It doesn’t take long for those dreaded little words “How is your baby sleeping?” to come up in a parent-to-parent conversation.
Some parents dodge the question by saying everything is fine - others dive into a long story about their child’s sleep habits.
For some families, the nights of disrupted sleep can go on for months, even years, yet it needn’t be that way. Every child is different but assuming that your baby is healthy, you can expect your child to start to get 12 hours of night time sleep between the ages of three and six months.
If your child is six months or older and is still not sleeping through the night, here are some simple steps you can take to improve the length of your child’s sleep during the night.
Seven tips to help your baby to sleep through the night
- Babies need to learn to fall asleep on their own without any sleep props. Props come in MANY forms, from feeding, soothers and patting to rocking, music, cuddles and more. If your baby is reliant on one or more of these sleep props to fall asleep, they will need to be soothed with this every time they wake up in the night (which we all do several times a night).
- Be consistent. Whatever happens during one sleep situation needs to happen at all sleep situations. This sends a clear message to your little one about what is expected of them. This includes every time your baby or toddler wakes during the night.
- Set an early bedtime. Babies need a consistent bedtime that is quite early – about 6.30 or 7pm. This is vital to ensure that children do not become overtired when it will be more difficult to settle them. An overtired baby will be more restless during the night, with more night-time waking. Try to pick a bedtime based on the last nap of the day and your baby's age. Bedtimes do not have to be set in stone and you can always move bedtime a little earlier if your child seems tired or cranky – just try not to make it later. Read more about how long your baby should sleep.
- A bedtime routine is something you can start at a very early age and is an excellent cue to your baby’s body and mind that it is time to settle down and get ready for sleep. Routines should last between 20 and 30 minutes and at least some of it should take place in your child’s room (or your own bedroom when they are still sharing with you). Your baby’s bedtime routine might include a bath, putting on their night clothes, having a last feed and then sharing a song or a story.
- Naptime routines. In a similar way, a short baby nap routine will help tell your baby that it’s sleep time. This need only take five minutes and might involve pulling the drapes in the baby’s room, saying goodnight to your baby’s toys, then having a short cuddle and a song. Some babies prefer naps in the stroller and motion can help get your baby to sleep. Use your SnoozeShade over your stroller to block out light and distractions, as it’s far easier for your child to fall asleep in a nice dark space. Eventually, your SnoozeShade will become a sleep cue for your baby.
- Tiring your child out will not make them sleep better. Skipping naps or putting your baby to bed later will not help them get a good night’s sleep – and it will affect their next 24-hour cycle too. Don’t let anyone tell you that naps are not important, or that skipping them will help your baby sleep longer at night.
- Keep your baby awake while feeding. If you are feeding your baby during the night, try not to let him/her fall asleep at the breast or bottle. After a feed, sing with your baby or talk quietly with them and let them learn how to fall asleep on their own.
Make a positive change now
Research shows that 84% of children who experience sleep problems continue to have them up to five years. That’s a long time for a family to function on reduced sleep and a long time to fight those bedtime battles. If you have not established a good sleep routine yet, don’t despair - it’s never too late to start changing your child’s sleep patterns. It can be hard but in the long run, making positive changes now will make everyone feel better and be more well-rested - and a whole lot happier!
Need some help?
Infant and Child Sleep Consultant Karen Bramall from Baby Sleep The Night has a decade of experience and has worked with thousands of families to solve their children’s sleep difficulties with her gentle, caring methods. Karen now trains others in her line of work and on her website, you will find a whole team of Baby Sleep Experts.
Some further helpful reading:
How long should my baby sleep?
How many naps does my baby need?
How to cope with sleep regressions