Sleeping should come naturally to newborns; they spend most of their brand new lives sleeping anyway. Sometimes, however, a frustrated parent wonders if babies were made to deprive them of sleep with their tendency to be fully awake – and demanding! – just when a parent dozes off for a modicum of shuteye. 

Between returning to work, fulfilling long-neglected duties to her husband, entertaining relatives and friends who drop by for a photo-op with the newborn, putting the house in order, and making sure the newcomer feels totally at home, a mother is often left with little willpower against the struggle for snooze supremacy. But with the help of a cooperative – and ideally non-complaining – partner, babies can be lured back to sleep when their yet undeveloped circadian rhythms wake them up at ungodly hours of pre-dawn. Not all of them would work for all infants, or work with the same infant at different times, but giving these tricks a try first could sometimes save sleep-starved parents from the brink of insanity.

The methods may be pretty self-explanatory to the smug non-parent, but to the primary caregivers who have to satisfy the seemingly incessant demands of a fragile creature, the obvious sometimes eludes them when mountains of diapers block their view.

Cement that bond

Skin-to-skin contact increases the body's production of oxytocin, that hormone responsible for strengthening the bond between parent and child. When both are red and raw from frustration, however, oxytocin induces a sense of calm. Nothing can be more relaxing to both parent and child than having the latter dressed down to his diapers and placed on bare chest, or tucked into a shirt for warmth. The parent’s heartbeat also mimics the sounds that the infant was used to while in the womb, so getting this close should dial down the tantrum to a whimper, and the whimper to comfortable silence.

Offer the nipple

As babies have small tummies and therefore get hungry easily and quickly, it is highly likely that your baby's incessant crying is just a call for midnight snack! Experienced mothers would pull the baby close and offer their breast – or bottle – first to appease the crying, and then pull the baby close for cuddling if offering food did not work. If the baby latches on, then she was really hungry to begin with; if not, she's just probably seeking assurance in the form of suckling. When babies feel safe, it’s easier for them to just relax and drift off to dreamland.

Go through the motions

A fetus is lulled to sleep when its mother is in motion, so a few months after birth, the same motion is understood as a prelude to let go and float. Rocking the child gently will not just calm her down, it will probably make her sleepy too.

Get into a pre-bedtime ritual

A lukewarm bath before calling it a night is good for parents and good for babies too! A pre-bedtime ritual involving a bath signals to your child to wind down as at this point their circadian rhythms are yet to be regulated by daylight and nightfall. Rituals, ideally involving skin-to-skin contact with a relaxing element thrown in, impresses upon the infant to move into doing something less active.

Tune in to background noise

Sometimes, a too-quiet environment allows even the most minute sounds to disturb an infant in deep sleep. To avoid hearing a pin drop and waking up your child, turn on a fan or gently sing a lullaby, or turn on a soothing music as you put your child to sleep. 

There are even soundtracks meant to mimic the heartbeat to remind your child of the secure environment of the womb, and you can use this when the occasions arise (or when your patience is short).

It will take several months for your child to get the clue that certain times of day are meant for playing and other times are for sleeping. By establishing predictable routines, you set the child’s expectations so your prodding to sleep is met with a minimum of fuss.