If there is one major aspect of having a baby for the first time that many parents aren’t prepared for is the sleepless nights that will come once your newborn is home and up every couple of hours. This seemingly constant lack of sleep to feed or change your little one’s diaper can put a lot of stress on both parents and have them scrambling for answers.
While it would be a welcome relief to some sleep-deprived parents, learning how to help their baby sleep through the night is also very beneficial for the newest member of the family too. Before we start seeing parents pull their hair out, we wanted to offer a guide and some tips on how you can help them not only fall asleep but sleep through the night so you can too.
Let’s get started.
Why won’t they sleep through the night?
There can be many different reasons why your newest member of the family isn’t sleeping through the night like you wish they would. After spending ten months in mommy’s womb, they may have difficulty discerning between night and day at first. They could also be hungry, need a new diaper, or might be looking for comfort and reassurance from you. For some babies, having a routine at bedtime can be beneficial in helping them settle down. If they are teething, it can upset that routine and their sleep patterns.
If they’re not sleeping through the night, it quite likely that you aren’t either. This can leave you feeling drained and have days where you’re constantly yawning or struggling to stay awake or even function. This change in your own sleeping patterns can also lead to bouts of depression.
Even when they aren’t hungry, many babies will still wake up during the night for many months. Depending on whether or not the lack of sleep you may be experiencing is beatable or not, you may want to try letting your little one learn to sleep through the night on their own. However, if the lack of sleep is becoming an issue, that can not only affect you personally but also how you are as a parent, you may want to start looking into alternative ways to help them sleep.
What can I do to help my little one settle?
Now on the rare occurrence that your little one just lays in their crib and sleeps through the night from the moment you bring them home, it’s more than likely that you will need to help them settle and drift off to dreamland.
While science hasn’t invented a way for you to wave a magic wand and help your baby sleep, we found some ways that you may want to try to not only do they have sweet sweet dreams but so can you. These tactics may help them sleep better as early as six weeks but you need to make sure you stay consistent using tips, even on the weekend.
Feedings: During the day, try to make feedings more of a social movement and lively. At night, feed them in an area that is quiet and calm, Learning this different can help their bodies set their own clock, and know the difference between day and night
Falling Asleep on Their Own: Like you, your baby has a natural circadian rhythm. This can also be known as a ‘sleep-wake cycle’. This cycle helps regulate their sleep will start to develop at around six weeks of age. When they are sleepy, but still awake, lay them down on their back and allow them to settle and fall asleep. If you choose to rock or feed your little one in order for them to fall asleep, they may become reliant on it instead of being used to settling themselves.
Swaddling: During the nine months that your baby is in mommy’s womb, the space they have isn’t very big so they get used to feeling safe and comfortable in a tight space. A newborn can feel much more secure when they are swaddled. Use a sheet or light blanket to swaddle your little one. While it may not work for all babies, it’s still worth a shot.
A favorite stuffed animal: If your little one is over six months old, try giving them a security object to help comfort them and help them settle down. Common objects include a favorite stuffed animal or baby blanket them may have used frequently. Around this age, your child starts to realize when they are separated from you especially at bedtime. Giving them a familiar object can help with that. A good trick is to keep the item near you for a while so that when you give it your little one at bedtime, it will smell like you, helping them through separation anxiety as well.
Stoke their nose: Ok, now I know this is going to sound weird. But it can work for some children. While you are cradling them in your arm, a gentle stroking motion – downwards from between their eyes – can help them to relax and also encourage them to close their eyes and help them drift off to sleep.
How do I teach my baby to self-settle?
Teaching your baby how to self-settle is a lot like when they learn to crawl. If your little one is always in your arms, they may never learn to crawl because they don’t spend enough time on the floor to figure it out. Likewise, if you get into a habit when you put your baby to sleep or rocking or feeding them, they won’t be able to learn how to self-soothe on their own.
How do you help them do this? With a word you’ll see a lot in this article: create a routine. Having a regular bedtime can help to set their internal clock so that when 8 pm comes, they will be naturally sleepy. Soothing activities such as a warm bath, a nice massage, as well as a story or music playing help as well. And every routine should end with a cuddle and a kiss goodnight.
Once you and your little one have finished your routine for the night, lay them down in their crib while they are still drowsy but still awake. This way, they will likely drift off to dreamland without much of a fuss. If your child is a little older and is used to being rocked or fed right before bed, then they will need a bit of practice to get the hang of it.
Teaching your baby to self-soothe can be an arduous process, especially for those children who are used to a different routine. Once you have said goodnight and laid them down, leave the room and wait outside. Wait a few minutes and then check on him and continue to do so in intervals until they are asleep. You can make the process even more gradual by sitting next to their crib at night and moving away gradually from their crib each night.
