It does not have to be a struggle.
“We do a lot of holding, rocking, bouncing to get him to sleep.”
“She will not go to sleep without being nursed (at night and during naps).”
These are just a few of the pain points my clients have shared with me. In my work with families, getting a baby to sleep through the night is hands down the top goal that they have. It makes sense! After weeks (or months) of lost sleep, what parent would not want this to be their goal?
Here is the trap that parents tend to fall into: With all of the articles, books and opinions out there, parents are led to believe that babies should be able to do it by 12 weeks..or by 12 pounds....so when their baby is not, they assume that something is wrong.
As a sleep consultant with 20 years of infant development expertise, I often struggle with how to best respond to the question ‘how do I get my baby to sleep through the night?’
“The reality is that while some unicorn babies sleep through the night at 2 months of age, most babies are not physiologically able to until closer to 7-8 months of age.”
BUT, the good news is that there is hope! So hang in there with me while I give you some basic information to set realistic expectations and guide you and your baby toward a better night of sleep.
Top 5 Tips for Parents Who Want Baby to Sleep Through the Night
- Define “sleep through the night”?
Sleep through the night is 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. So this may mean that there is one feed in the night but for all other wakings, your baby can self soothe and resettle. While most babies like to get 10-12 hours of sleep at night, a baby is “sleeping through the night” when they get 8 hours uninterrupted before needing a feed and then resettles post feed for another stretch of sleep.
- Manage your expectations.
Knowing what is realistic to expect for your baby is half the battle. This reduces the tendency to compare your baby to others and significantly reduces the stress, anxiety, or self judgment that parents place on themselves. As much as I am a Baby Sleep Expert, I am also in the business of supporting parents in radical self care and self love during the early parenting years.
- Fill up their tank before bed.
One of most effective practices to ensure long stretches of sleep is to be sure to fill your baby up before bed. This can often look like a big feed before the bath followed by another one right before nodding off. Mamas, if you are breastfeeding, be sure to gauge how your milk supply is at the end of the day. If it is low, this might be a good time to introduce a bottle (formula or pumped milk) to ensure that your baby is filling up sufficiently.
- Reduce noises and light in the room.
Most parents know this already but I can’t emphasize enough the importance of darkening shades and/or a good white noise machine if your baby is light or sound sensitive.
- Understand the difference between a habit waking and a hunger waking.
Start by tracking the quality of each feed at night. Oftentimes a handful of feeds are substantial and others are used as a means to resettle. Light feeds often indicate habit wakings and voracious feeds are necessary for filling your baby up. To reduce the habit wakings, many parents turn to some form of sleep training to help a baby learn to resettle without the need for a comfort feed.
Baby Sleep Patterns by Age
Here are some key guidelines to follow that will set you up to have realistic, evidence-based expectations of what your baby can and can not do at various ages:
0-4 month olds often need to eat every 3-4 hours at night
5-7 month olds--every 5-7 hours
7+ often can go 7+ hours before they need a feed. Why? Because by 7 months most babies are being introduced to hearty solid foods that sustain them longer through the night.
Cracking the code of whether your baby is able to sleep through the night is an important one.
It is never one size fits all and is often not a linear path either.
The books and online courses about baby’s sleep needs simply don’t cover all the questions you may have about your child. Even this blog post is just scratching the surface.
Whether you are trying to wean your baby from the breast, bottle or any number of other sleep associations, with a careful assessment of feeds, realistic expectations and being informed of what your baby is capable of, sleeping through the night is possible.
If you are ready to create a tailored plan that reflects you and your baby, please, reach out. I can help. Together, we will set your family on the path to feeling refreshed and renewed again.