Why Isn’t My Baby Sleeping Through the Night?
It’s 4 in the morning and you’ve already been awake at least five times this night. You look at the clock and notice that you only have about two hours until your alarm goes off. Instant dread sets in. What are you supposed to do? Should you get up again and maybe bring your baby in your bed with you? Do you ask your partner to take care of it? Every option you look at seems to be negative to some degree. If this sounds familiar to you and if your baby has been having a hard time sleeping at night or is constantly waking up throughout the night (and making you wake up), then now might be the perfect time to consider sleep training them. I reached a breaking point before I realized that this was the best and only option at this stage in my life, my partner’s life, and most importantly – my daughter’s life.
Before we can actually get your baby to sleep through the night, first we need to cover what sleep training is and what it entails. It involves not only helping your baby learn how they can fall sleep, but helping them stay asleep throughout the night. I’m sure this sounds amazing to you and most other parents as well. However, reaching this point is definitely not a simple task, or one that any parent can achieve overnight simply because some babies put up more of fight than others when they are being sleep trained. That being said, some do adapt very quickly and those parents should consider themselves very lucky that they do! I’m fully aware of the struggle because I had to deal with the whole shebang with my own daughter.
Remember that sleep training is recommended if your baby is between 3 to 6 months old. Sleep training can benefit pretty much every person in your house in numerous ways. Not only will your baby’s sleep be better and more effective, but your family will also sleep better and be more energized to better handle life’s daily challenges. The entire process and journey of getting your baby to fall sleep is pretty unenjoyable and difficult to accomplish; speaking as a mother who went through it, it was one of the hardest things that I had to do in my life. Remember though, the one thing that it isn’t is harmful. Sleeping is a natural yet learned skill and by addressing it and optimizing, and maximizing the benefits that proper sleep hygiene gives will yield the best possible results for both you and your baby. This is especially true for your baby’s development.
Do I Really Need to Sleep Train My Baby?
You might be asking the question to yourself, is sleep training really needed? In a perfect world, with a perfect baby, you probably don’t need to worry about this. Some parents might not think sleep training is important because they might have babies who can fall sleep and stay asleep soundly throughout the night. However, if this does not sound like your baby, then sleep training might be something worth considering. If you notice that your baby takes too long to fall sleep, doesn’t sleep long or keeps waking up throughout the night, then you’ll most likely lose a significant portion of your day (and night!) trying to get them to sleep. Not only will this exhaust you, but if your baby isn’t sleeping well, then both you and your SO are going to be cranky, exhausted, and can suffer in other aspects such as lower immune system, increased drowsiness, anxiety, and a slew of other mental and physical health problems that come with a lack of sleep and sleep deprivation.
My body and mind were both exhausted and I could feel it taking a toll on me. If you’re even asking yourself the question “How can I put my baby to sleep and help them stay asleep throughout the night?”, then you might already have the motivation to sleep train your little one. The tricky part is knowing when you should start. The most common timeline to start sleep training for babies is around the 4 to 6-month-old range. Although, some pediatricians state that infants shouldn’t begin sleep training until they reach a certain weight. However, it makes more sense logically to give them enough time until they can start soothing themselves which probably won’t happen until at least the four-month mark anyway.
There really isn’t a set or specific time you should start sleep training in your baby. Even if the four months old is a common recommended time to start sleep training, some professionals say that it isn’t even necessary to start sleep training your baby until they’re 10 months old, or even one-year-old! If you aren’t sure about something, always consult with your pediatrician if you’re not sure what the best course of action is or need some guidance.
It might be difficult to figure out why your baby is crying at 3 or 4 in the morning when you just put them back to sleep 30 minutes prior. This becomes especially more difficult to deal with if you’re sleep deprived and can’t think clearly. Finding out what exactly your baby’s sleep issues are is the first step you should take to figuring out the best strategy specifically for you and your significant other.
