Making your baby sleep all night is a common challenge among parents. As a newborn, babies need to wake up every few hours to feed because their small bellies are not big enough to keep them full all night.
However, as your baby grows, he needs these night meals less. This usually happens when parents expect their baby to start sleeping all night, but things do not always go as planned, leaving the parents completely exhausted and looking for solutions. Believe it or not, sleep is actually a learned skill. Babies need to learn how and when to sleep before sleeping all night.
What might prevent your baby from sleeping through the night?
There are many things that can prevent the baby from sleeping all night, including:
- Teething: the baby’s first tooth can be an important step, but it can also wake him up at night. And teething symptoms, such as crying, ear pulling and night awakening, can appear two to three months before the appearance of real pearly whites.
- Less than ideal sleeping environment: If your baby is too hot, he may have trouble sleeping. Keep your baby’s room at about 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit and dress him with a single piece sleeper. You should also keep the room calm and dark.
- Bad Sleep Habits: Try not to hold, rock, or feed your baby until he falls asleep or is incompatible with his bedtime routine. Instead, put him to bed when he is asleep but awake, which will help him learn to fall asleep alone.
- Inability to calm down: It is normal for a 6-month-old baby to wake up several times a night, but he should be able to return to sleep alone. If he cannot, you may not know how to calm him down, so you may want to consider sleep training.
Ear infections and colds can keep anyone awake at night, and your baby is no exception. Rest assured that once you start to feel better, your baby should also start sleeping better.
- Growth spurts: The baby will likely experience growth outbreaks around 3 months, 6 months and 9 months (although the exact time may vary). When this happens, it is likely to wake up before naps and more often in the middle of the night to eat.
- Milestones: If your baby masters a new skill — turning around, sitting, crawling — he may have difficulty settling down or falling asleep at night. (Who wants to fall asleep when there is so much to explore?)
- Sleep regression: It is normal for babies, even those who have a good sleep, to wake up more often and have difficulty recovering once they are 3 to 4 months old and also at other ages. Blame sleep regressions — and know that these phases are only temporary.
Let’s face it: If your baby does not sleep, you do not sleep. Therefore, it is not surprising that for most new parents, improving their toddler’s sleep is a top priority. Although this is not something that can be rushed, take comfort in the fact that by the age of nine months, 70% of babies sleep all night (which means that they sleep continuously from the moment they lie down until a reasonable time in the morning, as after dawn). Regardless of your baby’s age, these four tips will give you the possibility that your child will soon sleep deeply throughout the night.
Be consistent at bedtime. Babies who have a regular bedtime routine sleep better and cry less at night. When your toddler is six to eight weeks old, choose a series of relaxing night activities, such as a bath, followed by a story and the crib, and repeat the sequence every night at the same time. Your baby will find the familiarity of the comforting routine and will tell him or her that bedtime is coming, and it’s time to relax.
Let your child fall asleep alone. While snuggling a sleeping baby in your arms can make you feel warm and blurred inside, it only increases the chances that you will be fully awake at 2:00 in the morning. At the end of your child’s bedtime routine, remember or breastfeed him until he is asleep, then put the baby in the crib before they fall asleep in your arms. This will teach your tot how to fall asleep without anyone’s help if he or she wakes up in the middle of the night. In this way, you do not need to continue running into your child’s room all night, and you can have a more solid sleep.
Embrace the Sun. If your baby’s body clock is not programmed, you may find it difficult to sleep all night. Fortunately, you can reset your child’s internal clock by exposing your child to sunlight early in the morning, either opening the blinds as soon as your baby wakes up or taking him on a morning walk in the stroller.
Don’t mess the time for a nap. It may seem logical to reduce your baby’s amount of sleep during the day to help her sleep more at night, but this method can be very counterproductive. Babies who sleep for the duration of their naps really rest better at night.
Remember: Every baby is different, and some babies take longer to sleep at night than others. If your toddler wakes up regularly in the afternoon, be patient and call your pediatrician if you have any concerns.
