As a mother of twins who took 3 years to start sleeping somewhat consistently through the night, I know the desperation parents feel when their baby does not sleep all night. I expected my twins to wake frequently as newborns, however I didn’t expect this to last for years! I needed to know how I could help my babies to sleep through the night! I learnt a lot in those 3 years.
For the first few months, a baby is considered to be sleeping through the night if they sleep for about 5-8 hours, not the 12 hours that most people think babies should sleep for. Sleeping is a skill that needs to be learned, like walking and talking. Most adults don’t sleep all night but the difference is that we have learnt to self-settle and go back to sleep without even realising we have woken.
Here are some tips to help your baby sleep through the night.
- Establish a good night time routine. Having a bedtime routine from early on can encourage your baby to settle to sleep more quickly. It should be simple and easy to follow and kept the same each night so that your baby comes to know what signals bedtime. A bath, milk and stories are common elements of a bedtime routine.
- Encourage your baby to learn to self soothe. This means that they learn to soothe themselves and rely less on you to soothe them. This doesn’t mean you have to suddenly leave them alone to cry it out, it may mean trying to settle them with your voice rather than with a feed or leaving them for a short period of time before you rush in to calm them. Sometimes they are just crying in their sleep and rushing in to soothe them actually wakes them up.
- Start reducing the night feeds. Once your baby is old enough and is a healthy weight, they should be able to go for longer without needing a feed. There are a few different methods you can try to reduce night feedings.
– A dream feed where you wake your baby before you go to bed for a feed with the idea being that they will then have a longer stretch before waking again and therefore giving you a chance for a longer stretch of sleep.
– Reducing the amount of milk offered is another option until they no longer bother to wake for the feed.
– Offering water instead.
– Trying to settle back to sleep without offering a feed for the first wake of the night.
- Keep things calm. Staying calm yourself will help your baby to stay calm, therefore allowing them to settle more easily. Making the room dark, and at a comfortable temperature can help your baby to stay asleep longer. A red light can be used for a child who doesn’t like the dark or so you can see when you go in to settle your baby. Babies can be quite sensitive to household noises so using white noise can help to reduce background noise. Find a range of white noise machines here.
- Follow a schedule. Sticking to a schedule will help to ensure that your baby is not getting too much sleep during the day. Too much day sleep will mean they won’t sleep for as long during the night. Putting your baby to bed at the same time and in the same place each night can also help.
- Make sure bed time is age appropriate. Putting your baby to bed later in the hopes they will wake later in the morning doesn’t always work. If you have a schedule then sticking to an appropriate bedtime will help keep your bub on track. By 3 months you should be able to establish a healthy bedtime to accompany your schedule.
- Be Patient. Don’t expect your baby to suddenly start sleeping through the night. Once you start implementing some strategies to help it may take some time to see results. Also once your baby’s sleep does improve there may be times when you suffer set backs. Sleep regressions or growth spurts may mean that your once good sleeper is now waking frequently. Stay consistent and it should pass. If you still find yourself asking “HOw can I help my baby sleep through the night?” then you may want to seek help in the form of medical advice or from a sleep consultant.