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How to get baby sleepy without milk

Introduction – But what do you do instead?

Almost all of the families that we work with want to help their little ones to learn how to fall asleep independently, and to move away from things like feeding and rocking to sleep. But getting down to the nitty gritty: what should you actually do instead of a feed or rock in order to get them sleepy?

Step 1

Whether you prefer using a routine with set timings (our sleep programmes have routines from 4 weeks - 4 years, click here to buy) or going by awake windows and looking out for tired cues, getting your timings right is step one and a big key to success.

Step 2

Read a story. This is a really good thing to include as part of your bedtime and naptime routine and a good alternative instead of the “feed” in terms of winding-down. As babies get older and their play becomes more active, a 5-10 minute wind-down taking them from “play mode” to “sleepy mode” is key. Reading a short story with your little one on your lap gives similar feelings of calm and closeness that doing a milk feed does and babies love repetition.

Step 3

Cuddles and kisses. After putting your story away, have a minute or so of cuddles and kisses whilst holding your little one and telling them you love them. If your little one is currently being rocked to sleep this is where your instincts would be kicking in to start rocking but hold still! Step 4

Sing them a lullaby. Have your sleeping bag laid out in the cot or crib and sing to them as you put them down into the cot and zip them into their sleeping bag. The same lullaby every time you put your baby down is great and will act as a final cue for your little one that it is time to sleep. Say “goodnight” and turn any lights off at this point and white noise on if you’re using.

Step 5

Settling. For younger babies, staying in the room right by the cot and stroking and shh-ing works well. For older babies and toddlers giving space and coming in and out of the room to give reassurance tends to work better. But there is a mindset shift here in terms of getting used to your little one spending some time getting themselves sleepy in their cot rather than you doing that bit for them. About 15-20 minutes from when you put your little one down and say goodnight to when they are actually asleep is absolutely fine.


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