My baby is not sleeping through the night? What can I do?
Groggy eyes, a feeling of exhaustion and the most important question of when does a baby start sleeping through the night. These are just a few of the signs that set new parents apart from the more seasoned ones.
According to the American Association of Pediatrics,
babies do not have regular sleep cycles until about 6 months of age. While newborns sleep about 16 to 17 hours per day, they may only sleep 1 or 2 hours at a time. As babies get older, they need less sleep. However, different babies have different sleep needs. It is normal for a 6-month-old to wake up during the night but go back to sleep after a few minutes.
Being a new parent is tough, and the first 6 to sometimes even 12 weeks can make you often question whether the saga of sleepless nights is ever going to end. Well, if it is any consolation, this is something almost all new parents go through, especially with a first child. Here is some good news: things do get easier!
In this article, we talk about some reasons and solutions to help you and your baby transition to sleeping through the night.
Some reasons why your baby is not sleeping through the night:
Hunger: A baby’s tummy is tiny and they need to feed frequently. Some babies fall asleep at the breast and this will make them start associating nursing with sleeping. This can be a problem if they wake up in the middle of the night and need to be fed to sleep again.
It might not possible to avoid nursing just before bedtime early on. However, trying to put your baby down when awake can help. Feeding in another room apart from the nursery will also help babies understand that the nursery is only for sleeping. You can also try feeding for about every hour in the evening before bedtime. This can help to keep your baby full, so the midnight waking up can be reduced.
Too tired: Trying to keep your baby’s schedule packed with activities during the day can make a difference to their sleep schedule. Sometimes no matter how tired a baby is, they just love to play, even when they wake up at night. When a baby is overstimulated or too tired, they might have trouble falling asleep and sleeping well.
Solution: Babies need quiet time to wind down. This helps them understand that is downtime and they need to sleep. Try and create a routine like a relaxing massage before bedtime. Even if your baby wakes up at night and wants to play, do not give in. Keep voices low, speak in hushed tones and sing lullabies reserved for night time. Also, look for clues, that shows your baby is ready for a nap like yawning, rubbing the eyes, or averting their gaze.
Confusion between day and night: Babies cannot really differentiate between day and night as their internal rhythms are not developed yet. This can come in the way of them understanding when it is time to play or time to sleep.
Solution: Parents must keep babies exposed to sunlight and noises even when they nap during the day. During the night, try to stick to a schedule which can include dinner, bathtime, and a bedtime story. Keep the lights low during feeding, move quietly and keep your interactions brief. The key is to make babies associate light and activities with daytime and darkness and no activities with nighttime.
Lack of self-soothing abilities: Adults can simply lie down, roll over and fall off to sleep. Unfortunately, babies do not have the ability to self-soothe just yet. If they wake up in the middle of the night, they might not be able to put themselves back to sleep.
Babies need to be taught how to fall asleep on their own and they can be given a comforting sleep prop like a soft toy or blanket. They would start associating the sleep prop with their naptime and if they wake up at night, they will be able to snuggle with the prop or hug it and go back to sleep.
Some babies may also find comfort in playing with their ear or hair, sucking their thumb, etc. and this may help them fall back to sleep. There may be babies who just want a rub, a few pats on their back or a snuggle to help them sleep again. Each baby is different and they may have their own preferred methods to self-soothe.
Apart from these reasons, there may be times when your baby is teething or reaching developmental milestones and these can affect your baby’s sleeping pattern. It is best not to introduce a new sleep routine if your baby is teething or unwell.
Also, it is not necessary that all these reasons affect how your baby sleeps. Each baby is different and so are their sleep patterns. Just like each baby may not experience all these problems, each solution may not work for all babies. It is all about picking a solution and seeing if it works for you. Try a solution and stick with it for about 2 weeks. Give the solution some time to work. If the solution does not work for you, don’t give up; try something else. You will definitely find habits that work great for you and your baby to achieve a great night’s sleep!
Parents have a better choice for pediatric care at Kingwood Emergency Hospital. We offer free kids events like our famous Teddy Bear ER and CPR each month. You can find our monthly calendar here. We’re open 24/7 365 for any family medical emergency.