Hey, Sleepy Baby’s tips, tricks, and advice

We talk to pediatric sleep specialist, Coterie Council member, and mom of three Rachael Shepard-Ohta

by Coterie Team

New parenthood is filled with deep love but also many sleepless nights. When you’re exhausted and in the thick of it, it’s easy to feel like you’re doing something wrong as a parent.

So we turned to Rachael Shepard-Ohta of Hey, Sleepy BabyOpens in a new tab. for some gentle reassurance and expert advice on the often emotional topic of sleep.

It’s normal for babies to wake up at night.

It’s just a matter of how much support they need to fall back asleep. Consistent bedtime routines, appropriate daytime sleep (not too much and not too little!), a high-quality absorbent diaper, and good full feedings during the day and before bedtime can help prevent excessive wakings.

For light sleepers, blackout blinds and under-door stoppers can prevent light from entering the room, and a sound machine—at a safe volume and never near baby's head—can muffle unwanted noise. If diaper leaks are happening regularly and waking your baby up, check the fit—it’s probably time to size up!

If your baby wakes often and you feel in your gut that something is off, definitely rule out anything medical that could be causing discomfort.

It’s normal for babies to need closeness.

Many of us assume that babies will sleep when they’re in their bassinets or cribs, and that’s not always reality. Your baby is adjusting to life outside the womb, and their needs are met when they’re in your arms.

If you don’t mind the snuggle naps, they can be healthy for parent and baby. If you need more freedom during the day, use a carrier or soft wrap to keep them close while doing what you need to do. Babies love to be held, cuddled, and rocked—that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them or you!

Routines can be super helpful.

You don’t have to live your life by the clock, but consistent bedtime routines can help little ones sleep better and longer. They can also give them a sense of control and predictability—it can be calming to know exactly what will happen each night.

Incorporate calming elements like rubbing baby’s back or rocking them, nursing or bottle feeding, singing a song, or playing soft music can signal that it’s time for sleep. Use light and dark to your advantage by getting outside first thing in the morning and dimming lights in the evening.

Finding the right bedtime is also helpful. If your baby takes longer than 20-35 minutes to fall asleep, it’s an indication they aren’t sleepy enough, and you may want to push bedtime back a little.

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ sleep solution.

What works for one family won’t work for another. Some parents get lucky with “unicorns” who sleep long stretches right away, and others won’t have a 12-hour night until toddlerhood or later. Neither family is doing the “right” or “wrong” things. Sleep is largely made up of genetic and temperamental factors, not to mention culture. All babies are different and on their own timelines!