One of the most common challenges parents face with their babies is getting them to sleep. The sleeping schedule of babies for their first few months keeps changing, and they also need feeding during the night. If you’re wondering how to get a baby to sleep through the night, you’ll find the answer right here.
Sleep isn’t an acquired skill but a learned one. To get your baby to sleep through the night, you’ll have to establish a schedule, slowly stop the night feedings, teach them how to soothe themselves, and follow the daily activity routine strictly, among many other things. Also, if your baby cries, wait for a little before going to attend to them.
There are undoubtedly several other things you can do to get them to sleep through the night. It’s also essential to know a baby’s sleep habits by age and what might prevent them from sleeping. You’ll find everything you need to know right here, in this article.
What Causes a Baby to Wake Up at Night?
There are scientific behavioral and developmental explanations for these periods of awakenings like their sleep cycle, parents’ role, inability to soothe themselves, and shift in brain waves. It could also be for other reasons like hunger, teething, infection, developmental milestones, and simply because crying is a part of a baby’s nature.
Most babies sleep 10-12 hours before waking up at night. When four to six months old, infants wake up and cry during the night for their parents. There are also some other reasons why babies wake up at night, so here are five of them.
Sleep Cycle and Brain Waves
The shift in a baby’s brain wave is a primary reason why they wake up at night. They also change their cycle when the wave shifts and transitions from REM (rapid eye movement) sleep to non-REM sleep. Various wave patterns in our brain define what stage of sleep we are in through the night.
During the transition from one stage to another, some babies wake up and cry out for their parents, while others are just hungry. It’s normal for both adults and babies to wake up four to five times in the middle of the night. When a baby is four months old, many parents observe that these awakening periods happen right after a deep sleep period.
And so, experts recommend not doing much when your child cries out for you and teaches them how to self-soothe. It will help your baby adjust to the reality of sleeping through the night.
As you already know, most babies can sleep for more than six hours when they’re six months old. After six months, their brain waves start to look similar to an 18-year-old adult. These waves progress throughout infancy. So, it’s normal for a baby to wake up at night even after six months.
Because adults also shift from one sleeping pattern to another, once a baby transitioning from one cycle to another may awaken and cry out for their parents, unlike your typical 18-year-old.
Nature of Babies
Sometimes a baby will cry just because that’s their nature and their only way of communication. There’s an ongoing debate between psychologists, parents, pediatricians, scientists, and lactation consultants about letting a baby cry it out or not, and it is nowhere near an end.
Without going into further debate, it’s enough to say that doctors suggest letting your baby cry out will not harm your baby, and there is no long-term damage associated with it. Many pediatricians say that your baby will gradually learn how to self-soothe by engaging in specific behavior like sucking a thumb or other fingers within four to six months.
Besides, some babies are inherently good and bad sleepers, and they’re wired to be so. As a parent, the best you can do is make sure that your child develops good sleeping habits. Mostly good habits come from consistency, and sleeping habits are not an exception to this case.
If your baby has grown the habit of your nursing or rocking them to sleep and holding them, they will likely cry out for those actions at night too. These actions can make a good sleeper develop bad sleeping habits, and you’ll want to avoid that.
Developmental Milestones and Behavioral Change
As your baby develops, their sleep cycle also keeps shifting. I’ve already mentioned the sleeping patterns of typical babies before. So, you know that their sleeping schedule starts as erratic and gradually becomes routine by four to six months.
Rolling over is a milestone in a baby’s development. This milestone does translate into the sudden wakings because you’ll see them move a little, roll over, wake up, and start crying. When they’re six months, a baby’s world opens up with possibilities, and they start experimenting by putting all kinds of stuff into their mouth.
Besides, they’re also inching towards one of the most significant milestones by six months: sitting. It can also induce awakenings in a baby. At nine months, babies can now stand up in their crib. So it isn’t surprising to find them awake in the middle of the night, ready to start rocking and rolling.
