11 Tips to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night
Tired from waking up at all hours to tend to your crying baby? Here are some tips that may help your little one to sleep through the night.
Oh, that cherubic smile that melts everyone’s heart. Our little bundles can be the source of so much joy. And so much despair! Especially if they fight sleep. Don’t despair though. Helping your baby sleep through the night may take time and effort, but it certainly pays off for you and your baby.
What Does Sleeping Through the Night Mean?
There is quite a lot of confusion behind the notion of sleeping through the night. Most paediatricians will define sleeping through the night as “sleeping anywhere between six to eight hours straight during the night”.
So, even if your child is capable of “sleeping through the night”, you may still find yourself waking up to attend to her, depending on what time you lay her down. Let’s say she went to bed at 8 p.m. Even if she is capable of sleeping 8 hours straight, she will still end up waking at 4a.m.
Unfortunately, sleeping for a pure 12 hour may not be possible until your child is at least 9 months old.
Baby Sleep Pattern by Ages
The thing is, babies of different ages have different sleep patterns. Having an understanding of baby sleep development can help you manage your expectation of how long your child can sleep.
The truth is, there are certain milestones that your baby needs to achieve before he can sleep for longer stretches at night. If he has unmet milestones, chances are, many of the tips that we are going to share are unlikely to help.
|Age||Total Sleep (24hours)||Night Time Sleep||Day Time Sleep||Number of Naps|
|0-2 months||16.5 hours||8.5 hours||8 hours||3-5 naps|
|2-3 months||14-16 hours||8-9 hours||6-7 hours||3-4 naps|
|4-5 months||14-16 hours||10-11 hours||4-5 hours||3-4 naps|
|5-6 months||14 hours||11 hours||3 hours||3-4 naps|
Newborn: Newborns are generally incapable of sleeping through the night because of the need to feed frequently. Because of their small stomachs, two to four hours at a stretch is about as long as you can expect your newborn to sleep. If you are exclusively breastfeeding, do note that breastfed babies tend to wake up more frequently. This is since breastmilk passes through their systems more quickly.
2 to 3 months old: Between the ages of 2 to 3 months, your baby may be capable of sleeping up to 5 to 6 hour in a shot. However, most babies are still waking up a few times at night to feed, especially babies who are still nursing. Also, your baby may still be plagued by the Moro Reflex: a reflex where your child jerks awake from sudden movement or sounds. Needless to say, it has an impact on the quality of sleep your child gets.
4 months old: At this age, your baby may be able to sleep up to 8 hours straight. This is because, the Moro reflex is largely gone by now. In addition, most 4-month-old babies would have reached the critical weight of at least 6 kg. This means that metabolically-speaking, night time feedings are now optional. Also, your baby is increasingly able to self-soothe (by sucking on her pacifier or fingers) back to sleep.
5 to 6 months old: By the time your baby reaches this age, she should be largely able to sleep through the night without needing to feed. If your baby is still waking up at night to feed, it is now possible to gently wean her off those night-time feeds (under your paediatrician’s guidance of course). Even then, it is not all happily ever after from here. Some developmental milestones can lead to baby sleep regression—for example, babies learning to crawl or sit may practice it in the wee hours of the morning. Other issues—such as holidays, illness and teething—may also negatively affect your babies sleep.
Tips to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night
#1: Limit day time naps
This one was a revelation when I first learnt about it. In brief, there is a sleep quota for every baby. If your baby sleeps too long in the day, he will use up his sleep quota at night. What does this mean for your baby? Assuming that you have a 5-month old, and that his sleep quota is 14 hours in one day. If your baby is napping a total of 7 hours during day-time, he will only have 7 hours left for the night. Certainly, every baby is different and some babies are naturally great sleepers with an insatiable capacity for sleep. But if you ever find yourself scratching your head over why your baby is waking up at night to play, this could be the culprit.
#2: Sleep train your baby
Most experts recommend sleep training only for babies who are at least 5 months old. Perhaps, the most famous (or infamous) sleep training method is the Ferber method. It is developed by pediatric sleep expert, Dr. Richard Ferber. In essence, the Ferber method is a milder form of cry-it-out sleep training. But rather than leaving the baby to cry alone, parents do come in to check on their babies at set intervals. However, these intervals are gradually extended in a process dubbed "graduated extinction”. This allows babies to learn to self-soothe, a skill which is necessary for them to go back to sleep should they find themselves wake in the middle of the night.
