Sick of the question, “Is your baby sleeping through the night?”
I often get calls and emails from mothers asking why their eight week old baby won’t sleep through the night because all the babies at their Mothers’ Group are or their friend’s baby slept through from six weeks.
When your baby won’t sleep, it can be incredibly demoralising but sleeping through the night can mean different things at different times. (I know we all want it to mean, sleeping 12 hours straight without waking!!)
Let’s take a look at what happens as baby ages.
For a start, newborns need to feed regularly and can’t sleep more than a few hours without feeding. The early days of motherhood can be exhausting. You feel like you are living in another world and at times, everything takes on a slightly greyish tinge from sleep deprivation. For those who used to sleep eight hours a night, sleeping in small snatches can be brutal. It is normal to have a baby waking through the night when they are very little – their tiny tummies can’t take in any more milk to keep them going for longer.
12 weeks and beyond
Things change as babies age and by 12 weeks, if your baby is sleeping five or six hours overnight, this is actually considered “sleeping through”. So take the pressure off yourself and your little one!
Smile politely and congratulate those mothers who tell you they have an exceptional baby and try to visualise puppies. Or kittens. Whatever works for you to avoid pouring your coffee into their handbag.
In terms of taking action, work on getting that routine happening because that is often what prompts babies to sleep longer.
Between three and four and half months you can really get your baby and yourself into a nice little routine, especially at night. It is around this time that your baby really can start to sleep for long periods overnight. If they haven’t started to do this by themselves then there are things you can do it get it happening.
I believe that babies of this age still need to be fed overnight if they haven’t naturally started to sleep through. They naturally know what they need to eat at this stage. But you can work it so that they are getting their biggest chunk of sleep over the middle of the night – and so you can get some good rest too.
One of the most important things to establish is the night time ritual and your baby should have a definite bedtime. Bedtime can be anytime between 6pm and 7pm but even if your baby doesn’t seem that tired, I wouldn’t wait longer than then or they will miss the part of the night when they tend to have the deepest and most refreshing sleep.
Once your baby has gone down for the night, they need to stay there for the whole of the night, only getting up to feed and then straight back to bed, no playtime, no chit chat, straight back to bed. You will notice now too that your baby doesn’t need to be awake for too long overnight, they usually start to feed much more quickly and can go back to sleep without too much fuss. It is still important that you give them time to burp after you have fed them but you may find that they are less bothered by wind and tummy pains than during the day.
Six to nine months
Between six and nine months, your baby should be in a nice routine and sleeping well both day and night. If you are still feeding overnight, this is when you can start to reduce that and hopefully by nine months have a baby that is sleeping all night and by that I mean eleven to twelve hours, every night!
With gentle settling techniques and routines, you can get baby sleeping for longer without waking but getting a baby sleeping through the night is not always easy and it doesn’t happen automatically. Go easy on yourself.
All the best,
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