At ages between six to nine months, babies will also find a new sense of awareness and independence within themselves. It might also trigger frequent waking periods within many babies as well.
They might also start talking in the middle of the night, but you don’t have to go to them and see what it’s about because most parents aren’t new to it. If babies develop separation anxiety, they will change their sleeping patterns. During those times, you might also find them screaming and wailing for you when they understand you’re not there.
Besides, they also may go through growth spurts within the ages of three to nine months. One of the most common side effects of a baby’s growth spurt is that they’ll stay awake more often at night. Even after a blissful six-hour nap, they might wail for a midnight snack. Other than that, they might also seem more cranky and hungry more often than before.
Mother or Father’s Role During the Night
There have been several studies where scientists test whether parents have any specific role in a baby’s sleeping routine. Evidence shows that the number of times a parent comforts an infant during their sleep time contributes to infant disorders.
The more a parent comforts their child out of the crib once they start crying, the more likely a baby will face challenges to sleep through the night. It’s also because they don’t learn how to self-soothe and become entirely dependent on their parents for sleeping.
Most studies have found a mother’s role more prominent in a baby’s awakenings. However, research from 2010 has suggested that a baby’s awakenings become fewer when fathers and mothers take turns and involve themselves in infant care.
So, if you want a baby to be sleeping soundly at night, it’s best to involve both the parents. It’s best not to overdo it with the comforts and attendance. Besides, a bad sleeping environment may also be a reason why your baby is not sleeping well.
Teething and Infections
Teething can disrupt a baby’s sleep and have them feel uncomfortable for a while. It typically starts at the age of six months and persists in toddlerhood. It is a momentous milestone, though it can also keep them up.
Symptoms include drooling, teething rash, gag reflex, cough, biting, and crying, among several other signs and they’ll also wake up more than usual. You can give those teething toys and cold-temperature food and drink. You can also resort to pain relievers, but I highly suggest consulting a pediatrician for that.
Teething can also cause sleep regression, which I’ve mentioned a bit before. It also happens for other reasons like milestones, growth spurt, and infections. During this time, your baby might have frequent awakenings, have trouble falling asleep at their bedtime, and resist naps.
Fortunately, it won’t last long, and you can do things to help your baby, like sticking to their routine, making sure they’re not overtired, and soothe them. The most important thing is to be patient and remember that it will be over soon.
Besides teething, infections and sickness could also keep your baby up at night. At six months, they’re very prone to ear infections and other conditions because they experiment with everything and put lots of objects into their mouth. Doing so exposes them to germs, and it’ll also increase the risks of developing cold or respiratory infections.
For several other reasons, if your baby contracts a fever or has diarrhea, they might stay up at night. Once the illness passes, your baby’s sleeping schedule should return to its previous state.
Other than these five reasons, there could be several different causes that may prevent your baby from sleeping well at night. Pacifiers or bottle-sucking habits may also keep your baby up at night.
If your baby has this habit even after six months, it’ll be tricky to make them unlearn it. But with the correct reinforcements, you’ll have a soundly sleeping baby without issues.
How to Get Your Baby to Sleep at Night
Although the sleeping schedule seems erratic, you have more control over your baby’s sleeping cycle than you’d think. And if you do it right, you won’t have to wait for their half-birthday to make them sleep through the night. So, here are most of the things you’ll need to know about how to get a baby to sleep through the night.
Building a Routine
A routine will bring prediction in your little one’s life, and they’ll find it comforting. Besides, they’ll also use this routine as a signal to sleep through the night. Before you want to put them to sleep, you’ll want to start with a soothing and relaxing bath.
It’s an excellent idea to use warm water while you’re at it. Warm water is a relaxant, and it also induces sleep. You can also narrate stories to them, cuddle with them, or even sing lullabies to them. Then, you’ll want to end the routine with a full-feeding session. Research evidences suggests that a schedule helps babies sleep better.
