“Can your baby sleep through the night yet?” If you are mother to a newborn, you will have heard this question numerous times. Though often well-meaning, it can lead to frustration, especially if the answer is “no”. Your longest stretch of nocturnal sleep so far is two hours, your eye bags are luggage-sized, and your nerves are frayed. So what can you do to help your baby sleep through the night?
#1: Sleep train your baby
Note that experts recommend sleep training only when your baby is six months old. Younger infants will still need to wake up during the night to feed. So if your little one is not ‘of age’ yet, take the time to do your homework. The Internet is awash with plenty of baby sleep training methods, and it will be prudent (and crucial) to research them instead of blindly trying one out on your baby. Ask friends who have done it, read up on other parents’ experiences, and be patient. Remember too, that every baby is different. What works for one may not necessarily work for another.
(See also: SM Blogmums: My Baby sleep training experience)
#2: Practice the “pause”
Babies are noisy sleepers. They may grunt, sniff, and snore as their sleep. Sometimes they make little cries. Most of the time, they promptly settle themselves back to sleep. So it is a good idea to pause a little before going in to check on your little one. Rushing in too quickly to ‘save’ them can rob them of the opportunity to learn to self-soothe. Of course, if they continue to cry, go in and attend to them.
#3: Limit day time naps
Depending on age, every baby has their own sleep quota. This means that the amount of sleep a baby get in a day is a zero-sum game. If they sleep too long while the sun is up, it will eat into their night-time sleep quota. For example, let’s assume that five-month-old baby Jack has a sleep quota of 14 hours. If he naps for eight hours during the day, that will leave him with only six hours to sleep at night. Hence if you want baby Jack to sleep more at night, you will have to reduce his day-time nap duration.
#4: Help your baby learn the difference between day and night
Many babies are born with their day and night modes reversed. They sleep during the day and wake at night. To help them learn that the day is for staying awake and the night is for sleep, give them plenty of sunlight and activities during the day. Make the evening calm and relaxing. Do quiet activities like reading and taking a warm bath before bedtime.
#5: Establish a sleep schedule and a bedtime routine
Babies love routines. The predictability helps them feel grounded and secure. So start yours on one early; three months of age is a good time. Begin by winding your baby down one hour before bedtime. Dim the lights and turn off devices and toys that emit sounds. Develop a routine to prepare your baby for bed. This may include a soothing bath, bedtime stories or lullabies, and a final feed. Once it is bed time, kiss your little one good night, and leave the room to let them fall asleep on their own.
(See also: Sleep Secrets)
#6: Keep the sleep schedule consistent
Building on #5, try not to disrupt your baby’s sleep schedule too much. Sleeping at a certain time one day, and at a different time the next, will make things confusing for your baby. Furthermore, once disrupted, schedules can be hard to reestablish.
#7: Make the baby sleep environment conducive
A conducive sleep environment is one that is comfortable: just the right temperature, not too noisy (try using a white noise machine if necessary), and in a darkened room (consider blackout curtains). Add a sleep sack to keep your child snug. For warm-weather Singapore, SleepTike’s ultra-light bamboo sleep sacks keep your child covered without overheating.
#8: Ensure that your child obtains enough nutrients throughout the day
Babies need to consume sufficient nutrients each day. If they do not receive enough during the day, they may wake up hungry at night. To minimise night time wakings, ensure that your little one is feeding enough during the day.
#9: Try dream feeding your baby
Another way to help your baby sleep continuously is to try dream feeding. The idea is to fill their tummies without them fully wake up. Gently pick up your baby between 10pm and 12am, and touch a teat or nipple to her lower lip. Even in this semi-conscious state, your baby will start suckling. If your baby is too drowsy, try waking her a little (only a little!) by tickling her feet or rubbing her cheek. After your baby is done feeding, burp her gently, and put her back to sleep.
(See also: Sleep and your Young One)
#10: Avoid changing your baby at night
Diaper changes are best avoided at night as your baby may wake up during the process. If your baby has sensitive skin and needs a nocturnal change, do it quickly and quietly. Try not to use cold wet wipes, as the feel of a cold wipe on the skin may rouse your little one.
#11: Put your baby to sleep before she is overtired
Despite the advice of many well-meaning grandparents, a tired baby does not sleep better. In fact, it is harder for an over-tired baby to sleep. This is because when babies become over-tired, their bodies start to produce cortisol, a hormone that keeps your body alert and your heart pumping when you encounter danger. So always watch for signs of tiredness (i.e. rubbing eyes, yawning) and get your baby to bed before she becomes over-tired.
One last word about baby sleep
There are many ways to get your sweet one to sleep through the night. But every baby is different, and what it takes to help your little one nod off may not be the same as another baby’s. If you’ve tried everything to no avail, it may be reassuring to know that as with everything else, this too will pass. Experts tell us that about 60% of babies will sleep through the night regularly by the time they are six months old so take heart. In the meantime, do grab those 40 winks whenever you can!
(See also: Is your Child’s Snoring Paediatric Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)?)
:: GIVEAWAY! ::
Babies love to be all snuggled up. It creates a womb-like environment that gives them a sense of security so they can calm down and sleep longer. That’s why many parents swear by sleep bags — like CoverTike™ sleeping bags — for their infants to help their little ones sleep through the night. Made of 70% bamboo and 30% cotton, CoverTike™ sleeping bags are cool enough for Singapore weather, and offer ultra breathability through a unique Porus Tech™ fabric design. We have one to give away!
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Closing date: 12pm, 21 March 2021. Singapore entries only.
This article was contributed by SleepTike, which was started by (no longer) sleep-deprived parents who want to share their solutions to better baby sleep with other parents.
Featured image: Minnie Zhou on Unsplash