- When do babies sleep through the night?
- Why does my baby not sleep through the night?
- How To Make A Baby Sleep Through The Night?
- What are the challenges in training a baby to sleep through the night?
Getting your baby to sleep all night is what you dream of. But it may not become a reality until the baby reaches a certain age. Sleeping through the night ensures healthy growth of the baby. Parents can reinforce this habit of sleeping through the night with some good practices. MomJunction tells you ways to ensure your baby sleeps peacefully for the entire night.
When Do Babies Sleep Through The Night?
A baby will sleep through the night after the age of three months (1). “Sleeping through the night” means that the baby will sleep for at least six hours in a row without waking up. Usually, a baby at this age will wake up at least twice during the night, perhaps for a feed or because he soiled his diaper. As the baby grows older, the number of consecutive night sleeping hours may increase.
It is to be noted that not all babies are the same and “sleeping through the night” could vary. Some infants average around five hours of continuous sleep while some may go up to eight hours. Nevertheless, 80% of infants learn to sleep through the night, averaging around 11 hours, by the time they are nine months old (2).
But, there could be reasons for why the baby may not get a proper sleep in the night.
Why Does My Baby Not Sleep Through The Night?
The following reasons could be responsible for a baby’s inability to sleep through the night:
Babies who have a significant gap since their last meal before bed, are quite likely to wake up in the middle of the night feeling hungry. Make sure the baby does not go to bed on an empty stomach. Include a breastfeeding session at the end of the day, right before bedtime. If the baby is old enough to eat solid foods, then give a night meal.
Just like adults, babies have two sleep stages – non-rapid eye movement sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep; the latter is when one has a deep sleep. When switching from one sleep stage to another, a baby may wake up and have trouble sleeping again. Even adults and toddlers wake up, but fall asleep almost immediately. Babies may find it difficult to fall asleep instantly and thus may cry to call out to a parent. However, as the baby grows, he can learn to sleep better.
Rapid development at certain stages of life can interfere with the baby’s sleep. For instance, babies going through a growth spurt at around six months may feel hungry more often thus waking up in the night for an extra feed (3). The baby may abruptly stop sleeping through the night during these stages and then resume uninterrupted night sleeping again.
The circadian rhythm, also called body clock, determines how well someone sleeps. Sometimes, the baby may have ‘uncalibrated’ body clock, making it difficult to sleep and wake up at the right time. To ensure the circadian rhythm works properly, expose the baby to some indirect sunlight such as the one falling from a window. Take him on a stroll in the warm sun during cold winter months to help his body differentiate between night and day (4).
Discomfort due to teething pain can disturb the baby’s sleep. If it happens repeatedly, you can administer ibuprofen or acetaminophen (paracetamol) to the baby before bed to reduce pain, but only after consulting the doctor (5). Babies’ first teeth come out only after six months. Therefore, if you started the sleep training early (at three months), the baby could tolerate the teething pain better without waking up in the night.
If the baby has any infections or diseases, then there is a high probability that he will wake up at least once in the night. You can prevent this by taking good care of the baby’s general health and helping him get prompt treatment in case of an underlying condition.
As parents, there is a lot you can do to ensure that your baby gets his required sleep through the night.
How To Make A Baby Sleep Through The Night?
You can make sure the baby is sleeping through the night by training him right soon after the first month. Here are some tips on how to make a baby sleep at night, as recommended by pediatric experts (6):
Follow a consistent bedtime routine. This ensures that the baby is all set for the night’s sleep. Some activities do great before bedtime such as bathing, reading, singing, and playing some soft music. Have the activity precisely the same time every day and have a set duration. Do not extend even if the baby seems to be enjoying it. It helps the baby establish a set routine before bedtime.
Maintain an ideal ambiance by keeping the environment in your baby’s room soothing and calming. Curtain the windows to make the room feel darker and also to insulate sounds from outside. Use a dim night light if you must. Experts also recommend using a softer voice when talking to the baby before bedtime. It makes him feel settled in for the night.
Place the baby in bed when he is drowsy but still awake. Do not wait for the baby to fall asleep in your arms before you place him in the bed. It will help the infant associate his night’s sleep with the crib, helping him sleep better.
You may consider using a pacifier. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends giving the baby a pacifier at night as it soothes while bringing down the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) (7). Wait till the baby is at least a month old before you introduce a pacifier. Also, select a one-piece pacifier, which has no breakable parts (8).
Let the baby choose when he wants to sleep. Parents should accommodate the baby’s preferences, and make changes to their routine accordingly. It can help the baby sleep through the night and sleep better.
Pediatric experts state that there is no one single way of making your baby sleep through the night (9). You will have to try many things before you finally arrive at what works for your baby. However, you could face some genuine challenges while training your baby to sleep in the night.
What Are The Challenges In Training A Baby To Sleep Through The Night?
There could be some roadblocks while training your baby to sleep in the night. Some of them are given below.
Babies need time to develop a routine. They do not have a fixed sleep and wake cycles like adults. It means a baby may stay awake when you would expect him to sleep, and may doze off when you want him to keep awake (10). Therefore, when you start the training, you may notice inconsistent results. The baby may sleep through the night for a few nights, then go back to waking up repeatedly.
Be prepared for a lot of fussiness. If you start the training later, when the baby is older, then you may have to face tantrums. But do not give up . Consistency is the key to ensure the baby learns to sleep through the night.
The baby may have a favorite sleeping spot such as your arms or the bassinet. It may be difficult to separate him from the spot as the baby may have found the place soothing to fall asleep. However, over a period, the baby will learn to sleep in the crib.
Consistent effort is the key to help your baby sleep through the night. But remember, in spite of all the efforts, your baby could seem to have a hard time sleeping through the night. There is nothing wrong with it. Pediatric experts state that some babies are just poor night sleepers while some sleep through the night with minimal training (11). As babies grow older, they adopt regular sleep schedules that are predictable. Until then, do not give up on your efforts.
Did you have to help your baby get into a habit of sleeping through the night? Tell us how you did so in the comments section below.