Also, I don’t recommend doing a diaper change in the middle of the night unless your baby has made a complete mess down there. It will probably wake them up. So, if you have to change their diapers, it’s best to do it real slow and with the least amount of light possible. Also, remember not to speak while you’re at it.
Besides a bedtime routine, you’ll want to stick to the schedule you made for your baby. You’ll have to make sure that your baby gets the correct amount of sleep during the day to not wake up at night. Newborns can’t differentiate between the day and night, and you won’t have any luck trying to get them to sleep through the night regularly.
But as babies get older, the sleep stretches also extend, and the most extended stretches are usually at night. But to ensure that, they’ll need an appropriate amount of sleep during the daytime. If they sleep too much during the day, they’ll stay awake during the night.
Keep Your Baby Full During the Day
Packing the calories in during the day will make your baby feel less hungry during the night, which will also make them sleep better. If your baby has to be exclusively in breast milk, it’s best to have a feeding session every couple of hours or so. So, in 24 hours, you’ll have to feed them 12 times.
When they’re six months old, you can slowly introduce solid food, and the feeding sessions come down to five or six times a day. If your baby feeds on formula, you should provide them at least four ounces per four hours in the beginning till it’s okay to feed them solids. Once they reach six months, you’ll need five formula feedings per day.
It’s never a good idea to introduce solid foods before six months. It won’t help your baby to sleep early. Moreover, it could be detrimental to your baby’s health and give them tummy problems.
Cut Back on the Night-time Feeding Sessions
This process is also known as night weaning. When your baby reaches three or four months, you can start cutting back on the night-time feeding. As I’ve mentioned previously, your little one gets a stable weight to sustain themselves throughout the night and not feel hungry.
The ultimate goal is to make them sleep through the night. But I highly recommend consulting your pediatrician before attempting night weaning and going ahead only when the doctor approves this notion.
Practice Self-Soothing with Your Baby
It’s okay to go to your baby when they cry for you in the middle of the night. But if you want them to be sleeping through the night, you’ll have to limit the attendance. You’ll also have to make it clear that the night-time isn’t anyone to eat or play, but a time to sleep.
If they’re crying out for you, you can place your hands on their chest for a few minutes before leaving the room. You can use small pillows or similar items to keep it on their chest to make them think that you’re still in the room with them. It will also help with your child’s separation anxiety.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends moving your child away from you after six months old. So, six months is a good age to give them their separate bedroom. If you decide to keep your baby with you, consider keeping the crib or bassinet farther away from you.
When you make this transition, it’s best to consult with your pediatrician in advance. Additionally, when the little starts crying at night for you, it’s best not to rush after the first cry. Give them time to self-soothe, and then check on them.
Keeping the ambiance calm
You can create the perfect ambiance for sleep, and it will help your baby relax and have refreshing sleep times. There are many things you can do to maintain the calm air of your baby’s sleeping room. The softest sounds could wake your baby up, but white noise is soothing, consistent, and relaxing to fall asleep to.
Creating the perfect ambiance in the nursery will provide your baby cues to fall asleep, and experts call it “sleep association.” You can do so by blocking natural light and keeping the room lit dimly. It will help them associate between day and night.
In the background, it’s best to keep some white noise like constant rhythmic sounds or very gentle music. The outside noise of the nursery will drown in the white noise. Also, you’ll want to keep the temperature at a safe and comfortable 65-70 degrees F. You’ll also have to be cautious of the baby’s appropriate clothing.
If your baby learned how to sleep through the night but suddenly stopped, you don’t need to panic. It could be because of a growth spurt or sleep regression, which only lasts a few days. The key is to be patient, understand what your baby needs, and establish a routine. Then you’ll want to follow this routine and make it your baby’s habit.
Besides what I’ve mentioned elaborately, you can also try playing active games in the morning and slower games during the evening. It will keep your baby’s excitement level moderate and help them sleep better. The routine should be calm, quiet, and peaceful at the end of the day before bedtime.
