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Infants are known to have a sleep pattern that very often wakes them up at odd hours in the night. If you’re a new mother, this erratic sleep pattern may be causing you to lose out on a lot of sleep. Once your baby is a few months older, you will see a pattern to your baby’s sleep and you may be able to help him sleep longer in the night and keep yourself from sleep deprivation.
Why Is Your Newborn Baby Not Sleeping At Night?
Your baby’s sleepless nights may be caused due to many reasons. Some of the common reasons why babies wake up in the night are,
- Your baby needs to be fed.
- Your baby may face some discomfort and requires your physical comfort.
- Teething may cause a lot of pain and prevent the baby from sleeping
Is It Normal for Babies to Not Sleep Through the Night?
A baby will sleep for around 16 hours each day, and most of this sleep is fragmented and disorganised. Since your baby will be getting a significant portion of his sleep during the day, his night time sleeping pattern may be erratic. Hence, it is fairly common for a baby to not sleep through the night. Typically, babies also need regular feeds in the night as their stomach doesn’t keep them full for an extended period of time, which contributes to the irregular sleep pattern.
Does Night Waking Last for a Longer Time?
Many parents are keen to know when do babies begin to sleep through the night in hopes of catching some coveted sleep. Most babies tend to develop a sleep pattern that can be recognised around their fourth month. However, some babies may begin sleeping through the night even at six weeks of age. While others take longer to do this, your baby should be able to sleep for long hours in the night around the age of four to six months.
Some Effective Methods For Sound Sleep
Here are some methods that can help your baby sleep through the night.
A popular method used is the Ferber method named after Richard Ferber, the director of the Centre for Paediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital, this technique relies on teaching the baby how to fall asleep on his own.
The idea behind this method is that babies tend to associate certain actions or events with sleep and will seek for the same to fall asleep when they wake up in the night. If you allow your baby to fall asleep while you breastfeed or rock your baby to sleep every day your baby will wait for the same act to sleep. This method uses a simple trick to teach your baby to fall asleep on his own.
- Place your baby in his crib and leave the room after saying goodnight.
- Wait outside for about five minutes, even if your baby begins to cry.
- Walk in after five minutes and comfort him without picking him up and leave the room again. If he starts to cry again, wait for 10 minutes and walk inside and calm him.
- Repeat this until your baby falls asleep on his own.
- You can repeat this every time he wakes up in the night. You may even increase the duration of the interval before you walk back in.
- If followed consistently, the method takes about three to seven days to work and has no lasting adverse effect on the baby, even if he cries himself to sleep the first few days.
- Since the baby begins to associate the crib with sleep, he will fall asleep when placed in his crib.
- He will begin to understand that crying does not make his parents pick him up.
- It isn’t for parents with a faint heart. If hearing your baby cry for long periods is difficult for you, you may have trouble with the method. However, in this method, you do comfort the baby at regular intervals and not just let him cry himself to sleep.
- Lack of consistency on the parent’s part will render the method ineffective.
- Some children will not respond to the method. If your baby hasn’t responded to it for over two weeks, you can consult your paediatrician about a different method.
- You may have to repeat it when your baby is older as a relapse may be possible.
2. Scheduled Awakenings
This method alters the sleep habits of your baby as you wake him up at prescribed times.
- Notice your baby’s sleep pattern for a week. Note the time that your baby wakes up.
- Wake him up about 15 minutes before his usual time. If he wakes up at 1 am, and 5 am, wake him up at 12.45 am, and 4.45 am instead.
- Gradually, extend the time. Add 15 minutes to his sleeping time and start waking him up at 1 am, and 5 am again. Then wake him up at 1.15 am, and 5.15 am and continue this till your baby sleeps through the night.
- Adding 15 minutes and waking your baby helps your baby sleep for longer as well as wait for you to wake him up.
- It is a gentler approach than Ferberizing for infants who have predictable timings of waking up.
- There is minimal crying, and parents have control of the pattern, and the time their baby wakes up.
- The hesitation of the parents to wake their baby up. Most parents don’t find it in their heart to wake up a peacefully sleeping infant.
- There are sleep experts who are against this method as they find it ineffective. The argument is that a baby’s waking schedule is varied and can render the technique inefficient.
