Getting a decent night’s sleep after becoming a parent is a huge challenge. It’s the beginning of a new era of sleep deprivation with the most difficult task being getting your baby to sleep through the night.
Why Does My Baby Keep Waking Up During The Night?
Newborns are simply not pre-programmed to sleep through the night. But as their brains start to mature, they start developing a more structured sleep schedule. After birth, some parents observe that their baby is very sleepy, barely opening their eyes for more than a few minutes at a time. However, this phase doesn’t last, and for the next 3 months, your sleep schedule will be in direct conflict with that of your newborn.
So, when DO they sleep?
Newborns sleep in short bursts lasting anything from 30 minutes to 4 hours. They like to feed often and that’s fundamentally why they can’t sleep for hours or follow a normal day / night schedule. It’ll take time for your baby’s circadian rhythm to kick in, but until it does, this confusion can wreak havoc on your sleep. As month 4 approaches, sleep will eventually become your baby’s preference, even though they’re still learning ‘how’ to stay asleep!
Here are our tips to get your baby to sleep through the night and get some shut eye yourself too:
- Newborns are hungry little things, and feed whether it’s 4pm or 4am! Their tiny tummies can’t hold in food for very long and once they poop, they’ll be wanting a top up! The cycle seems is endless, so take turns with your partner to feed and change the baby if you can. Bit tricky if your breastfeeding of course, but ask for help wherever possible.
- Babies need to know when it’s time for sleep, just like we do. A comfortable crib and low light levels are key, especially reducing stimulating ‘blue light’ which comes from the TV or your mobile. If your baby keeps waking, remember to check that they’re not too hot or too cold, their clothes aren’t too restrictive or if their nappy needs changing.
- Have some quiet time before bed. This seems obvious, but playing ‘Peek a Boo’ or bouncing along to the ‘Grand Old Duke of York’ before bed will get them excited and wanting to play more. This means your baby will take longer to settle down and the time taken to get them to sleep will be longer. Try reading a calming story instead – the baby will find a familiar and gentle voice soothing, and have a set routine that signifies it’s now bedtime.
- If your baby sleeps with a dummy, then there’s the chance they’ll wake up if the dummy goes missing. A good idea is to start removing the dummy soon after they fall asleep, so they don’t rely on it all night. Weaning your baby off will take a few days, but it’s worth it in the long run.
- If your baby is a light sleeper and wakes at the slightest sound, playing white-noise can be helpful. Start playing it before bed, and pick something that drowns out environmental noise. By doing this regularly, your baby will start to associate the white-noise with bedtime.
- As your baby grows up, developmental milestones such as sitting-up, crawling and trying to stand are very exciting. They will often try out these skills in the cot, and if they do, try to avoid soothing them for too long. They’ll associate this as time to socialise; so try to be as quiet as you can, indicating that it’s still bedtime. They may babble to themselves for a while, but they should fall asleep again.
- At around 6 months of age, you may be able to stop feeding your baby during the night. In terms of hunger, they are able to manage without it and it’ll mean you can both sleep all night. Just remember to do it when you’re both ready and ask your health visitor for extra sleep advice if you have any concerns.
Eugene Gabriel is a passionate blogger. He has always been fascinated by sleep and how it relates to health and wellness. Read his post on Getting Better Sleep. You can follow him on twitter @eugenegabrielj.