The expression “sleeping like a baby” is often used to mean getting a great night’s sleep. But if your baby is like any other baby, that is probably not what is happening. If you are interested in learning more about helping your baby to sleep more soundly, our BrightCourse course shares helpful information and tips.
The truth is babies don’t just fall asleep; they must be parented to sleep. There is no magic sleep solution. Babies have different temperaments and family lifestyles vary. You need to explore nighttime parenting styles that help your baby at each different stage of her development. Avoid any method that suggests you to leave your baby to cry alone. A baby can do little to comfort herself other than to cry louder or to withdraw emotionally. Leaving her to cry alone undermines her ability to trust you will meet her needs. This leaves her more dependent, not less. Your baby is a baby for such a short amount of time, and you will miss these nights sooner than you know.
COMFORT BABY TO SLEEP
Holding and soothing your baby often during the day makes her mellow. A warm bath and a gentle massage relax tired muscles. Lying down with baby on your chest and letting her hear your breathing and heartbeat can lull your baby to sleep. Going to sleep at your breast or in your arms with a bottle is one of baby’s favorite sleep inducers.
Rocking baby to sleep and singing softly is treasured time spent with your baby. If baby is completely awake and you need her to sleep, a drive around the neighborhood might calm her to sleep by the hum of the car engine and the motion of the car.
Babies enter sleep differently than adults. While you enter deep sleep right away, your baby enters sleep through an initial period of light sleep lasting around twenty minutes. If you try to put your baby down before she enters into deep sleep, you will find that she will awaken as soon as you lay her down. If you rush through the light sleep stage you will find that you soon have to repeat the bedtime routine of rocking, cuddling, feeding, or walking her back to sleep.
A good indicator of your baby being in deep sleep is when her arms and legs dangle weightlessly. Now you can put her down and slip away without worry of her waking before you’re even out of the room.
BIRTH TO THREE MONTHS
Newborn babies sleep up to 18 hours a day during the first week and 12 to 16 hours a day by the time they are a month old. During these first few months your baby will not stay asleep for more than two or three hours at a time. While responding to your baby’s needs, you’ll be up several times during the night to change, feed, and comfort her. You can plan on being very tired with this schedule.
The best, yet most ignored, advice is to rest when your baby is resting. Around two weeks of age you can start to help her distinguish between night and day. Interact and play with her during the day. Keep the house light and bright, and don’t reduce regular daytime noise. At night, keep the lights and noise level low and don’t play or talk loudly when she wakes up. She will soon begin to understand that nighttime is for sleeping.
THREE TO SIX MONTHS: SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT
By around three months of age, your baby will develop a more regular sleep cycle and will not require most of her nighttime feedings. Your baby will be sleeping a total of 12 to 15 hours a day. Most babies are able to sleep through the night sometime between 3 and 6 months of age.
“Sleeping through the night” is a funny term, because it really means your baby will be able to sleep for five or six hours straight. Be prepared during this stage for a baby who was previously sleeping well to suddenly start night waking again due to teething pain or practicing new skills like rolling over. Now is a good time to start nighttime routines with your baby.
Establish regular bedtime and nap times to help her regulate her sleep patterns. Choose a reasonable bedtime that works with your family’s schedule. Your naps can follow a specific timeline or you can put her down every two or three hours. Develop a bedtime ritual — giving her a bath and a baby massage, getting her in her pajamas, and singing and rocking.
If any part of your ritual (the bath, for example) stimulates or excites your baby, don’t do that right before bed. Babies thrive on consistency, so your routine should be done at the same time and in the same order every night.
SIX TO NINE MONTHS
Your baby will now be sleeping a total of 11.5 to 15 hours a day. Their daytime naps are longer and usually have decreased to two a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Your baby is probably ready for nighttime weaning, but may still want to nurse or eat for comfort only. Previously good sleepers may start night-waking because of teething pain, practicing new skills such as sitting up or crawling or even walking, and separation anxiety.
Sometimes a baby learning these new skills will practice at night and get stuck in a sitting or standing position and be unable to lie back down. If your baby is night waking and is used to going to bed at a certain time each night, now is when you can try making her bedtime half an hour earlier. For some odd reason, this can help your baby sleep longer.
NINE MONTHS TO A YEAR
At nine months, your baby typically will sleep 11 or more hours a night and nap twice a day for one or two hours at a time. However, don’t be surprised if your baby is still waking up once a night well after her second birthday. Baby’s sleep is determined more by her personality and temperament than your ability as a parent.
Tips for Helping Baby Stay Asleep
- Swaddling – newborn babies like to sleep tight; older babies like to sleep loose
- Try a cradle – some babies prefer motion
- Consider a pacifier – some babies have a high-suck need
- A quiet place – some babies startle easy and need a quieter sleeping environment
- A full tummy – but not too full; stuffing baby with solids before bed rarely helps them sleep longer
- Respond quickly – if you respond before she is fully awake you may be able to settle her sooner
Causes of Night Waking
Teething pain, a dirty diaper, irritating pajamas, hunger, a stuffy nose, she’s too cold or too hot, and medical causes — colds, ear infections, acid reflux, fever, or allergies — all can cause night waking.
You cannot force sleep on a baby who isn’t tired. Creating an environment that allows sleep to overtake your baby is the best way to develop healthy sleep attitudes. The frequent waking stage will not last forever. It passes all too quickly. Meeting your child’s needs both during the day and at night these first few years will pay off in many ways in the years to come.
The world of parenting can be an enigma — it’s absolutely ok to seek support and help! Did you know Life’s Choices offers a variety of *completely free* parenting classes? Through the BrightCourse curriculum, we cover a variety of topics including baby sleep, breastfeeding, car seat safety, nutrition and much more.
We would love to be a free resource to you! Contact us today to find out more about our parenting class options (or about any of our other class options including childbirth classes and relationship classes).