Once upon a time, my eldest was just a baby. Hard to believe now as I gaze at her, for she’s about to turn 10. It’s amazing.
When she was a baby, she went through one of the many phases babies go through. So when I’d finally gotten her off to sleep, I felt proud. About 20 minutes later, my husband clumsily dropped something clattered to the floor.
Like the wail of a fire truck’s siren coming from the distance, we heard the cry. It started lower and then got louder and more piercing. Needless to say, I was ready to choke him.
I’ve been getting some recent messages where moms have told me, “My baby is a light sleeper,” and that their baby wakes up at the slightest noise. So I’d like to cover that today and for a toddler light sleeper too.
Ready for some insight on how to handle a baby light sleeper? Read on!
Why is my baby such a light sleeper?
Here’s why your baby is a light sleeper. And your toddler too. It’s called a sleep cycle. You have them and so do babies and toddlers. Our cycles fluctuate from light to deep sleep many times throughout the night.
So the creak of a floor, the chime of a phone, daylight seeping through the edge of your blinds, and other little sounds can all cause your baby or toddler to wake up. The funny thing is that they won’t wake at these things in deeper stages of sleep.
And yes, some brains work better to block out environmental aspects during sleep while others are highly in-tune. My mom is probably the lightest sleeper anywhere. And my eldest? She can get back to sleep and never bothers us if she wakes up, but I’ll tell you that girl is up and ready before my early morning alarm goes off.
How long your baby will be a light sleeper really depends. If it’s the wrong time in her sleep cycle and she’s in the light stage, you will have to suck it up. But if she has this habit of being in tune with all that’s around her, you may just find an early riser in your home.
Basically, it’s a wait-and-see, but for most families, there are things you can do for babies and toddlers to help them with light sleeping.
Should babies nap in light or dark?
Before I get into some tips on those baby light sleepers out there, please don’t worry about light or dark when it comes to naps (more here about it). If baby light sleeps during the day, you can try setting the most optimal sleep conditions. The room doesn’t need to be pitch black, but it will help tamper the brightness enough if you draw the curtains or close the blinds.
Also, temperature plays a role, so be sure you have the room cool enough to be conducive to sleep.
How do you make a light sleeper baby stay asleep?
Ah, now for the holy grail of getting your light sleeper baby to stay asleep. Assuming you don’t accidentally bungle a stack of pots and pans in your kitchen (that would wake just about anyone, including the dead!), these tips should help you get more sleep.
- Try to give baby her own sleep space
The AAP has always recommended keeping your baby in the same room until around 6 months to reduce the risk for SIDS. You can use a bassinet or cradle until your baby can roll over. After that, you should try to move her to her room. This way, she tunes out any noise you and your spouse may make (even turning the pages of a book can wake a light sleeper!) or any siblings.
- Keep the room in prime sleep conditions
As someone who gave birth in China, where they do not turn down the air conditioning, I can tell you first-hand how a hot room impacts sleep. Keep temperatures cool and comfy. Don’t worry about it being too cold, as the swaddle blanket will keep the baby warm. For toddlers, ensure they have a good blanket to keep them warm.
Additionally, it might help to use blackout curtains in the baby’s room. This will prevent early morning light from waking your baby before it’s time to get up.
- Use white noise
White noise is absolutely my favorite trick for a baby light sleeper. My youngest even demanded it as a toddler. We used a free app on our tablet to make white noise. You can also set a radio between stations to create the sound, or feel free to get one of those fancier options like this one by Hatch.
- Get that kid some sunshine
Sunshine exposure during daylight hours is essential for regulating circadian rhythms. Make sure you do so safely so the baby doesn’t get a sunburn, but taking the time to embrace some sunshine during the day will bode well for you at night. Try taking a nice walk around your neighborhood or going to the park to watch the ducks in the pond.
- Wait it out
While it’s tempting when you’ve got the baby monitor to dash to the rescue when your baby makes a noise, don’t! During certain stages of sleep, they can make noises, vocalize, and even open their eyes. Just because you see movement or noise coming from the crib doesn’t mean they’re actually awake. Wait just a few minutes to see if your baby calms down on her own.
- Encourage self-soothing
When your child self-soothes, she’ll sleep more deeply. Getting her there can be tricky, but it all depends on how consistent you are with your routine. When your baby or toddler knows what to expect, she can comfort herself. Even now, my youngest will say she can’t sleep. If I lie next to her, she’s out in about one minute.
But sometimes, I don’t give her that option. She’ll say she can’t sleep, and I’ll tell her she’s fine and to go back to sleep. Sometimes, they just want to hear your voice and know you’re still there. It certainly works for my youngest so try it!
How to co-sleep with a baby when they’re a light sleeper?
One of those sleep nests like this one from Baby Delight might be a good option until she’s a bit bigger. It can go in the bed with you and keep your baby safe from being squished by you and your spouse. It can also minimize movements so your baby won’t wake up every time you move.
Eventually, you’ll all get into a good sleep rhythm, but hopefully, knowing these tactics will help you when your baby is a light sleeper!
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.