As I sat here and wrote out those words in the title – “How to get your baby to sleep” – it almost sounded crazy to me. I mean, babies are SUPPOSED to sleep aren’t they? Yet, when our daughter was a baby, there was very little sleep going on and I constantly fretted over getting her to sleep. She fought sleep like there was no tomorrow, and if you’re reading this now with a baby who refuses to sleep you will know that when baby doesn’t sleep, nobody sleeps! If you’re sitting there bleary eyes wondering how to get your baby to sleep as I did in that first year SO many times, then I have Charmian Mead – The Baby Sleep Expert – here with a Q&A on how to get your baby to sleep:
Why do babies seem to fight sleep so much?
Babies whose needs have been met in the way of feeding, digestion and structured awake time, should in theory, settle happily. Here are some reasons why your baby may not settle to sleep.
- Breastfeeding is a guesstimate with milk intake so if a baby is not full on approach to nap time they can be tricky to settle. If you are breastfeeding then your milk supply naturally depletes throughout the day, hitting your lowest point of supply towards the end of the day, when in fact your baby needs his biggest feed to set them up for the night; this will also cause a reluctance to sleep due to hunger.
- Snacking and cat napping can also cause confusion with settling to sleep when using sucking or snacking as a way to settle.
- Babies are unable to burp themselves for the first three months of life so a build-up of wind can create unsettled sleep as much as not having enough time awake surrounding feeds.
- Not allowing sufficient time awake after feeds. Babies naturally dose while feeding and digesting but this isn’t due to being tired. Put your baby to bed when they are not ready and they will not settle well.
- Another reason could be learned behaviour, when child is unable to settle themselves without aid such as rocking which makes settling to sleep more problematic as they get older.
- Over stimulation. I don’t believe in new-borns getting over tired but I do believe in over stimulation, help your baby wind down 10-15 minutes of calming cuddles and quiet time in preparation for bed.
When can babies start sleeping through the night?
Babies will sleep through the night when they are able to take on-board their total milk intake needed in a 24 hour period during the day. Most babies need to be over 4kg to do this. This also depends on the size of your baby’s appetite as well as stomach capacity. Babies are born with immature guts which need time to strengthen but those who are born with a less sensitive and a less problematic stomach with wind and gas will sleep through the night quicker.
A routine which structures feeds allowing the stomach to empty between feeds and eliminates gas and air throughout the feed will have more space in their stomachs to take more milk at each day feed and which results in less milk demand at night. Babies in my care naturally sleep through the night as early as 4-6 weeks of age as part of a balanced routine. If all your baby’s needs are met during the day then a baby can sleep naturally through the night under six weeks of age but it’s common for a baby to be waking through the night in the first year.
Why do babies usually not sleep through the night?
There are many reasons why a baby will not sleep through the night, from not taking on enough milk or food during the day, digestion, no daily structure to not having the right sleep environment. Once you hit the teething stage and your baby is over four months they have already spent a huge chunk of their lives waking at night and this can cause habit waking. If your baby’s needs are not met on daily basis then they will not sleep through until this happens whether they are six weeks or six months.
Can a baby really sleep through the night from as early as 6 weeks?
Yes, I’ve been teaching my routine for over 20 years and it’s a rarity for a baby to not sleeping through the night after six weeks of age. Babies do this naturally at their own pace as a result of a routine which teaches positive associations with feeding and sleeping, based on a baby’s digestive comfort and with baby led nights. Babies feel secure and content on a routine that is working so will sleep beautifully at night. If one variable is not quite right, they won’t sleep through and only sleep through the night as part of learned behaviour until they have slept through for two or more weeks as part of a consistent routine.
What are some of your top tips on how to get your baby to sleep through the night as early possible?
- Digestion is where you should focus firstly. Feeding until full so no snacking. Winding regularly to make sure all the air comes up during and after feeds.
- Structure time awake after feeds and build on this time until reaching two hours each daily feed by week 6.
- Sleep positions. Where and how you put your baby to sleep is key to the length of time they sleep. Your baby needs its own pace to sleep. Tuck in over the shoulders and use a swaddle at night. Check out my swaddle and sleep position videos at www.thesleepingbabyroutine.co.uk.
- Wake your baby for feeds during the day but let your baby wake of its own accord for night feeds and give less milk at the night feeds, capped at 4oz and half an hour for feeding which includes winding. This means your baby will increase intake during the day and phase of what will become snack like feeds over time naturally.
What is your best advice for ensuring content and peaceful baby led nights?
The 7pm to 7am Sleeping Baby Routine is a flexible daily routine with baby led nights. A routine which meets your baby’s needs by way of milk intake, digestion, structured time awake will result naturally in longer stretches of sleep at night.
You will need to make sure you are giving less milk at the night feeds – giving heavier feeds at night only encourages night waking. Keep the feeds quiet and quick with no stimulation. All this will help your baby recognise the difference between night and day and help phase out night feeds when your baby is ready.
What would be your pep talk for any parents reading this right now whose baby is refusing to sleep?
Go through all of my top tips from earlier and try troubleshooting these to see if one of them might be an issue for baby. New-borns respond to their basic needs being met and if you are not meeting one of them, this might be the reason behind their disrupted sleep. Remember, you’re not the only parent out there whose baby isn’t sleeping
Anything else you’d like to add about how to get your baby to sleep ?
How peaceful your nights are with a new or older baby will be a result of your daily routine and your daily routine will need to be forever evolving as your child grows. Understanding your baby’s digestion and reactions, lactation, milk supply and development will help with the success of your routine as much as being calm and relaxed around your baby. A routine needs to be balanced and flexible and results in a happy thriving baby so you can all sleep well at night. Happy parenting!
Well I hope you found these tips on how to get your baby to sleep helpful everybody and that the sleep Gods will be with you all soon! Please do leave a comment and let me know if you found Charmian’s advice helpful.