If you’re trying to get a better understanding of your baby’s sleep, then you need to go about it in a logical, comprehensive, and well thought out manner. Think about how you interact with each nap, each time you play with them, each time you bathe them, and really think about your bedtime routine with them. Write down everything that you do as your own little sleep diary. It’s amazing what you might find when you actually write something down versus thinking about it. Once you fill a good amount of your sleep journal, you’ll be able to look at things in an objective way and find out if there’s anything that you can improve on. You might even be able to find something that might be causing problems with your baby’s sleep.
Avoiding Eye Contact with Your Baby
Even though this might be difficult to do, and as much as you might want to look into their eyes because they are so cute…by doing so, it might lead them to believe that you’re trying to play with them. Eye contact can be engaging and may induce excitement in your baby. This is the last thing you want to try to do when you want them to fall sleep. Looking at them for a long period of time, or making an animated face for them actually stimulates them so when you’re trying to put them back to sleep and need to calm them down, you should avoid doing so. I know this can be difficult to do, because naturally you want to engage with them and make eye contact minimally. However, this is not the best time to do so. Try to focus away from their eyes and keep a gentle touch – along with a calm, quiet, and soothing voice to try to get them back to sleep. You want them to be as sleepy as possible, and keep them that way. This will help them better sleep throughout the night, which will result in you and your family getting more sleep too!
The Importance of Lighting
It’s important to understand just how much lighting can play a role in keeping your baby awake, as well as keeping them asleep. Make sure that you keep the lights on during the day, and that during the night the lighting is the dim and is ideal for feeling relatively sleepy in. Eventually, and over time, your baby will start to differentiate the two and will start to make the connection between day and night. Make sure that during the day that there is more than enough sunlight. If it’s not sunny outside, at least take your baby outside for a little bit. Another option at your disposal is to put your baby in a well-lit room during nap time. I like to use double blind shades in my daughter’s room, and I try to dim the lights in the later parts of the evening, as well as when I sit with them before bed as a heads up that bedtime is soon arriving. Make sure if you do choose to use a nightlight in your baby’s room, don’t make it large and overly bright. Make sure it’s small, dim, and not too hot. If your baby does wake up during the night in a dark room, make sure that you don’t turn the lights on, or take them into an environment that’s bright. Instead, calm them back to sleep in the same environment. If you notice that when it’s sunny out and sunlight might wake them up in the mornings, you might want to consider prioritizing blocking any light so it doesn’t wake them up before they are naturally ready to wake up.
Sleepy Time A.K.A. Dream Feeding Your Baby
If you notice that your baby is having some difficulty getting sleep, then try to wake them up during the night for a feeding. It has been shown to be an effective method for helping babies sleep longer periods of time. Make sure that the lighting is still dim and not bright, then lift them out of their crib gently, slowly, and quietly. Find a comfortable spot and settle down and give them a bottle or nurse them. Your baby may or may not be awake enough to feed. If they aren’t, try to give them a little gentle nudge until they do feed. Once they are done and full, put them right back to sleep.
Changing Your Diaper Change Habits
I know it might be tempting to try to change your baby’s diaper whenever they wake up during the night, but your baby definitely won’t need their diaper changed all the time. If you keep doing this, eventually you’ll end up doing more harm than good in the long run. You run the risk of interrupting their sleep by doing this. Instead, try to use some nice high-quality diapers designed for nighttime before you put them to sleep. This is great because in the event that your baby does wake up, you can give a quick check to find out if they need a diaper change, and if not, then you can get them back to sleep.
Try Not Being Too Hasty
If you’re quick to check on your baby at the slightest sound of them being possibly disturbed, then you’ll basically be enabling them to continuously be waking up throughout the night. If you do hear your baby crying or making a sound, try waiting just a little bit to see if they can get themselves back to sleep by themselves. In the event that this doesn’t happen, feel free to rush to their aid before they have a gigantic fit. Once you check on them, as long as you get them before they are howling in distress, you should be able to get them back asleep before they get too worked up. If you’re using a baby monitor, another good tip is to reduce the sensitivity of it so that every single disturbance or sound that they make doesn’t make you or your SO go and check up on them – which could possibly interrupt their sleep.
