Every baby is different, so it’s only natural for some to have a more difficult time with nighttime sleep than others. Some babies take to it very well and at a very young age are able to sleep through the night with only the occasional wakeup. Others, however, require a lot of patience and guidance in order to get to point where they can sleep all night. But in every case, there are things parents can do to make things easier for the baby as well as for themselves.
If your baby has trouble sleeping through the night and you are ready to move to the next stage, here are a few tips that may help.
- Have a routine: To ease your little one into sleep, establish a nighttime routine that you follow without exception. This might include a bath, reading time, and the last feeding of the day. Do whatever works best for your family. Just make it consistent, and make sure it differs from other routines you have through the day.
- Discourage nighttime feeding: Very early on, it is perfectly natural for an infant to require several feedings during the night, and this can continue for many months if it is not too much trouble for the parents. But if are ready for better nighttime sleep and your child is old enough, you can begin phasing out these feedings. Keep track of how much your baby eats and how much she requires, and make sure she gets enough during the daytime hours while gradually lessening the nighttime feedings.
- Position the baby well: To minimize the risk of SIDS, most medical authorities recommend placing the baby on her back at bedtime for the first nine months of life (some recommend longer), and this advice is worth heeding. But when the baby gets old enough to move around at will, there is little you can do to control her position. The good news is that she will naturally find the position in which she is most comfortable and in which she will sleep best. So when your baby is old enough, give her the freedom to find her preferred positions.
- Try different outfits: If your baby seems to wake up a lot, this could be a sign of discomfort resulting from his sleep outfit. Try different things, and make sure you experiment with each item enough nights to draw a conclusion about whether your baby likes it or not.
- Control room conditions: Also try different conditions in the room where your baby sleeps. Perhaps he does well with a little bit of noise, in which case you can use a fan or a radio to make some gentle white noise. Also make sure you try different temperatures. Childcare experts generally recommend dressing babies a little more warmly than you would dress yourself, but this is not a blanket rule, and some babies tend to get hot in normal room-temperature conditions.
- Learn baby’s back-to-sleep habits: Watch your baby for several nights to see how she typically reacts when waking up in the middle of the night. If she wakes, fusses for a moment, and then goes back to sleep, make sure you allow her to do this instead of interrupting her natural process. On the other hand, if you can learn to recognize when she is unlikely to get herself back to sleep, you can get to her early and minimize the amount of time she is awake.
Good luck, new parents! We hope you get some rest…and baby too!