When you’re in the room with your little one, try to make minimal eye contact and keep talking at a minimum. You shouldn’t say anything more than a simple request of your child to lie down.
For many parents, their child’s bedtime routine can include breastfeeding or being bottle-fed until they fall asleep in their arms. If your little one is used to this routine, you can either make your child’s last feeding the beginning of their bedtime routine or try to gently wake them before you lay them down in their crib. If you notice that they are starting to doze off, end their meal and finish with the rest of your routine before you lie them down.
Now, we realize that some may see our suggestion to wake your sleeping baby and think we’re being ludicrous, but look at the bigger picture. You and your baby are working together with the goal of helping them develop their ability to soothe themselves to sleep. They will rest for longer periods of time because when they wake up during the night, they’ll be able to put themselves back to sleep, get the rest they need and thrive.
If your little one is unable to get the hang of knowing when it’s bedtime, there could be a few reasons for that. One, they may just be too young to be able to self-soothe. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try again. But we suggest waiting a few days, weeks, or months before you try again so they are more receptive.
They might also simply be too tired to settle into bedtime on their own. Changing their bedtime to an earlier start can help to alleviate this. You should also consider whether or not you are giving your child the best chance to settle himself off to sleep, or if you’re darting in every time they make a sound.
What sleep training methods can I try?
For some, who may feel that their little one is ready, they can try a controlled crying method. This method involves laying your child down to bed, and when they cry, leaving their room and leaving them by themselves for a few minutes before returning. Extending the length of time you are out of the room between each check-in is important. Experts recommend starting with an interval of two minutes and working your way up to 10 minute periods.
It’s only normal to have a hard time leaving your little one crying in their crib, even if it’s for a short period of time. A lot of research has been done in regards to controlled crying and the effect it has on babies. This research has shown that it does not harm your little one and can actually help your baby sleep. However, this doesn’t mean that you should leave them crying for long periods of time.
Now controlled crying isn’t for every parent. For those that feel that controlled crying doesn’t work for them, there are many other options you can use to help your child sleep.
The following strategies can help:
Cuddling: For some parents, bringing your baby into bed for a good cuddle session can help them feel comforted and know that it’s time to go to sleep. When you lie down with them and cuddle, pretend to sleep, which will firmly let them know that it’s bedtime. But be sure that you are making co-sleeping safe for your little one. If they are six months or younger, it is safest for them to sleep in a crib next to your bed.
Sharing roles: Both parents can help your baby fall asleep. Sharing the role of comforter can help build bonds and once they are old enough to not need a feeding before bedtime, then being comforted by your partner. They might stop needing anyone to go to sleep once they realize that there is no food involved.
Tuning in: Like many of us, your baby has needs of their own. Depending on the time of day, their needs may differ. For example, during the day, they may want to be close to you and feel more secure, which you can do by using a wearable baby carrier or ring sling to keep them close. Conversely, during the night, if they wake up, try to figure out why. Are they comfortable? Does their diaper need changing? Do they have a cold?
Even with these tips, if your little one is still waking up at night after you’ve tucked them in, their stage of development may have an influence on how well they settle. You will want to try and adapt your approach so that it works for your little one.
What ways can I help my tired baby fall asleep faster?
When a baby first comes home, they will sleep a lot and every day is a big day for them. From meeting grandma and grandpa, going to the doctor for the first time, traveling out and around in a stroller, their days can be pretty full. Babies will sleep a lot during those first few months, but depending on your child, that sleep may not always come during the night so you can get some sleep as well.
Now, every parent has a friend who’s baby supposedly slept like a rock from the moment they came home, and while that’s rare “(and lucky), many babies will wake up at least once during the night, but how can you help your already-tired baby fall back to sleep faster?
While you will never get a guarantee that your little one will sleep through the night from the first night they are home, to help both you and your little one catch more z’s, we rounded up a list of a few tried-and-true tricks that are expert-approved to help:
- Lay baby down drowsy – Even if your baby wakes in the middle of the night, it is very likely that they are not fully awake. While cradling them and rocking them to help calm them down is a great idea, be careful not to let them fall back to sleep that way. When you notice them starting to nod off, lay them back in their crib so they can drift back off to sleep on their own. This is important because it can help them sleep longer. If you rock them back to sleep and they rouse awake, they’ll notice things have changed and you’re not there, upsetting and confusing them
- Create a routine – You’ve seen us mention this before, but we cannot stress it enough. Creating a routine for your child’s bedtime lets them know that we’re getting ready to go to bed. They will get used to doing the same things with you over and over again, such as a bath, reading a bedtime story, dimming the lights and playing sot lullabies can help build a strong routine.
