One of the biggest challenges new parents face is getting their baby to sleep through the night. We all expect a newborn to wake up at night but then just expect our baby’s sleep to get better and better as they get older. The reality is that the sleep patterns of infants can be unpredictable, leaving parents exhausted and desperate for a good night’s sleep.
The thing is, babies do not ‘sleep through the night.’ Nobody does! Even adults will stir a few times in the night in-between sleep cycles. What we are talking about here is optimising your baby’s sleep so that they sleep in long stretches and giving them the best chance of sleeping well at night.
With a few strategies and a lot of patience, it is possible to establish healthy sleep habits for your baby without leaving them to cry on their own. Improving frequent night waking and helping babies sleep for long stretches at night is something I have helped hundreds of families by taking them through my Sleep Success Framework. In this blog, we will explore some effective tips to help your baby sleep through the night, promoting better rest for both you and your little one.
Establish a Consistent Bedtime Routine:
Creating a consistent bedtime routine is crucial for setting the stage for a good night’s sleep. Establish a predictable sequence of activities that signal to your baby that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. Select 4 or 5 activities to include in your routine such as a warm bath, gentle massage, reading a bedtime story, or singing a lullaby. Consistency is key, so doing this in the same order every night will help your baby recognize and anticipate sleep time.
Create a Calm and Soothing Environment:
Ensure that your baby’s sleep environment is conducive to relaxation and comfort. Dim the lights, reduce noise levels, and maintain a comfortable temperature in the room. Consider using a white noise machine or a soft lullaby to create a soothing atmosphere that helps drown out any disturbances. Providing a peaceful environment can help your baby fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Simplify their Sleep Associations:
Babies who rely on sleep associations, such as being rocked or fed to sleep, may struggle to settle themselves when they wake up during the night. Spend some time introducing simpler sleep associations such as music, a smell, patting and shushing and then gradually reduce your involvement in the falling asleep process. Doing this also avoids the tricky transfer into the cot after your child has fallen asleep and means they are much more likely to be able to settle by themselves when they wake in the night without a need.
Encourage Daytime Naps:
Contrary to what may seem intuitive, ensuring your baby gets enough daytime sleep according to their age and their unique sleep needs can actually help them sleep better at night. Overtired babies often have more difficulty settling down and staying asleep. Establish regular nap times throughout the day, allowing your baby to get the restorative sleep they need. Pay attention to your baby’s sleepy cues, such as eye rubbing or yawning, to ensure they nap before becoming overtired.
Place some boundaries around Night Feeds:
Whilst you are working on simplifying sleep associations, if your baby is waking up frequently for feeds, switching to dreamfeeds or placing some boundaries around night feeds will mean that they get used to the other settling methods much more quickly. Trying to settle a hungry baby is difficult and unnecessary. Depending on your baby’s temperament and how often they are currently feeding, you can either switch to dreamfeeds for the whole night or part of the night or place some boundaries around feeds. For example, you may decide to feed no more then every 3 hours and then gradually extend the time between feeds.
Be Patient and Consistent:
Establishing healthy sleep habits takes time, and every baby is different. Be patient and consistent in implementing these strategies. Consistency helps your baby understand what is expected during bedtime, creating a sense of security and routine which baby’s love. Although it may be challenging at times, optimising your own sleep as much as possible whilst staying consistent will eventually yield positive results.
Helping your baby sleep through the night is a process that requires patience, perseverance, and a consistent routine. Essentially, your baby will sleep through the night when they are developmentally ready to and this will be different for every baby. However, there is plenty you can do to encourage your baby to feel safe and secure and support them towards this goal by establishing calming sleep routines, creating a soothing environment, simplifying sleep associations, and ensuring adequate daytime naps.
If you are looking for more personalised support to help you baby sleep for long stretches at night without leaving them to cry, please check out The Good Night Sleep System which is my all-inclusive group sleep coaching program for exhausted Mums who are going back to work (or already there) to do just that.