One of the most challenging parts of becoming a parent is learning how to help your baby sleep through the night. Newborns will often wake to feed every few hours since their stomachs are so small and are not big enough to keep them full throughout the entire night. But, as your baby grows, those nighttime feedings will happen less and less. It’s during those milestones when parents expect their babies to begin sleeping through the night. However, things don’t always turn out as expected, especially in parenthood.
Remember an important step to helping baby sleep through the night is making sure they get the right amount of sleep during the day. A good nap schedule is vital to helping your baby's sleep schedule.
Before focusing on whether or not your baby can sleep through the night, you need to understand whether they are ready or not. You could be pushing too early. The main thing to look out for is a decrease in the Moro Reflex. Moro Reflex is a reflex reaction of infants upon being startled that is characterized by extension of the arms and legs away from the body and to the side and then drawing them together as if in an embrace. This can happen when a baby experiences a sensation of free-falling, where the baby reacts by lifting and stretching their arms. She may even let out a sharp gasp. You should begin to see a decrease in Moro Reflex around months five and six. This is when you’ll know that your baby is ready to learn to sleep through the night.
If your baby is able to sleep through the night but is still struggling, there could be an underlying reason your baby hasn’t been or they might just need a little help from you to show them how. Several underlying reasons that could cause your baby not to be able to sleep through the night, including sleep regression, growth spurt, or the inability to self soothe.
Before moving on to helping your baby sleep through the night, make sure your baby is ready to learn. They are old enough and capable.
How to get baby to sleep through the night:
Teach your baby to self soothe. Teaching your baby to self soothe means you will need to soothe them less. This can be difficult at first. Our first instinct when baby wakes up in the middle of the night crying is to go check on them and pick them up. However, try your hardest to limit your time in there with them during the night. It’s helpful to make it clear to your baby that it’s still time to sleep. Do you not pick them up, but rather place your hand on their chest for a few moments to calm them, and then leave the room. Repeat this pattern and your baby will eventually understand how to soothe themselves back to sleep. We also recommend swaddling your baby. This will help them feel secure as if they are being held. You can find our favorite swaddles HERE.
Start weaning the night feedings. Once your doctor tells gives you the OK to stop night feedings, it is time to slowly start decreasing them. With many babies, it is normal for feeding to become associated with sleep because when your baby wakes up you normally feed them. Remember, just because your baby will no longer need night feeds, doesn’t mean they won’t WANT night feeds. Start slowly weaning them off at night by feeding them less frequently. Instead of feeding them three times a night move down to two and then one.
Follow a schedule. You must help your baby get the right amount of sleep during the day to prepare them for the right amount of sleep at night. Newborns can’t differentiate between day and night, which is why they sleep around the clock. However, as they get older they’re sleeping periods will lengthen and if they’re sleeping too much during the day they will keep up longer at night.
Calming ambiance. Keep the room at a comfortable temperature and make sure it stays dark. Ambiance can be a tremendous help. Try adding some white noise in their room if your baby likes that. The softest sounds can disturb your baby at night, so white noise will provide a constant, soothing sound for them to sleep too. It also helps draw out any other noise is happening around the house which will keep your baby asleep.
Have an appropriate bedtime for your baby. The mistake we see a lot of parents make is thinking if you put your baby to sleep later they’ll wake up later. We’re here to tell you that it doesn’t always work. It most likely means you’ll put them to bed late and be up early. Newborns shouldn’t have a bedtime because they sleep off and on, but as they reach three months old, it’s healthy to start establishing a bedtime that accompanies your sleep schedule.
Have patience. If you feel like your baby starts sleeping through the night and then suddenly they stop, it may be sleep regression or growth spurt. Be patient with your baby and yourself. Grow spurts only last a few days and then the baby should return to normal patterns. Sleep regression‘s can last anywhere between 1 to 4 weeks so being patient during times like this will be crucial to maintaining a healthy mindset. If you can remember that a sleep regression or a growth spurt won’t last long then you’ll be able to have a more enjoyable transition to having baby sleep through the night.