Putting Your Baby to Sleep When They’re Sleepy, Yet Not Completely Asleep
This might be a little more difficult for you moms out there who are currently breast-feeding. Although, if you do manage capitalize on the correct times that your baby is sleepy, then you should be able to get a great night’s sleep. If you know that your baby is able to drift off to sleep all by themselves, then there’s a pretty good chance that they’ll eventually learn to soothe themselves to sleep. The best time to capitalize on putting your baby to sleep is right when they’re starting to feel drowsy and winding down.
Co-sleeping With Your Baby
Co-sleeping with your baby is very common option amongst parents. Co-sleeping entails being close to your baby while sleeping, but not having them sleep right in your arms through the night. There’s been some interesting studies done about co-sleeping and its benefits. According to research, mothers and their babies can actually share a common sleep cycle if they are sleeping in the same area/room. I personally benefited from co-sleeping so much because it ended up in both of us getting a lot more sleep. Not only can you share a bed with your baby, but you can also place the crib close by your bed. This is the best way to ensure that you are fully compliant with co-sleeping guidelines and that you both can greatly benefit from co-sleeping.
Using White Noise
White noise is a great, low effort and low cost method that can potentially help your baby settle down before bed, and help them sleep longer. White noise works so well because your baby was very familiar with sounds similar to white noise when they were in their mother’s womb. Essentially, white noise reminds them of the sounds that they heard in their mother’s womb, which is calming to them. It can help them soothe themselves, and there are limitless recordings and sounds that you can choose from. Try to use white noise right before bed to help them relax and catch up on some much needed sleep!
Establishing Your Baby’s Bedtime Routine
Not only is this effective in helping your baby get ready for sleep, but it can help set in motion your baby’s expectations for sleep and help them get to sleep and stay asleep longer. A lot of the bedtime routines start with something such as a bath, but feel free to find and pick and choose what works best for you and your baby. Maybe your baby prefers to be read a story instead. You can even read the same story every night if you can bear with that! You can try other things such as singing lullabies to them while you change them and get them into their pajamas before bed. If you are religious, you can also say prayers to your baby before bed which is a nice little bonding experience. Another great option is to use lavender oil specifically for babies and give them a nice massage. This will help relax and get them ready for bed. There are so many other night time routines and rituals that you can use the help your baby get ready for bed. Trial and error is the best way to find out what works best for the both of you.
Sleep Regression Can Be Nasty
If this sounds familiar to you then keep reading. Maybe you think you’ve mastered your bedtime routines with your baby because you’ve been doing extremely well for the past few weeks. One day, you hear a sudden screeching cry at three in the morning, and your restful night is gone in a poof. Believe it or not, you didn’t do anything wrong if this sounds like a familiar experience to you. Babies will experience sleep regression normally and regularly once they are going through developmental changes and are getting older. Something as simple as a change in routine might also wake them up. This can include traveling, new environments, new noises, or being sick. The common time that this occurs is near the four-month-old mark. This is when your baby starts to change their sleep patterns and is growing. These sleep regressions can keep occurring, and can also occur again several months down at around 9 months old once separation anxiety starts to develop. The best way to get through this and deal with this is to ensure that you have a consistent and regular daytime and nighttime routine.
Trying to get your baby to sleep throughout the night is one of the most common problems that a lot of parents experience. I hope that these helpful tips and tricks can help you all sleep longer and make bedtime a peaceful time like it’s supposed to be. There are so many different methods and things you can try to find a solution that works specifically for you and your baby. With enough effort, determination, and willpower, your bedtime will be back to being peaceful and cry-free, giving both you and your baby lots more time to snooze and enjoy nighttime!