Keep it pretty dark. Lots of bright sunlight through the curtains at dawn can wake up your baby, so use blackout tones to keep the room dark and facilitate your baby’s sleep. But you don’t want the room to be too dark. Connecting a very weak night light can calm a child who is afraid of the black tone and help him see the familiar and comforting environment.
Block the noise. Sirens, a running shower, and even singing birds can make your package of joy come up and shine a little too early. Try using a sound conditioner, often called a white noise machine, to hide strong interruptions and help your baby associate that sound with sleep.
How much sleep do babies need?
The amount of sleep your baby needs is based on his age, plus a few other important factors. Here is a quick overview of two sleep ranges during the first year:
Newborn up to 3 months. A healthy baby in this age group should have a total of 14 to 17 hours of sleep in a 24-hour day. Typically, she sleeps in short bursts for two to four hours, waking up to be fed, belching, changed, and calmed down. And although a sleep schedule is not suggested, your baby is likely to lie down for eight to 12 hours at night, and the rest occurs during two to five daytime naps (although it may vary from one baby to another).
4-6 months. During this age period, you can expect your baby to sleep between 12 and 16 hours a day with night periods that reach five to six hours in a row (this is called “sleeping all night”). Your little one’s naps will also consolidate. Look for about three a day at the age of 5 months. And your baby’s sleep habits will eventually join the rest of the family routine, as he will start sleeping more at night and less during the day.
From 7 to 11 months. Total sleep remains almost the same, but night stretches can reach 10-12 hours, and naps will consolidate even more than three to two.
Premature birth. If your baby was born prematurely, your sleep count differs from that of term babies. Premature babies can sleep up to 22 hours a day, depending on their premature age and will wake up more often to feed. As for joining larger pieces of night sleep (six hours or more), a premature baby will not get there so quickly. In fact, it may take until they are 10 or 12 months to accomplish this feat.
Feeding method. Bottle-fed babies tend to wake up less often at night and sleep longer than their breastfed cousins because the formula takes longer to digest. But the formula is also not a magic ball of sleep since both feeding methods always result in the same amount of total sleep. And by the time your baby is 9 months old, any difference between the two is no longer apparent.
Belief That Things Will Change on Their Own
You can wait, pray and wish that your baby will magically start sleeping all night. Perhaps you cross your fingers so that it “outgrows” this step, and you will not have to do anything different at all. It is a very rare baby who wakes up at night and suddenly decides to sleep all night alone. Of course, this can happen to you, but your baby can be two, three or four years old when he does! Now decide whether you have the patience to wait so long, or whether you are ready to move the process along smoothly.
What is sleep training?
Sleep training is a process that allows a baby to learn to fall asleep and stay asleep all night. Some babies do this quickly and easily. But many others have trouble sleeping — or returning to sleep when they wake up — and need help along the way. Below, we describe the 5 main approaches to sleep training.
Method of fading: With this method, parents help their baby fall asleep with soothing techniques (feeding, rocking, talking, etc.) Your baby will naturally need less comfort over time, so he can gradually “fade” from his routine before going to bed.
Ferber method: Parents control their crying child at gradually increasing intervals of time, which promotes self-calming and independent sleep.
Pick-Up/Put-Down Method: Parents pick up their baby when crying or agitating, then put it down after comforting, repeating until they fall asleep.
Cry it Out Method: After the bedtime routine, babies let themselves “cry” until they fall asleep independently.
Chair method: Mom or dad sits next to the crib in a chair until the baby falls asleep, trying not to calm down if they become picky. Gradually move the chair further from the crib every evening until it is out of the room and out of view.
When can I start training in sleep?
Most experts recommend starting when your baby is 4-6 months old. At approximately 4 months, babies usually begin to develop regular sleep and wake up cycles and abandon most of their night meals. These are signs that they may be ready to start sleep training.
Many babies of this age can also sleep for long periods at night. Of course, every baby is different: some may not be ready to train until they are a little older. Some babies sleep seven hours or more at an early age, while others sleep much later. If you are not sure that your baby is ready to sleep, ask your doctor.