Sleep becomes an elusive thing when you become the parent to a newborn. Babies don’t exactly have a good grasp of sociable hours to be awake and asleep, which means you quickly have to adjust to being awake whenever your baby is. Fortunately, this doesn’t last forever. Eventually, your baby will start to recognize night and day and then sleep through the night. You’ll be able to get them to sleep in their own bed without waking up multiple times through the night. And as a bonus, they’ll even nap during the day a couple of times too.
But how do you get to this point? It can be a long journey, but it’s worth it to get your own sleep back again.
Important Developmental Milestones
There are steps you can take to help your baby start sleeping through the night. However, a lot of what will get them to that point is certain developmental milestones that they need to reach. Of course, you can do some things to help them reach certain milestones, but there are also some things that just need to develop at their own pace. One important developmental milestone is obviously whether your baby needs to feed at night. Babies usually need night feeds until around four months old, but some will continue to want them to help soothe them back to sleep.
Being able to self-soothe when they wake up is essential for babies to sleep through the night. We all wake up between sleep cycles, but what matters is whether we’re able to fall back to sleep on our own. Babies might use a number of methods to soothe themselves so they can fall back asleep on their own. This could include sucking their thumb or rubbing their feet together. It’s also helpful if your baby is capable of rolling over both ways. Babies often prefer to sleep on their tummies, but this isn’t safe until they’re able to roll over onto their backs.
Understand the Different Stages
Taking some time to understand how your baby’s sleep can develop over time will give you an idea of what sort of timeline to expect. As your baby gets older they will start to need a little less sleep, and the times they sleep will change too.
Newborns require at least 16 to 17 hours of sleep every day, but they need to feed at night so won’t sleep through. They also don’t have a circadian rhythm or produce melatonin, so they don’t have a consistent sleep pattern, either. But it’s not long before your baby can start to get into a sleep routine. At around 3 or 4 months, it’s easier to get into a pattern. They probably won’t sleep through the night yet, but you can create a better routine for naps and bedtime.
When babies can go without a night feed at around 4 to 5 months, they can begin sleeping for a stretch of 5-7 hours. At 6 to 8 months, they can often sleep for even longer, up to 9 hours if you’re lucky. They will still need naps during the day, but 80% of babies sleep through the night by 9 months old. So when it comes to caring for your 10 month old baby, you can usually find that full nights of sleep are achievable. However, remember that every baby is different. If your baby isn’t sleeping through the night by then, it could only be a matter of time until they are.
Helping Your Baby Recognize Night and Day
One of the earliest things you can start doing is helping your baby to recognize the difference between night and day. This can help them develop their circadian rhythm and eventually get into a good sleep routine. When it’s time to sleep, you can make the room dark and quiet. When it’s time to be awake, let in more light and make a bit more noise to show that it’s daytime.
Create the Right Sleep Environment
Your baby should sleep in the same room as you until they are six months old. Experts typically recommend against co-sleeping, but if you choose to do it, it’s essential to make it as safe as possible. A side sleeper can be a good compromise, giving your baby a safe space to sleep while also having them right next to you. They need a firm mattress, with no toys or loose blankets in bed with them. If you use a blanket, it should be safely tucked in under their arms, with their feet at the bottom of the crib. Getting the temperature right is important too. It shouldn’t be too hot or too cold. It should also be quiet (although you might choose to use white noise) and dark.
Know When It’s Time for Bed
Recognizing when your baby is getting sleepy is really helpful when you want them to start sleeping through the night. It helps you to get into a good bedtime routine and make sure you put them to bed at the best time. Look for the cues that indicate your baby is feeling tired, like rubbing their eyes, pulling on their ears, or avoiding eye contact. Be careful of overtiredness too, though. Babies who are too tired can start to become more animated, and can actually find it harder to get to sleep.
Start Creating a Bedtime Routine Early
At first, creating a bedtime routine for your newborn can be tricky. There’s no real consistency in when they sleep, so a good bedtime routine is hard to establish right away. But, over time, you can set up a bedtime routine that works for you. Doing the same thing every night shows your baby that it’s time for bed. It gives them time to wind down and it’s a great opportunity to have some bonding time too. Your bedtime routine might include feeding, a bath, reading, singing, or a cuddle. All of these things can help to create a connection to bedtime.
Allow Your Baby to Self-soothe
Learning to self-soothe can be an important part of your baby being able to sleep through the night. This can include allowing your baby to fall asleep on their own instead of holding them until they’re asleep, as well as letting them get back to sleep without intervention if they wake up in the night. This doesn’t mean leaving your baby to cry, but instead not jumping up at the first sound on the baby monitor. Your baby might have woken up, but they could be asleep again in a few minutes without your help.
Be Active During the Day
Making sure your baby is tired enough at night is an important part of helping them sleep through. Doing lots of activities during the day will help your baby to sleep better. In fact, research shows that more physically active babies are better sleepers. Even younger babies can have plenty of tummy time, which is great for building up some important muscles and motor skills. You also don’t need to be afraid of waking your baby up from a nap. If you think sleeping too long during the day will mean they’re not tired at night, waking your baby up is fine. This is true from about 8 months or so, especially before bedtime. Your baby should be awake for at least a few hours before it’s time for bed.
The journey to your baby sleeping through the night can be a long one, but it’s worth it in the end when you finally get there.