At What Age Do Babies Start Sleeping Through the Night?
A baby normally sleeps through the night at the age of five to six months, and you can start teaching them to sleep for six to eight hours at a stretch. Sometimes babies may sleep through the night at 3 to 4 months of age, but it’s when they’re six months old that they sleep soundly and regularly through the night most of the time.
Whether a baby will sleep through the night depends on several factors like the baby’s age and weight, if you’re breastfeeding the baby or not, and what your baby and your family do throughout the day.
Here’s what you need to know about their sleeping patterns and when they’ll sleep throughout the night.
Newborn babies don’t sleep through the night because their little tummies can’t sustain them for too long. You should expect a newborn to sleep only for two or three hours at a time.
Because they need to eat very frequently, you also won’t be sleeping much during the first few weeks, whether your formula feeding or breastfeeding. The sleeping schedule is not steady and differs for every individual baby.
2 to 3 Months
These babies can sleep for about five to six hours at a stretch before waking up. Most babies need one feeding session or two at night when they’re three months old.
On average, they’ll need 14 to 17 hours of sleep, napping four times for five to six hours. But it’s normal for a baby at that age to sleep a bit more or less.
Babies at four months can sleep for seven to eight hours without waking up, which may also happen at night, but slowly. They may need two naps throughout the day but stay awake for the better part of it.
At four months, babies reach a weight of 11 pounds, so you won’t need to feed them at night anymore. But they might still want some to wake you up for it.
5 to 6 months
Babies can now sleep through the night, and your little one is probably not going to wake up for night-time feeding anymore. It’s also a good idea to teach them how to go to sleep by themselves.
Doctors advise parents to cut back on the night-time feeding and practice self-soothing. Your baby will be ready to make the transition physically, though they may not like it and protest against it.
How Do I Stop My Baby from Waking Up to Eat at Night?
If you go forward with night weanings, you have to do it after your pediatrician approves of it. You can do night weaning by stretching the feeding sessions out, shortening it, and get a non-nursing partner involved. You’ll have to try each step slowly, and the process is a little different for breastfeeding and bottle feeding.
Stopping bottle feeding at night is very straightforward. If you’re feeding your six-month-old is on formula, cow, or goat milk. The best way is to feed your baby one ounce less per night. So, suppose your baby takes four ounces of milk, bring it down at three.
You don’t want to wake your child up while they’re sleeping when they’re feeding. Skipping a night is okay. When the amount comes down to two ounces, provide them water.
Weaning out breastfeeding is a little tricky. Babies feed exclusively on milk for the first few months. A mother’s body makes milk only when milk empties from their breast, and if there’s any milk left, the body takes it as a signal to reduce the milk production. Each woman has a different capacity for storing milk.
So, night weaning can be a little tricky as mothers have to feed their babies very frequently, and sleep training may depend on it. So firstly, you’ll have to shorten the feeding session every night. It can be challenging to accomplish this step, but not impossible with the correct timings.
Next, you’ll want to increase the gap between the feedings. If you’ve habituated your child on a regular feeding schedule, you can gradually start taking your time between each interval. Experts admit that it’s challenging to do so if your baby constantly keeps crying for some.
The most effective way of weaning out breastfeeding at night involves the father or a partner who doesn’t nurse your child. It’s often successful sending the dad to pick up a moving child that wants a feeding. Then, he can comfort the child back to sleep and understand that he won’t be getting a meal.
The baby’s temptation will reduce because the father can’t give in. Besides, the mother can also sleep while the dad attends to your kid. These options are best if you’re sleeping away from your child.
The initial parenthood months can be very challenging and tiring. If you read this article with exhaustion creeping up your veins, try to have some patience and figure out how to get a baby to sleep through the night.
Don’t worry because it won’t last long, and your baby’s smile will make it seem like everything was worth it. Soon your toddler’s laughter will fill your home’s air, so hang in there. For now, cuddle your little one for me! And best of luck being new parents.