#3: Give your baby a chance to soothe herself to sleep
If you or your baby are not ready for sleep training, this one is for you. The truth is, babies are noisy in their sleep. They may fuss or cry as they find a comfortable spot. So rather than leaping to your baby’s side the moment you hear a pip, give your baby some time to settle down.
Even though it is hard, try to make yourself count to 10. If the crying does not stop by then, by all means, go and check on your baby. Attend to her need if there is one (i.e. a nappy change) or offer her a reassuring pat and then leave the room.
#4: Help your baby to differentiate between day and night
Some babies may have their night and day confused. To help them make the distinction, expose your baby to lots of sunlight and activities during the day. At night, partake in some calming activities like reading and taking a warm bath. These help your child to associate night time with relaxation and sleep.
#5: Establish a baby sleep schedule and bedtime routine
From around three months of age, you can start introducing a relaxing bedtime routine. One hour before bedtime, start winding your baby down. You might like to dim the lights and turn off the TV. Your routine may involve a soothing bath, bedtime stories or singing some songs to help your baby relax. Establish a set end point. Once it gets to that point, gently let your baby know that it is time for bed, turn off the lights and then exit the room.
#6: Keep the sleep schedule consistent
Try not to sleep at a certain time one day, and a different time the next. Babies like routines and changing things up can make things confusing for them. So, try to keep your routine and timing consistent each day. Also, try to minimise the disruptions to their schedules. Schedules once disrupted, can be really hard to re-established. So as far as possible, avoid having to go there.
#7: Make the environment conducive
Imagine sleeping in a hot and stifling room. Or one that’s unbearably cold. It might take you a while to fall asleep in such discomfort, if at all. Likewise, babies are no different. A conducive environment makes sleep easier for your little one. Make sure that your room is the right temperature. If it’s too cold, try using a sleep sack.
Also, ensure that it is dark with the curtains drawn. A small night lamp can be helpful if you need to navigate yourself around the room. If you live in a noisy household, consider getting a white noise machine to drown out the noise outside.
The use of sleep aides like SnuggleTike warmable plush can also help your baby self-soothe when they awake at night. Its gently-weighted body and light warmth can be very comforting and mimicks the feel of a mother close-by.
In general, the more conducive you make the environment, the easier it is for your baby to sleep.
#8: Ensure that your child obtains enough nutrients throughout the day
Babies need to obtain adequate nutrition each day. If they do not receive them in the day, they will wake up hungry at night. To avoid these night time wakings, look up how much calories is required by your child based on her age. Ensure that the amount she is getting in the day is adequate to meet her needs.
#9: Try dream feeding your baby
Many babies wake up to feed during the night. If you find your baby crying for milk at night, try dream feeding. To do so, gently pick up your baby up between 10p.m. to 12 a.m and place a teat near her lower lip. Despite her drowsy, state, your baby will likely start suckling. If your baby is very sleepy, try rousing her a little by tickling her feet or rubbing her cheek with a wet cloth. After your baby is done feeding, burp her gently and put her back to sleep.
#10: Avoid changing your baby at night
Even though your baby may have answered his call of nature, you should avoid changing him at night. Unless you are a ninja, chances are that you will end up waking him up. A screaming baby in the middle of the night is the last thing you need. However, in the case where your baby has really sensitive skin and needs to be changed promptly, try to avoid using wet wipes as the feel of the cold wipe on his skin may rouse him up. And of course, while you are at it, keep everything hush-hush and quick.
#11: Put your baby to sleep before she is overtired
Contrary to popular beliefs, a tired baby does not sleep better. When babies become overtired, their bodies produce cortisol to help them stay awake. Unfortunately, cortisol can also make it harder for them to settle for bed. It is therefore, important to keep track of how long your baby has been awake, and put her to bed before she gets overly tired. Also, watch out for signs like eye-rubbing and yawning that may signal her need to sleep.
One Last Word about Sleeping Through the Night
Hopefully, some of these tips have been helpful in getting your baby to sleep through the night. Remember, every baby is different. What may work for some babies may not work for yours. If nothing else has worked, take heart in that you are trying your best and it will eventually get better. It always has.