Getting your infant to sleep through the night can feel like the holy grail of parenting. If you can achieve this ultimate goal, everything will improve exponentially. Afterall, if you get enough sleep, you’ll be much more patient and good humored in the day. As you’re bouncing your little one around the nursery at 2 am, you can’t help but wonder when things will get better. When will your infant learn to sleep at night time? Is there any hope?
It can be challenging to get your infant to sleep through the night. But, before you give up hope, there are some tips and strategies you can use that may help you reach this goal. Check out our top tips for getting baby to sleep through the night:
Have Reasonable Expectations
Researchers often define sleeping through the night as sleeping from midnight to 5 am. So, when you read that 2 month olds should be sleeping through the night, don’t expect your baby to sleep from 9 pm to 7 am. This is an unrealistic expectation that will just frustrate you and make you feel like you’re failing when really, your baby is probably sleeping normally.
So, when can you expect your baby to sleep through the night?
It really depends. Most babies will still wake to feed every 3 to 4 hours until they’re 6 months old. By that point, they may be able to sleep for up to 5 or 6 hours at a time. Until then, you can expect your baby to wake up at least to eat, even if they drift off to sleep again right after.
One study shows that by 5 months, 73% of babies sleep from midnight to 5 am and 62% sleep for 8 consecutive hours. However, by a year 87% of babies sleep from midnight to 5 am and 86% sleep for 8 consecutive hours.
So, at the least, you can expect your baby to sleep through the night by the time they’re one year old. With patience, you will reach this milestone and slowly cut back on night feedings and wakings.
Create a Bedtime Routine
You can help signal bedtime for your infant by implementing a bedtime routine. It’s not an instant fix, but over time your baby will associate your routine with sleeping. Your routine will be unique to you and your child, so include what you’d like in your routine. Here are some ideas:
- Bath A bath can be a relaxing ritual that allows your child to relax. Use warm water and a dim room.
- No TV Avoid electronic devices and TV 30 minutes before bedtime. Even if you’re the one watching TV, the flashing lights and noise can stimulate your child, making them more wakeful.
- Storytime Read a calming bedtime book. The sound of your voice quietly reading a story is a great routine your baby will only love more as they grow.
- Songs You may consider singing a song or a lullaby to your baby before bedtime. Choose a few songs and repeat these at bedtime to provide comfort for your little one.
- White Noise Some parents swear by white noise machines that help their little ones sleep. Research backs them up. It’s believed that in utero, babies grow accustomed to the noise of their mother’s body. Stomach gurgles and other noises accompany the baby 24 hours a day. So, the quiet of night time in the outside world can be disconcerting. Not to mention that white noise can mask disruptive sudden noises such as a door closing or a siren blaring down the street. A white noise machine provides comfort for babies and allows them to sleep.
- Rocking If you have a rocking chair, use it! This is a great comforting activity for your baby that requires little effort on your part. The rhythmic motion just might put your little one to sleep.
Use a Safe, Ideal Sleeping Environment
Follow recommendations for safe sleep for infants. This means that your baby should be placed in a crib with a secure fitting sheet, and if using a bumper ensure all ties are secured to the outside of the crib. Wearable blankets are another great solution to help keep baby safe and warm throughout the night. Keep the room cool and dark.
It’s also recommended that you place your baby on their back to sleep. You may provide a pacifier which can comfort your baby.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends that babies should share a room with their parents for the first 6 months. However, the baby should have their own sleeping surface such as a crib, bassinet or co-sleeper.
Give Day and Night Signals
Infants may struggle to differentiate between night and day for the first few months of life. To help them get their schedule sorted, you can do a few things to make day and night more obvious.
During the daytime, make sure your child gets some sunlight. Offer your child a more wakeful environment by playing music. Talk and engage your child throughout the day. While naps are important and should be encouraged, don’t offer a silent, dark environment that should be reserved for night time.
At night, keep the lights dim or off completely. During night feedings, rely on a soft night light rather than turning on brighter lights. In addition, avoid interacting with your baby more than necessary. So, rather than cooing back at your baby, do a more “down to business” diaper change and feeding. Then, sing a soft lullaby and get your baby back to their crib as soon as possible.
Before you know it, the sleepless nights stage of infancy will have passed and your baby will graduate to sleeping through the night. Until then, use the above tips to help your baby sleep for longer and longer stretches. And, remember, if you’re a stay at home parent, you can always catch a nap when your baby sleeps during the day.