and how to get them to sleep.

Often it's assumed that a new baby knows how to fall asleep, or that a new parent knows how to get their baby to sleep. But we find that neither is true!!!

Where to start

Here's a bunch of tips to help get your newborn to relax and nod off once they show they are either tired, or become overtired:

Bad habits or spoiling?

Helping your baby to sleep when she is a newborn is not 'spoiling your baby' or teaching her bad habits!!! Babies have had 9 months of help inside the womb, so allow a couple of months for your baby to adjust!.

There is plenty of time to learn about self-settling and teach your baby to sleep independently once she has adjusted to life outside the womb.

Be determined to get your baby to sleep

Once you have seen your baby is tired, or over-tired, you must be confident you can get your baby to sleep. It may take a combination of a number of these techniques to get your baby to nod off, and that's absolutely fine as your baby will often need help to get to sleep in the first couple of months.

Don't give up after 5 minutes of patting or try white noise once and decide it doesn't work!

Different techniques work at different times, and if your baby is over-tired (eg after visitors or a trip out) you may need many more tricks and it may take much more effort to get baby to sleep.



We think swaddling is the most essential skill for new parents after feeding! Swaddling replicates the snug space baby is used to and ensures that her moro reflex (flailing arms) doesn’t wake her up.

Swaddled babies generally settle quicker and sleep longer at each sleep. A swaddled baby can also be more easily resettled if they wake too soon (ie they wake up before you expecting them to need a feed).

The majority of babies love being swaddled but they like it done right – a wrap that comes undone easily will not calm baby or improve sleep. Choose a swaddling wrap that is soft, stretchy and plenty big enough (at least 1m x 1m for a newborn) to follow your wrapping instructions.

See our swaddling information section for swaddling instructions, FAQ and our easy-wraps category for instant swaddling.

Ignore your baby's protests while you are swaddling. Often babies are over-tired by the time you are wrapping them, rather than that they don't like being swaddled.

Side/stomach position

If your baby is crying after being wrapped, having a nappy change or getting dressed, try rolling her onto her side or stomach. You can do this on the floor, in bed or carrying her.

Often just the change from baby lying on her back will stop the crying.

However we firmly advise you to sleep your baby on her back to reduce the risk of SIDS.

However if your baby settles easier and sleeps better on her side, use a Safe T Sleep. Please ensure you read and follow the instructions for safe side-sleeping. We do not recommend the use of sleep wedges for side sleeping, as these are not always safe - a baby can still roll onto their tummy and become wedged inside the wedge face down.

White Noise - Sssssshing

Babies are used to loud swooshing noises inside your womb, so a quiet bedroom is likely to further upset a crying baby rather than help calm her.

White noise is recommended to replicate these womb sounds rather than playing lullabies to newborns. You will be amazed at how effective white noise is for settling a baby and also for helping babies resettle during a sleep.

See our detailed information on using white noise and view our range of white noise CDs and devices.


Sucking dummies

In an ideal world your baby would be put into bed at just the right time, nice and relaxed and fall asleep easily. However many newborn babies fall asleep by sucking or crying.

Many babies want to suck for comfort, and are not coordinated enough to suck their own fingers until they are at least 4 months old. You may want an alternative to your little finger or breast for comfort sucking to get your newborn to fall asleep.

Dummies/soothers/pacifiers can be an absolute godsend, and often make for much happier babies and parents. If your baby likes a dummy to fall asleep, then fine! Don't feel bad about using a dummy - in the USA it's now recommended that all babies use a dummy as research has shown reduced risk of SIDS for dummy users.

Avoid introducing a soother until breastfeeding is well established, and always offer once baby has been calmed with swaddling, side/stomach and white noise (rather than putting it in while your baby is screaming!).

See our detailed information on using dummies.

Forehead stroking

One of the best secrets for getting a baby to nod off is stroking their forehead. Swaddle first, put on some white noise and pop in the dummy if using one.

Then firmly stroke your baby's forehead, from the bridge of the noise upwards. It works much better to go upwards, rather than the downwards which is more commonly used. Stroking in a small circle can also work well for some babies.


Your baby is used to being rocked for at least 16 hours a day inside your womb, so being left lying still in a bassinette will be very strange for her!

You can easily replicate womb movement by rocking or jiggling your baby, which is an excellent way to calm crying and help your baby nod off in the first few weeks.

If your baby really needs movement to fall asleep, try a bouncinette, sling, Moby Wrap, front pack, waking in the pushchair or an electric swing. If you are using movement, you will find combining swaddling and movement is much more effective.

If going for a walk, look for somewhere bumpy, such as walking on grass or gravel.

We recommend that you only use movement in the first couple of months, and only when your baby really needs it to get to sleep.

We firmly recommend that by 5 months your baby can settle without rocking or jiggling, as otherwise this inability to self settle will cause additional night waking.

Feeding to sleep

If your baby is really tired and struggling to settle, feeding may be just what is needed to get her to nod off. Breast milk is particularly good for making babies drowsy, so it's quite usual for tired newborns to drift off while feeding.

However babies who are fed to sleep often wake quite soon after, either with wind or because the nice, warm cuddle is no longer there (after mum has put them into bed asleep).

We recommend that you aren't using feeding to get your baby to sleep after she is 3 months old, as continued feeding to sleep will likely cause continued or increased night-waking after this age.

For more about feeding baby to sleep read our article here.

Back patting

If you want to put your baby into bed awake or they need help to resettle once in bed, back-patting can be very effective. As above, combine with swaddling, white noise and possibly a dummy.

Roll your baby onto their side, and firmly and rhythmically pat her back. If she is struggling to fall asleep it may take quite a few minutes before you see an impact of your patting.

This can be a good technique as your baby gets older and you want to rely less on rocking or feeding to get to sleep.

See the Baby Whispering DVD for a demonstration of back-patting to get baby to sleep.


Warm, deep bath

If your baby is upset and needs to wind down before getting into bed, a lovely warm bath can be really effective. You can use a baby bath, but we find that a deep bath with mum or dad is much more effective.

Make the bath as warm as you usually enjoy it yourself and deep enough that baby can really relax and float. Cover her tummy with a face-cloth so she feels secure and doesn't get cold.

Make sure you have everything you need ready before you get in the bath, such as somewhere warm to get dressed, a hooded towel, clean clothes and a nappy. Until you are confident getting in and out of the bath with your baby, have someone help you or put baby in a bouncinette next to the bath and reach over for them once you are in.

Baby massage

Some babies find a gentle massage can really help relax and get ready for bed. Make sure that your baby is warm, and it can help to have most of their body wrapped in a wrap or blanket, and just massage an arm or leg at a time. For further reading using baby massage to calm crying view our article here.

Use a natural oil, such as Almond Oil or see our lovely range of massage oils here.

Highly recommended information

The Sleep Store highly recommends 'The Happiest Baby DVD' for simple and effective techniques to get your baby to sleep. See our introduction to the Happiest Baby Five S's technique here.

Dr Harvey Karp is the master baby calmer! His techniques are easy to learn and incredibly effective. After reading his book or watching his DVD, you will stun and amaze your friends and family as you confidently calm your crying baby and she sleeps fabulously from day one!

Dr Karp teaches the 5 S’s – Swaddling, Side/stomach position, Ssssshhhing, Swinging and Sucking – fabulous techniques to replicate the environment your baby has enjoyed for nine months.


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