This is probably one of the most common questions asked by new parents every day.
Once your baby arrives, most parents find that an unbroken night of sleep is a luxury they just don’t have anymore. Something that was once taken for granted now seems completely unattainable.
Sleep deprivation is one of the major downsides to having a baby. It can cause many an argument between tired and cranky parents.
Don’t despair; it will take time, patience and a lot of love, but it can work!
There are no right & wrong answers when it comes to sleeping through the night. You might find that an approach your friend suggested worked wonders for her, just doesn’t work for you or your baby. Or that something you tried in the past that didn’t work now starts working a treat with your older child. Decide what the best approach is for you, your child and your family.
The Early Weeks:
Once you bring your darling little bundle home, the nighttime woes will begin. Take this stage for what it is; a stage that should not last long. Your newborn is adjusting to life outside the womb. He won’t have an internal body clock telling him that nighttime is for sleeping and daytime is for being awake. Newborns don’t know that when it is dark the world goes to sleep. And quite frankly, they don’t care!
If they are hungry they want to eat. If they are wet they want a diaper change.
As early as 6 weeks of age, your baby can develop good sleeping habits and start sleeping through the night.
Swaddling is a great strategy for newborns. It stops their startle reflex and creates a slight pressure around you’re their body that gives most newborns a sense of security because it mirrors the pressure they would have felt in your womb.
You can also start teaching self-soothing habits such as thumb or hand sucking.
Introduce a transitional object at this age too. A stuffed animal or blanket works well. It creates comfort and reassurance for when you’re not there.
Once your infant starts to eat more during the day, his nighttime feedings should start to space out more. Around 4 months of age, your baby can quite safely sleep through the night without being fed. If this isn’t happening, keep him awake longer in the afternoon and increase the amount of his last feeding before bed. You can also start solids around this age. Some rice cereal with his last feeding can help fill that little tummy for the night.
You can still be swaddling at this stage too. Although your infant might be a wriggler, and start to work his way out of being swaddled.
Create a calming, consistent bedtime ritual. Decide ahead of time how long you want to spend creating a relaxing atmosphere with reading and playing quietly; and then stick to the schedule. Knowing what is going to happen each night will be appreciated by your little one. If he fusses or cries, don’t go to him immediately: Try
to wait and see if he settles without your help. He may still be asleep; going in to comfort him may backfire and wake him even more.
The Toddler Years:
Once your baby hits the toddler years, your sleep worries could well be over; or they could be just beginning!
Your baby could have been an excellent sleeper in the early months and now be having some difficulties.
If your baby won’t stay asleep:
Don’t pick up your child or bring him to your room. He needs to learn to put himself back to sleep, even if it means crying a bit first. Comfort him and then leave the room. Continue to return briefly every five to 10 minutes until he falls asleep.
You can help him learn to distinguish between night and day right from the start by keeping nighttime feedings subdued (keep the room darkened, only a nightlight is needed) and waking him up if he sleeps for longer than a few hours during the day. Eventually he’ll learn to save his long sleep for nighttime. If he does wake up, use your voice to calm him and try not to pick him up.
A set naptime in a set place will ensure that your child gets the sleep he needs.
Don’t let your child nap past 4 in the afternoon, or he’ll have problems going to sleep at night.
Some Tips –
1. Keep to your routine: If your baby likes to sleep late into the morning because of his restless night, wake him up earlier each day. Waking up at the same time each morning should aid in helping him get the routine down.
2. Nap in natural light: This will help encourage shorter naps and let him differentiate between night and day. This in turn may help him sleep better at night.
3. Keep the evening calm to avoid over-stimulation: Bathing can be a great soothing, relaxing time. On the other hand though, some babies will become too stimulated by bathing and this will in turn wake them up more.
As with all sleep issues, consistency is essential Your little one will be sleeping through the night in no time!