Sleeping through the Night
Most paediatricians agree that ‘Sleeping through the Night’ actually means your baby sleeps for 6 or more hours in one stretch (5 hours for newborns). It’s important you realise this fact or you might set unrealistic goals.
So how do you achieve this elusive ‘Sleeping through the Night’ status? Well obviously every baby is different and so the first thing you should do is make a conscious effort not to draw comparisons with your friends’ babies. . especially the friends who just can’t wait to tell you their baby is the perfect sleeper (as if it’s a sign of good parenting!) Once your baby has learnt to sleep through the night, in turn, keep the bragging to a minimum for the sanity of those friends whose babies havent quite got there yet!
So how can you help attain the 6 hours + sleep a night?
Here are a few of the best and most popular tips. Try them and see what works for you and what doesn’t. If in doubt, use your own judgement as the parent and pay attention to how you feel about each of the tips. If you’re doing something that deep down you feel is wrong, then don’t do it. The classic argument against this would be Controlled Crying where every parent feels ‘wrong’ leaving their baby to cry and yet in some cases, it can be a hugely beneficial technique to teach the baby to comfort himself to sleep. What I’d say in response to this argument is that in these cases, even though the parents ‘voice in the head’ will undoubtedly be telling them that what they’re doing is not right, CC is often a very last resort when all other methods have failed and I bet that on some level, the majority of parents realise that what they are doing is ultimately for the benefit of their child. If they didn’t realise this then I don’t believe they’d try CC at all. So I stand by my advice to pay attention to your feelings primarily. The mind is a great tool for researching the various techniques so you can make informed decisions but it cannot tell you the whole picture (even though it thinks it can!)
Remember people have been raising babies for thousands of years without books, sleep experts or paediatricians and although science and research is hugely important in educating ourselves about the advantages and disadvantages of the various parenting styles, you should rest assured that you have an ingrained, natural ability to know what’s best for your child.
Tip 1. Routine. By far the most important tip I can give you is to establish a good bedtime routine that you can stick to every night. Babies love routine and predictability and this is easily the most important factor in establishing good sleeping habits. You can read more about this here: Setting a Routine
Tip 2. The Dream Feed. This technique is useful for young babies who still wake several times a night out of hunger. The idea is to go into the baby’s room just before you go to sleep yourselves and perform a dream feed that will ‘tank him up’ which should buy you an extra couple of hours of sleep. The trick is obviously to get him to feed without waking up! Most parents report that it usually takes their baby a couple of nights to learn to feed whilst still asleep but most of them do learn eventually. Try to make as little noise as possible and use the landing light to provide enough visibility to see what you’re doing without having to turn the lights on in his room. Add a drop of milk to his lips and he’ll taste it and probably open his mouth. At this point you can try beginning bottle or breast feeding. Obviously pick him up very gently and put him back down as soon as you’re finished. It might need a bit of ‘trial and error’ in the beginning to see how you can make this work without him waking.
Tip 3. Naptimes. Make sure your baby is getting enough rest during the day with regular and consistent nap times. If he sleeps well during the day, you are unlikely to have many problems at night time. You can read more about nap times here: Nap Times
Tip 4. Give them chance to learn on their own. From about six to eight weeks, give your baby the chance to fall asleep on his own. Put him down when he’s tired and sleepy but still awake. Many experts advise against rocking or feeding baby to sleep, even at this young age, because they will learn habits that are hard to break later on.
Tip 5. Security Objects. A baby blanket or stuffed animal can be given to baby to help comfort them back to sleep when they awaken in the night. A great tip is to rub the object on you so it has your scent which is very comforting to babies. Obviously, ensure that the object is suitable for newborns and, if possible, buy one made of organic cotton as it’s the best material. We have a selection of Keptin Jr organic cotton comforter toys for newborns which you can view here: Soft Toys
Tip 6. Controlled Crying. This is the most controversial of all the techniques yet it can be very effective. I’d advise you don’t attempt this under the age of six months and use it as a last resort. We have a wealth of information on this topic including night by night accounts from parents who have tried it themselves. Do a blog search for ‘Ferber Technique’ using our search box at the top right.
Tip 7. Share the burden. If it’s practical, get baby used to both care-givers by sharing the responsibility of putting him down and comforting him if he wakes. This tip is for the time when he no longer NEEDS feeding during the night. In fact Dad can often enjoy better success of night time comforting in breast-feeding families as the baby will detect the scent of breast milk when mum comes to comfort him which will alert his stomach that it’s feeding time and therefore wake up time! Again, this tip is not for use until the baby has reached the stage where he no longer needs his night time feeds but wakes to feed because of habit.
Tip 8. Don’t Pick Up Bad Habits. Once your baby no longer needs to feed during the night to get the nutrition he needs, resist the urge to pick him up when you go into comfort him. Doing so will only awaken him further. Instead rub his tummy and speak comforting words to him softly, then leave the room confidently.
Tip 9. Basics. Ensure the baby is comfortable- does his nappy need changing? Are his clothes too tight? Is the room temperature correct? Also things like black out blinds can be really useful in making the conditions in his room favorable for sleeping.
Tip 10. Don’t rush in. Once baby is past the stage of needing on-call nutrition during the night, don’t rush to his every beck and call. This is very hard to do initially and I am not suggesting you leave him to cry out for long periods. But why not try waiting a few moments before you go in? If you’re comfortable with this try extending the time you take gradually over a couple of weeks. You might find that your baby starts to learn how to comfort himself back to sleep. This is a filtered down version of the Controlled Crying technique but much less severe and has a good success rate.