How to get your baby to sleep peacefully through the night
If your baby keeps waking up during the night, not only will their sleep be disturbed, but yours will, too! Being constantly tired can drastically affect one's mood, relationships and general sense of well-being. A lack of sleep can result in poor work performance or productivity, fatigue, irritability and even depression. Making sure both you and your baby are getting enough sleep is important.
While you may be wondering if you will ever get a full night's rest, we're here to assure you that your baby will eventually grow out of their 'bad' sleeping habits. Each baby develops at their own pace, but there are certain things that you could do to help establish healthy sleep from early on.
What are 'normal' sleep patterns for your baby's age?
During the first 2 months or so, your baby's need to eat overrules their need to sleep. For breastfed babies, they may need to feed almost every 2 hours, and possibly a little less often if bottle fed.
By 3 to 6 months, many babies are able to sleep for a stretch of up to 6 hours. But often between 6 and 9 months, normal developmental stages can throw things off. For instance, when your baby begins to associate bedtime with being left alone, they may start crying just to keep you around. Major brain development is also happening around this age, which may interfere with their sleep patterns. Additionally, many babies start teething around this age and struggle to sleep with the pain and discomfort - see Pain-Free Teething.
By the time they’re a year old, many babies have a consistent and healthy sleep pattern. Usually by now, they can sleep through the night with minimal disruptions.
There are all sorts of reasons why your baby might be waking up at night:
- Your baby may be hungry and need a feed. Babies have small tummies which can't hold too much. This results in the need for frequent feeding, especially if they aren't drinking enough milk or eating enough food. It’s normal for a newborn baby to only sleep for two or three hours before needing a feed again.
- Babies need comfort and reassurance, and if they become used to receiving it at night, a habit and dependence forms.
- Illness and discomfort could be a reason why your baby is not sleeping peacefully. Eliminate possible causes such as growth spurts, colic, teething or infections.
- Every baby has to develop their own sleep routine - no child is the same. While some babies develop a peaceful sleep routine from birth, others take a bit longer and need more restructuring by their parents - but they will eventually get there!
- Night terrors or bad dreams
Strategies to establish peaceful, consistent sleeping patterns in your baby
The following strategies will help your baby sleep through the night, leaving both you and them getting much needed rest!
Set a consistent nighttime routine
Studies show that the more frequently your baby follows a bedtime routine, the better they’ll sleep. A study of 405 mothers with babies showed that babies who followed a nightly bedtime routine went to sleep easier and slept more peacefully. Remember, no single sleep routine works for all babies, it's all trial and error (and lots of perseverance). If one particular method doesn’t suit your baby, try a different approach until you see what works.
Basically, a night time routine involves activities that the baby associates
with bedtime and sleep, therefore beginning to put their minds into ‘sleep mode’. This could include a bath, putting on sleep clothes, story time, etc. Try not to do ‘daytime’ things just before bedtime – like exciting TV shows, running around and active games.
Encourage lots of activity during the day
Babies who are active during the day are more likely to feel tired by the end of the day (the same applies for adults). Encourage lots of mental and physical stimulation during the day time so that they can burn off all their energy by the time darkness falls. It goes without saying that mental and physical stimulation is critical for health development, too.
Wind things down as bedtime approaches
Play active games during the day and quiet games in the evening. Babies need to wind down, so make bed time activities calm and peaceful. The last thing you want to do is excite your little one just before they need to go to bed! Keep activities the same and in the same order, night after night, so that they associate those activities with bedtime. Things like reading books, singing lullabies or cuddling are all examples of soothing activities to do with your baby before bedtime. Most babies will also benefit from a relaxing, warm bath just before bed, or a gentle, soothing massage.
Make sure your baby doesn't fall asleep hungry
Babies who refuse to go to sleep or wake up during the night are often hungry. Make sure they are well fed just before they go to sleep. Before you or your partner goes to sleep, gently wake your small baby to nurse or bottle-feed, which will help them wake less often during the rest of the night. If your baby does wake up during the night to drink, give them water (no juice or milk) - this ONLY applies to babies of about 6 months and above who have developed sufficiently to be able to go around 6 - 8 hours without needing to wake up for food.
While some parents love holding their babies until they fall asleep, and comforting them back to sleep if they wake during the middle of the night, this may not work for other parents. Babies who have not learnt how to comfort and quiet themselves while falling asleep, or while falling back asleep during the night, will require a parent to hold, rock, or lie down with them until asleep, and may not manage to go back to sleep without this comforting. Most babies wake up a few times during the night, but those who are sleep trained will get back to sleep by themselves, without you even knowing they had woken up!
Children may awaken and cry more frequently when they realize what they gain from it; for example, if they are walked, rocked, or played with, or enjoy other lengthy contact with their parents. If you want your baby to fall asleep on their own, there are a few methods you can try. It's important to note that all babies will cry when a routine is changed, but they will eventually settle into their new routine within a week or 2.
- While it's good to hold and comfort babies, your baby's last memory before falling asleep should be of their mattress/crib, and not of you. Cuddle and rock your baby before bedtime, but when your baby starts to look drowsy, place them in the crib or own bed.
- Baby sleep experts advise that if you are breastfeeding (or bottle feeding), you should feed your baby at the beginning of their bedtime routine, after which you can then rock or cuddle them, before placing them in their crib or bed.
- Gently pat your baby until they fall asleep, so that they know you are there and don't feel abandoned.
- After doing this for a few days, you can gradually move away from the baby and sit across the room until they fall asleep. By implementing small changes slowly and consistently, your baby will eventually sleep through the night.
- Once they are comfortable with this new sleep routine, instead of sitting across the room until they fall asleep, leave the room completely while they fall asleep. If the baby cries, enter into the room every couple of minutes to reassure them that you're still there. Don't stay in your child's room longer than 1 minute and don't turn on the lights. It's also important for you NOT to pick up the baby or play with them. Keep the visit supportive and reassuring and short. Avoid showing anger during these visits.
Remember that all babies and all parents are different and work out what feels right for you. Just because your sister’s child is sleeping through the night and yours isn’t, doesn’t make you a bad parent. Similarly, if you love co-sleeping with your children and others say it is bad for the child, do what YOU feel is best, not what other people do!
Natural remedies to help your baby sleep peacefully
Natural remedies can help to promote peaceful sleep without the risk of side effects. Here are some suggestions.
Baby's Sweet Dreams is a natural homeopathic formula for babies 0 -12 months of age. It comes in tiny dissolvable granules, which babies enjoy sucking on, and helps to calm babies into peaceful slumber without the risk of synthetic drugs. Baby's Sweet Dreams helps babies feel relaxed and more secure in their immediate surroundings, which in turn helps establish healthy, regular sleeping patterns.
To find out more about the product please click on the image below:
Toddler's Sweet Dreams is a natural homeopathic sleep tonic that calms and relaxes young children (12 months +) and induces a state of drowsiness and relaxation. It is gentle and non-addictive and will not unduly sedate your child.