- Don’t assume that they need to be fed – Many new parents make the assumption that in the middle of the night, if their baby is crying, then they are either hungry or have a dirty diaper. While the latter may be true, don’t jump to the conclusion that they are hungry. A newborn tends to sleep in short cycles of 40 minutes. This means that they will stir frequently during the night. If they do cry, and you’re sure it’s not their diaper, give them a few moments to try and settle on their own. If that doesn’t help, try using another method of comfort instead of offering a bottle or breast right away, try rubbing their belly or singing softly, it may be all they need.
- Lengthen the time between feeding – When your little one is a newborn, they will need to eat every two to three hours generally, but over time, they will slowly start to stretch out the time between each feeding. You can use this to your advantage and shift things by offering them a feeding right before you go to be so that when you fall asleep, you’ll know that they have a full belly
- Don’t rush into solid foods – Many parents used to think that giving their baby solid foods early, they would go to bed with a fuller belly and be less likely to wake up during the night. However, giving your little one solid food too soon can actually hurt their sleeping cycle and can potentially trigger latent food allergies and other gastrointestinal issues. Babies typically aren’t ready for solid food until they reach six months of age. There is also no research linking starting solid foods and your baby sleeping better.
Baby Sleeping Issues and How You Can Help Them
For any new parent, the ultimate goal is to get to a point where your little one sleeps through the night. When your baby is still a newborn, while they will sleep for many hours during the day, at night, it can be a different story. There can be many different ideas and strategies that parents can use to help their child sleep through the night.
We pulled some of the best ones to highlight and offer some of the best strategies that can help your little one to sleep through the night. With these, you and your child may be able to sleep through the night and get the rest you both need.
Wean Them Off the Pacifier – Your baby’s pacifier can be a godsend and a hindrance for both you and your child. While it can help calm them when they are cranky, it can also become a crutch of sorts, becoming the only way they will sleep. During the night, they may lose their pacifier, waking them up and causing them to cry.
The Solution– At around eight months old, most children will have developed the fine motor skills to be able to put their pacifier back in their mouth. While some parents don’t like the idea of their child having a pacifier at night, studies have shown that using a nighttime pacifier can help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) during their first year. The other option would be to forgo the pacifier all together and let them cry it out. While this may take some time for your little one to get used to it, after a few days they will eventually be able to go to sleep and not need it anymore.
White Noise – When you are able to lay your little one down at the end of a long day, parents many times have to play a game of stealth til they go to bed. For many babies, a slight noise, anything from a door creaking to the sound of a pen dropping may wake your baby. This can cause many long nights where your little one and yourself get very little sleep.
The Solution– To help your little one drift off to slumberland without having to tiptoe around the house, try using a white-noise machine or a fan to create a gentle hum that can masks other sounds around the house. Some parents also try using playlists on popular music streaming apps that can play white noise or play variations of nursery rhymes, songs from popular children’s movies or even popular songs without the words. Your little one will associate sleeping with these sounds and will start to fall asleep much easier.
Avoid Long Soothing Sessions – When your baby begins learning something new, like crawling, it can excite them that they can now move around the house on their own and may be too amped up to go to bed. This can create for some really late nights, especially if every time you check on them you pick them up and try to gently rock and soothe them back to sleep.
The Solution– While it’s perfectly fine to check on your child if they are too excited about their new discovery to lay down and go to sleep, you need to remain firm with them and remind them that it is bedtime, not playtime. When you leave the room, they may cry because they may be experiencing some separation anxiety. If this happens more than 30 minutes before they normally wake up, soothe them for a few minutes, let them know you’ll see them soon and leave. If you hear them chatting and cooing, leave her be. Your baby is likely entertaining themselves and should fall back to sleep shortly.
Stop Nighttime Feedings – For many new parents, when your newborn comes home, they will want to feed a lot and if you feed them right before you lay them down for bedtime, they can become used to this, expecting it to happen night in and night out, and if it doesn’t, it may keep them up all night until you do.
The Solution – When you bring your little one in for their routine checkup, be sure to ask the pediatrician when you can stop feeding them before bedtime. Research has shown that 90 percent of children at least six months of age can sleep through the night without a snack beforehand. If your pediatrician is ok with you stopping the nighttime feedings, gradually reduce them. If they are getting multiple bottles, start by reducing that number by one each day or decrease the amount of formula in each bottle. Your baby will start to realize that the food that they are used to is no longer available and will stop looking forward to it.
My Babies Planet Overview
Throughout our article, we made suggestions about how you can help your baby sleep through the night. While not all of these may work for your child, it is a good place to start so that you can help them rest completely and get a full nights sleep, and you can too.
Finding what works best comes down to your preference and how your baby responds to the strategies we’ve described. We hope we were able to offer you some help.