- It takes longer than three to four weeks for this method to work.
3. Reinforcing Sleep Rhythms
This method uses the baby’s natural sleep pattern to put him to sleep. The key is not to get your baby overtired and allow your baby to nap when you catch him drowsy. The method involves the following steps to help your baby sleep through the night.
- Keeping the interval where your baby is awake very short. Around four months old the baby needs to be put down for a nap every one to two hours. Older babies can nap two to three times a day. You may use any sleep technique but refrain from letting your baby nap in the car or in the stroller.
- Be watchful and anticipate when your baby shows signs of sleep.
- Mark Weissbluth, the advocate of the method, believes that a sleeping baby should never be woken up. Even when older babies between five and twelve months take two to three naps lasting one or two hours each day, it does not affect their night sleep.
- An early bedtime needs to be set to facilitate your baby’s sleep in the night. As per Dr Weissbluth, babies who go to sleep late can have trouble sleeping in the night and taking naps. Babies need to sleep by 6 pm to 8 pm by their schedule.
- It uses your baby’s natural sleeping cycle to promote sleep in the night.
- As per the argument by Dr Weissbluth, you will not need to start Ferberizing or try other methods and that your baby will not develop any sleep problems.
- Not allowing the baby get overtired is not easy.
- While it doesn’t make the baby cry, it takes a lot of time to work. If your baby begins to wake up in the night, then the effect of the process will be very slow.
4. The Family Bed
This is a co-sleeping arrangement that is very common in most countries. Also called as attachment parenting, this method allows the baby to sleep with the parents each night.
- The baby has a sense of security.
- He will go right back to sleep if he wakes up and feels comfortable knowing his parents are around.
- It may be convenient for a breastfeeding mom as she can breastfeed right there.
- There is a possibility that the baby will get suffocated by a parent or get rolled over.
- The bed needs to be spacious enough to allow everyone to fit in comfortably and also have soft pillows, mattresses, comforters, etc.
- No medications or alcohol that can make you drowsy should be consumed to avoid any mishaps.
- As your child gets older, you will need to teach him to sleep alone, and you may then need to use a different technique.
10 Tips for Getting Your Infant to Sleep Through the Night
A good night’s sleep through the night for your baby translates into a well-rested night for you as well. Here are a few tips to help your baby sleep for long hours in the night.
- Establish a routine
Put your baby to sleep at the same time each day no matter what he is doing. Fix a sleep pattern. Be consistent; this will help him get accustomed to the routine gradually.
- Keep your baby active and engaged
Involving your baby in physically and mentally challenging activities, especially in the evening can help shift her sleep time towards the night.
- Consistent sleep place
Associate your baby’s bedroom or her crib with sleep by putting her to sleep in the same place each day. Take out any distractions or toys and keep the light and the sounds consistent.
- Don’t pick your baby up in the middle of the night
If your baby wakes up in the middle of the night, do not pick him up or play with him; rather gently pat him back to sleep by comforting him.
- Enjoy his favourite activities with him right before bedtime
Playing his favourite songs, massaging, etc. every day before sleep can help him calm down and help him sleep better.
- The last meal before sleep should be filling
Most babies wake up in the night to feed. If you ensure that your baby’s meal before sleep was filling, then he may not wake up in the night for feeds.
- Bath before bedtime
Warm baths before bedtime can relax your baby and send him to sleep. Ensure not to have any toys in the bathtub to avoid any distraction. Put him to sleep immediately after a bath so that he begins to associate bathing to sleep time.
- Turn off all distractions
Everyone in the family needs to snooze off for the day to avoid confusing the baby. This can be done for a few weeks until the baby develops a routine.
- Pay attention to comfort
Comfortable sleep clothes and bedding is essential for your baby. Ensure that the baby does not feel too hot or too cold in these clothes. Use cotton clothes and keep a separate set for sleep time.
- Sleep toy
A soft, small sleep toy that he can associate with sleep time will help him stay calm and also feel secure.
If your baby’s night waking is not interrupting your routine, you can allow your baby to ease into sleeping at night for long hours gradually. However, if you find that you could use some extra sleep to beat sleep deprivation, you can try these methods to help your baby get a sound sleep.