5 Tips to Help your Baby Sleep through the Night

5 Tips to Help your Baby Sleep through the Night

This is a guest post by Batya the Baby Coach

Congratulations on taking the initiative to learn more about overcoming your baby’s sleep challenges. By taking these first significant steps you will learn how to help your baby sleep better, and your sleepless nights will soon be just a faint memory of the past. It is important to keep in mind that a problem only exists when you feel it does, and as the parent of your baby you know what is best. Only you can determine when to implement changes to tackle your baby’s sleep challenges. The plan will only be successful when you are ready for it.

1: Less Sleep Does Not Equal More Sleep Allowing your baby to skip his naps in an attempt to make him overtired will actually have the adverse affect. An overtired baby does not sleep well and will fight sleep more than a well-rested baby. Sleep actually induces sleep, so the more well-rested your child is during the day, the better he will sleep at night. Skipping naps can also affect the quality of the sleep your baby receives, so that the time he does sleep will not be maximized to the fullest.

Ironically, when a baby’s sleep intervals are far apart, he will wake more frequently in the night. The unfortunate outcome is even more sleep deprivation and frustration for everyone! Skipping naps can also lead to early morning risings, which is a very difficult cycle to break. When your baby is overtired, he will not only sleep less at night, but he may also wake up very early in the morning – unsettled and extremely overtired. It is important to ensure that your baby is well-rested during the day by taking the proper amount of naps which will also aid in the quality of sleep at night.

2: Catching the Opportune Sleep Window When babies are ready to settle down for sleep – whether for a nap during the day, or a (hopefully) full sleep at night – their bodies produce certain chemicals. These chemicals aid them in calming and relaxing the necessary muscles which help them fall asleep. When you encourage their sleep in this opportune sleep window, you are actually making it easier for them to relax themselves in preparation for sleep and they don’t become overtired. Conversely, if you miss this window of opportunity in an attempt to keep them awake for a longer period, they will become restless and actually fight sleep more! Keep your eyes open for that optimal time to get them to sleep, and you will see how it contributes to a longer and higher quality sleep.

3: Maintain Realistic Expectations The term, “sleeping through the night” is probably the most popular topic discussed among parents with babies. It can also have a variety of meanings depending on each mother. For some moms, it means waking up several times at night to feed a baby and then having her fall back asleep calmly and easily without much hassle. For others, it can mean placing your baby in her crib at bedtime and not hearing from her until morning!

Of course we all want our baby to sleep through the night. Who wouldn’t? The key, however, is to realize that sleeping through the night may not mean a 12 hour stretch without interruption. You must also take your baby’s age into consideration in order to have reasonable expectations for her night’s sleep. Realistically speaking, until your baby is approximately nine or ten months old, she will still need to have one liquid feeding during the night. However, that does not mean that before this age a baby should habitually wake up many times during the night to be calmed, rocked, walked, etc.

From around three or four months of age, a baby that is gaining weight healthily, and is on a semi-predictable routine during the day, can usually last about six to seven hours at night without a feeding. Although there are general guidelines and norms, your baby and her physical needs are still unique. Therefore, it is important to realize that not all ‘averages’ will completely apply to your child. Make sure that you take all aspects of your baby’s daily life (sleeping, eating, general mood, etc.) into consideration when determining if there are changes you can make in order to help your baby “sleep through the night”.

4: Predictable Days When parents tell me that they’re desperate for their baby to sleep through the night, my first question is, “Does your baby have a semi-predictable routine during the day?” More often than not, the answer is no. 9 A baby’s sleep is based on a 24-hour, rolling cycle. How well a baby sleeps during the day affects the night, which affects the following day and so on.

If your baby has zero consistency and predictability with his eating, napping, and awake times during the day, it is unrealistic to expect him to suddenly work like a clock once nightfall comes. It is crucial to establish naps and bedtime at predictable times. This doesn’t mean that you and your baby need to be enslaved to the clock, but it is best to follow some general schedule of sleeping and eating times. By ensuring that your baby has consistency during the day, his nighttime schedule should start to improve as well.

5: Introduce A Lovey An attachment object, otherwise known as a transitional object, lovey, comfort object, snuggly, etc. can make a big difference to your baby. It is typically a special blanket or stuffed animal that can play a part in easing separation anxiety and overcoming disrupting sleep habits. Introducing your baby to such an object facilitates the forging of a bond with something that can remain with her all night and comfort her when you are not there.

A lovey can make her feel secure and cozy, providing a safety net for her when you leave the room. If your baby has not yet attached herself to such an object, then you should pick one for her! You should take her preferences into account, but aim for something soft that she can easily snuggle up with at night. When you find an appropriate object, it is safest to buy two in case one gets lost. Babies are very smart and may not accept a substitute even if it looks and feels the same. You’ll soon see that once the bond between your baby and this object is formed, she will accept it with open arms and should drift off to dreamland without needing you to remain with her at all times.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Be sure to consult with your health care provider to ensure that the lovey you pick for your baby is completely safe, especially when she is left alone with it.

To learn more tips to enable your baby (and you!) to get more sleep, visit my blog to download my free Ebook “10 Tips to Help your Baby Sleep through the Night.”

Photo courtesy of flickr.com user The National Media Museum

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9 comments

  1. Elisheva

    She had me agreeing till she got to the “lovey” part. I don’t think it’s a healthy idea to forge an attachment between your child and an inanimate object as a parental replacement…They are infants, after all. Independence is not required (or even desired) just yet…

    • Very true! A lovey is not meant to replace a mother, G-d Forbid. All babies have different types of temperaments and some need extra types of comfort to offer that security. The goal is not to breech independence (we have another 20 years or so to deal with that!), but rather to offer another element of soothing to a baby that needs it. =-)

  2. I think most issues with kids hinge on #3… Unrealistic expectations! This is an area that many parents, especially new ones, need to focus their energy!

  3. Elisheva

    Someone gave me a good idea that she got from a labor coach: instead of just choosing some blanket or doll to sleep with, she used to give her babies her shell that she took off at the end of the day or her husbands undershirt – because it smelled like her/him…she told me that as her kids grew older it sufficed to just pull a clean one out of the drawer to comfort them.

    • JewishMom

      what a cool idea! has anyone else tried this? Or does anyone have any other ideas for successful loveys? thanks!

      • Along the same lines is if you have a specific blanket that your baby enjoys during the day but has difficulty snuggling up to at night…

        This might sound a bit strange, but for a mother to sleep with it her shirt for a night or on her pillow so it has her scent. Babies are very in tune with smells, especially from their mothers, and it can help offer that added comfort.

      • Chana Frazin

        hi Jenny! sometimes when my 3 year old wants to snuggle longer than i do, i offer him my tichel. he loves to sleep with it. i take the one off my head, kiss him goodnight and leave the room.
        chodesh tov,
        chana

  4. Something that helped me to get my daughter to have a lovey —
    I wrapped the blanket around myself while I was nursing her, so that she’d feel the blanket and play with it during nursing. This got her to associate that specific blanket with comfort.

    She’s now almost 3 1/2 and still goes everywhere with it!

  5. #4 is a challenge for me. For my first two I always kept them under predictable routines and they were wonderful sleepers. Now with my third I find that she wants the routine and many hours of day sleep as much as they did, but our families needs are different and it is hard to accommodate. I really don’t want to hire day time sitters or be house-bound… Tempted to try stroller naps, but I’ve been told that is lower quality sleep. Any tips?

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