You may have thought you had properly prepared for the lack of sleep that comes with having a newborn. However, here you are months into enjoying your new baby and you have yet to get even four hours of uninterrupted sleep. You’re not alone. Many parents struggle to achieve that dream of their baby sleeping through the night. Hopefully these tips will help get your baby peacefully and gently through until morning.
Know Your Audience
Babies just aren’t built to be awake for long periods of time. They need lots of sleep in order to make those cute smiles and coos. That’s why frequent naps are necessary. It may seem counterintuitive, but the better your baby sleeps during the day, the better they will sleep at night. They need those daytime naps to avoid becoming overtired and to help them relax into a full night’s sleep. Young newborns may only be awake long enough for a feeding and a diaper change while babies around the six month mark may stay awake for two to three hours at a time. Understanding your baby’s schedule and watching the clock will help you to better get your baby down for good naps throughout the day and to better get her down for an all night’s sleep.
Overtired: A Strange And Avoidable Phenomenon
As an adult, the more you feel like doing something, the more likely you are to do it right? With tired babies, you get the opposite reaction. The more tired a baby gets, the less likely he is to go to sleep. Instead, he’ll get fussy and it’s hard to calm down from that. This is because your baby’s body kicks in her stress response and releases adrenaline to help keep the body awake. This makes it harder to calm her down and get her to sleep even when she gets calm.
There is a fine line between a tired and willing to sleep baby and an overtired and screaming baby. In order to help avoid overtiredness, it’s important to be able to recognize a newborn’s first signs of being tired. These signs seem pretty intuitive, but they can be subtle enough that you might not notice until your baby’s reached the fussiness with no return stage.
- It’s human nature, we all yawn when we’re tired no matter how old we are.
- Eye rubbing. This may not be a good signal in the early weeks as some babies won’t yet have the coordination to rub their eyes on purpose.
- Decreased or slowed movements. You may notice that she stops kicking the lion on the jungle gym or slows down nursing. Be aware that an overtired baby may actually enter into a hyperactivity phase if she doesn’t get to sleep during her early tired phase. This may seem like fun play, but will end with fussy screaming.
- Unfocused staring. He’s not contemplating life, he’s just tired.
- Snuggling or cuddling. As babies get tired, they will instinctively move into a place of comfort and may nestle close against you or their blanket.
Another way to avoid overtiredness is to watch the clock. This goes back to that schedule we talked about in the first tip. You will soon get a feel for how long your baby stays awake in between naps and at night. If he is getting close that amount of wake time, it may benefit you to try to lay him down even if he hasn’t yet shown any signs of tiredness. Avoiding overtiredness will help your baby make it to dreamland for an extended stay.
Babies thrive on consistency. They like to know when their next meal will be, when it’s time to play and when it’s time to sleep. Sticking to a routine will help increase your baby’s sleep at night and make her awake time more enjoyable.
Not only should the timing of naps and bedtime be consistent, it’s also important to make the activities leading up to sleep consistent. Keep the place where he sleeps the same. If you choose to read to or rock your baby before sleeping, do it every time. If your baby needs a drink or snack before sleeping, offer it well in advance so that they will be ready to sleep at the appropriate time. All of these may give him cues that it’s time to sleep. Sort of like Pavlov’s dogs salivating when they heard a bell, a storybook in the rocking chair should get your baby’s eyelids drooping just because that’s the routine.
Now I completely understand that life doesn’t always pay attention to your routines and you won’t be able to follow a schedule everyday. That’s okay. Just do what you can to make things as consistent as possible and realize that there is always tomorrow to get back on track.
Naps Versus Night
If you’ve established a good before sleep routine and it’s working to get your baby to sleep, but she’s sleeping for large chunks during the day and smaller chunks at night, switch up the routine. Make her naptime routine different from her bedtime one.
Have her napping place different from her bedtime place. If she sleeps in a crib at night, consider having her sleep in a swing or bouncy seat for naps. If she’s used to reading a book before naps and bedtime, skip the book during the day. Replace it with a song instead. Keep her in her daytime clothes for naps, but put on your Kyte BABY Sleep Bag at bedtime. Offer a snack before bedtime but not before naps. Take a bath before bedtime. Finally, if none of these work, you might have to wake her up from naps in order to keep them short. I realize how this sounds…no one wants to wake up a sleeping baby, but sometimes it’s the only way if you to want to sleep at night.
