This is a question I get asked all the time. When my children were babies around 5 months old, I thought if they were sleeping 6-8 hours straight then that was considered sleeping through the night. If they only had one wakeup at that age for a feeding, then I was happy with that. But I would like to help you get to the place where your baby is sleeping 10-12 hours at night without any wakeups. To me, 10-12 hours is sleeping through the night.
Now let’s look at some considerations that play into getting your baby to sleep through the night:
BABY’S AGE: A newborn can’t and shouldn’t sleep 10-12 hours straight because they still need frequent feedings in order to grow. As your child grows, they will be able to go longer and longer stretches at night without a feeding. Every month you want to be doing some sleep shaping steps to help your baby be able to go longer stretches at night. So, your baby may not be sleeping through the night yet because of their age. I can help you with implementing some sleep shaping tips for your little one under 6 months to gradually reduce their wakings at night.
FEEDINGS: One of the most common sleep crutches is nursing or bottle feeding your baby to sleep. You do this because you know that is the fastest and sure-fire way that you can get them to go back to sleep. But what can happen is that a baby will begin to not take in enough calories during the day, so they are waking more at night to feed to fill their caloric tanks. This is called “reverse cycling”. Your baby may just snack during the day and get their full feedings during the night. To help eliminate this reverse cycling make sure that you are giving your baby full feedings during the day. Do not let them eat just a few minutes and then fall asleep without getting their belly nice and full at each feeding. Your goal is to help your baby get all their caloric needs during the day, so they don’t require any at night. Of course, this is all dependent on their age and their stage of development. So, your baby may not be sleeping through the night because they are hungry at night and they are not getting enough feedings to fill them during the day. I can work with you to help you figure out ways to help your baby stay awake during feedings and work on filling their belly during the day to prevent needing to eat at night, dependent upon their age. I can help you come up with a plan to do night weanings when you are ready for that.
BEDTIME ROUTINE: Having a calm bedtime routine can help your baby wind down for the night and tells your baby’s brain that it is time for sleep. Examples of a soothing bedtime routine may be a bath, lotion, soft pajamas, sleep sack, feeding, book, song, massage, etc. It doesn’t have to take a long time. Just keep it simple and consistent every night. So, your baby may not be sleeping through the night because they do not have a regular bedtime routine. Working with me as a sleep coach, I can help you learn different bedtime routines that help your baby wind down for the night to be ready to sleep well.
WAKEFUL WINDOWS: You want to follow your baby’s wakeful windows which do change with age. A wakeful window is the post-sleep, post-nap awake time. It is the time they are awake between sleep. A wakeful window begins when you pick your baby up out of the crib and ends when you lay them back down in their crib. Your baby’s awake time during the day can affect their length of sleep at night. If your baby’s wakeful windows are too long or too short, it can cause night wakings. You want your wakeful windows to be within the appropriate age range to help with successful sleep at night. So, if your baby’s wakeful windows are too long or too short for their age, they may be waking up at night. I can help you learn more about what are appropriate wakeful windows for your baby’s age and help you recognize signs of sleepiness.
SLEEP ENVIRONMENT: Here are some things to put in place to help your baby sleep better at night. (1) Make their room really dark using darkening shades or curtains. (2) Use a sound machine that runs all night to drown out any other sounds in the home. (3) Make the room cool which can help them sleep better. Guidelines will say that your thermostat should be set at 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit. But, do what is comfortable for you. So, your baby may be waking up at night because their sleep environment is not ideal. I can help coach you through other things that can help make your baby’s sleep environment more conducive for peaceful sleep.
COMFORT: We all sleep better if we are wearing comfortable pajamas. Make sure their pjs are soft and comfortably fitting – not being too loose or tight. And, if you are using a sleep sack, make sure that the appropriate size is being used. Keep the room temperature cool. Do not put blankets in their cribs if they are too young to have them. So, your baby may be waking at night because they are not comfortable in what they are sleeping in. Working with me as a sleep coach, we can do some trial and error solutions to figure out how your baby sleeps better, whether it is they like a sleep sack or don’t like a sleep sack; they prefer it cool or prefer to be more snuggled and warm; they prefer footie pjs or a sleep gown, etc.
FALLING ASLEEP INDEPENDENTLY: We want to teach our babies how to put themselves to sleep independently without us rocking, feeding, holding, walking, etc. to put them to sleep. Everyone wakes during the night as we transition through sleep cycles. If your baby was rocked to sleep and then placed in their crib, if they wake in the middle of the night, they don’t know how they got there and they need you to rock them back to sleep. They do not know how to put themselves to sleep. They need your assistance. So you want to coach your baby in putting themselves to sleep and back to sleep. One method is the Sleep Lady Shuffle which will help you coach your baby through this process. Falling asleep independently plays a significant role in achieving consolidated sleep at night. So, if your baby is not able to fall asleep independently, it may be why they keep waking at night. I can work with you to help you learn what the Shuffle is and how to implement it with your baby.
BE CONSISTENT: Consistency is your secret to success. If you are consistent in your bedtime routine and night wakings, your baby will eventually learn to sleep through the night with no wakings. You want to be careful not to do intermittent reinforcement where you are not consistent but do something different every time they wake up, which confuses your baby. Sometimes we are just so tired when they wake and wake often in the middle of the night, we will do about anything to get them to go back to sleep which can lead to inconsistency. So, your baby may be waking up at night because of inconsistency. One help I can give is in encouraging you to stay consistent and to bounce ideas off of me if you are not sure what to do in various situations related to your baby’s sleep.
CONCLUSION: I know it is so difficult when your baby is not sleeping through the night. You do not have to do this alone. I am here for you if you need help with your child’s frequent wakings at night. Contact me at www.peacefulsleepcoach.com and let’s work together to find a plan to help your child get the sleep they and you need.