You must have been hearing stories of sleep deprivation from the time you announced your pregnancy to your friends. Everyone who has ‘been there done that’ would have advised you to sleep as much as you can before the baby arrives because just as the baby leaves your body, so would good, deep sleep.
However, in reality, NOTHING prepares you for the hardships of the graveyard shift that awaits you. Frequent night time feeding, multiple nappy changes, colic time or general baby playfulness – all these would ensure that you do not get more than 2-3 hours of continuous sleep in the initial months. Whoever put forth the phrase “sleep like a baby” had no idea what he (because it has to be a “he”) was saying!
While nothing can be done about night time feeding in the first few months, you can do plenty to encourage your baby to sleep through the night once he is little older.
When Will My Baby Start Sleeping Through The Night?
In short, your baby’s sleeping pattern should more or less look like this:
- Months 0-3: Fragmented sleep; 2-3 hours at a stretch
- Months 4-8: 6-8 uninterrupted hours of sleep in the night
- Months 9+: Full 12 hours
It would be little too ambitious to expect your new born to sleep through the night. They have such small tummies, they cannot drink enough milk to keep them hunger-free for more than a few hours. So, 3-4 night time feedings is a necessity for newborns. However, once they are 4 months and older, they will start sleeping little longer than usual and you would not have to feed them as often. And once they are 9 months and older, 70% of the babies sleep for 10-12 hours without any need for nighttime feeding.
Why Is My Baby Not Sleeping Through The Night?
You might have a 10 month old baby who still wakes up in the night. And for you the above mentioned sleeping pattern is something like a ‘wishful thinking’. You are not alone! There can be many reasons why your older baby is not sleeping through the night:
- She’s excited: As your baby grows older, she becomes more playful, exploratory and curious about everything around her. She might wake up in the night and get excited about something and might get too restless to go back to sleep again
- She’s unwell: If your baby is unwell, she might sleep more during the day and hence might be awake for longer time in the night. She might also be uncomfortable due to the illness that makes her stay awake
- She’s dependent on you to sleep: Just like us adults, it is not uncommon for babies to wake up once or twice in the night while tossing over or for stretching. However, if your child is not used to going back to sleep on her own, she might just stay awake, and wake you!
- She’s hungry: While it is a misconception that if you feed them heavily in the night time they will sleep longer, the corollary holds true. That is, they are likely to wake up if they are not well-fed!
How Can I Get My Baby Sleep Through The Night?
There are many “sleep strategies” that you can try out to help your baby sleep longer. Go through the five listed below in detail and pick one that suits you, your family and the baby. Consistency is key here – whichever method you chose, you need to stick with it long enough for your child to get accustomed to it.
Top 5 Sleep Strategies For Babies
- “Ferberize”: Ferber sleep training technique is named after its creator Richard Ferber, who is the M.D at the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital, Boston. This method is based on the principle that babies are creatures of habit. If your child is used to drinking milk and falling off asleep, or if she is used to being rocked or carried around to sleep, then she will rely on these actions always to fall asleep. So if she wakes up in the night, then she will expect you to be there and do what you usually do to make her fall asleep again. The trick is to teach your child to sleep on her own – and the earlier you begin this the better:
- Put your baby on the crib, say good night, ask her to sleep and leave the room. She will cry. Let her, for 5 minutes. Go and comfort her (without picking her up) and leave again. Next time, go after 10 minutes if the baby is still crying. Increase the duration of leaving her alone at every stage. Eventually you baby will fall asleep
- If you continue this routine consistently for a week, then your baby would learn the new habit of sleeping on her own! But beware, this is not for fainthearted! If you break the routine because you cannot stand the crying, then this method is not effective
- Co-sleeping: This is something all Indian mommies are used to, where the child sleeps in the master bedroom between mommy and daddy. While there are risks involved in this approach (like one of the parents rolling over on the child or separation anxiety when the child has to finally sleep on her own), it is by far the best way to give a secure feeling to your child. Even if she wakes up in the night, she will know you and your partner are nearby, she can roll over and cuddle with you all by herself and she will fall back asleep in that comfort. Also, night time breastfeeding becomes easy for you!
- Routine: Set both a day-time and night-time routine:
- Sleep-time is likely to go uneventfully if your baby has had a good day. And babies generally have a good day if everything happens in the same way and order she is used to. Routine is the key. If the baby eats, naps and plays at the same time every day, she is likely to fall asleep at the same time too.
- Bedtime routine is also important. Keep this very simple – all activities at this time should be quiet and peaceful. A warm bath, nappy change, wearing “sleep” pajamas and some bedtime reading should do the trick. Do it every day in the same order and in few days they will doze off by the time you start the second page on the book!
- Active days, calmer nights: Engage them in active games during the day and keep calming and less-exciting activities and games for the evening. This will ensure they do not go to bed too excited
- Security objects: If she doesn’t’ sleep with you on your bed, get her attached to any object, like a stuffed toy or a blanket that she can take to bed every day. If she wakes up in the night, the sight of her favorite object nearby might calm her and not get her restless enough to wake the entire household
Hope one of these strategies work for you!