- Daytime is Active Time: Help your baby differentiate day from night by actively engaging them during the daylight hours. Play, sing, and talk to them, read books, go outside, just be active and fun. Not only does this help them to know that daytime is not the time for long sleep sessions, it also helps to tire them out for when bedtime comes around.
Keep the lights on and household noise normal during naps. This should be the exact opposite to what it’s like at night. Let your baby nap with the window shades open, let the doorbell ring, and use the vacuum if you need to. This will still allow her to get some sleep, but it won’t be the same as when she sleeps at night.
- Night is for Sleeping: On the flip side, sleeping at night should be in the dark and quiet. Feedings and diaper changes during the night should be low key and calming. Use only dim light and soft whispers. Don’t encourage play or activity. This lets them know that they should go back to sleep, not get up and play.
Let Your Baby Do The Work
By the time your baby is a few months old, they should be able to consistently fall asleep on their own. You shouldn’t have to get him to sleep before laying him down in his crib. That’s not to say you can’t get him to the brink of sleep. By going through a consistent bedtime routine, your baby should cue in and start to be drowsy before even hitting the rocking chair. Then all you have to do is make sure to lay him down before he falls asleep. He can take care of the rest on his own.
By learning to fall asleep on their own, babies make it easier to soothe themselves when they wake during the night. This means they won’t require you to get up and do something about it. However, if your baby does wake up in the middle of the night, give him just a few minutes to make sure that he is truly awake. If he still doesn’t quiet down, make sure that he doesn’t need fed or changed and then just offer support by rubbing his back or neck without picking him up. Sometimes babies just need reassurance that you are there and will settle right down. If you continually pick them up and rock them, they will require that every time in order to soothe themselves back to sleep.
Outfit Your Baby for Dreamland
If you want to get your baby to peacefully sleep through the night, outfit her properly. You wouldn’t have much luck biking without a bicycle would you? Make your baby as comfortable as can be with the right clothes and sheets. Sleep bags are an excellent way to keep your baby comfortable without a lot of added weight and heat. Kyte BABY Crib Sheets will also provide cooling comfort to your baby’s crib.
For babies younger than three months, a bamboo knit swaddle may be in order. Swaddling helps decrease your baby’s startle reflex, nothing can wake a baby up faster than the incontrollable flailing of arms and legs. Swaddles also recreate the womb-like environment that made your baby so comfortable and safe for the previous nine months. Just be sure to stop swaddling and transition to sleep bag once your baby can roll over.
Realize That There Will be Setbacks
No matter how closely you follow a schedule or how consistent you are, no matter how good of a sleeper your baby has been, your sleep deprivation is not over. There will be setbacks, there’s no way around it.
Natural processes like growth spurts, teething, crawling, and walking can all contribute to wakeful nights. Growth spurts can mean the need for increased feedings. If this is the case and your baby wakes during the night needing a little supplementation, try to accomplish this during the day. Increase the amount of food per meal or number of meals that she gets during the day. Increase the amount of protein you feed her before bedtime. This will help keep her hunger at bay and increase the z’s in your night.
Teething is a miserable time for babies. It’s just downright uncomfortable, night or day. You can try to soothe cranky gums by offering a teething ring, frozen wash cloth, or a gum massage before bedtime or during your the late night gatherings. If teething is especially bad and keeping her awake, you can give an over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to get her and you back to counting sheep.
Crawling and walking can have babies waking up at night because they want to practice. They spend all day working on these newfound skills and can have a hard time stopping even for sleep. Also, since crawling and walking require a lot of muscle memory, their wakefulness can even be due to involuntary crawling or walking motions. Just make sure they get plenty of activity and practice time during the day and hopefully this will allow them to rest up at night.
Getting your baby to sleep through the night may sometimes seem like a far-off dream. However, it doesn’t have to be a fight. Understanding your baby’s natural rhythm and incorporating a consistent plan can go a long ways in reaching that mark.