When do babies sleep through the night naturally?
Babies waking up throughout the night can exact a heavy toll on parents! This is a question we really struggled with in our sleep-deprived state!
Sleep deprivation, moodiness, fits of anger amongst other things come about from a lack of rest. So naturally, we want to know when our lives will go back to some sort of normality.
Depending on the temperament of the baby it can be as early as 6 months or as late as 2 years. Breastfed babies tend to take longer as breast milk is digested faster than formula so breastfed babies are more likely to wake up due to hunger.
For some babies, it just happens and for others, they might need a little assistance. This doesn’t, however, mean you have to sleep train your baby. On the contrary, nurturing your baby can be just as effective as sleep training, and less likely to cause any long term psychological damage.
What stops babies from sleeping through the night?
For most babies around the 6 month age, they struggle to sleep through the night because they’re used to cluster feeding and the comfort it brings.
They’re used to small frequent meals and generally don’t consume enough milk in one go to stay full for longer.
Many Breastfed babies struggle to sleep through the night as they tend to associate the breast with comfort, relaxation, pain relief amongst other things. So when they cry out, it isn’t necessarily because they’re hungry, but because of the comfort and warmth the breast brings.
For many mothers, babies wake up when the latch is broken. They tend to wake up when they move from breastfeeding to their cot.
Although bottle fed babies have different associations with feeding, they still experience the comfort of being held and made to feel safe. They also have the added benefit of not necessarily wanting one parent over another as it’s easy to share feeding.
Bottle fed babies tend to be better sleepers as there are fewer associations with feeding, and the formula doesn’t contain the sleep hormone melatonin. Although this may sound contradictory, breastfed babies tend to fall asleep in the middle of a feed making them less full and causing more frequent wakes.
4 steps to get your baby to sleep through the night naturally
Having a great day and night routine will really help to make sure your baby is using their day well and a sleep schedule to make sure all of their naps are happening at the correct time for their age. A routine is an invaluable way to get your baby to sleep through the night.
Routine is incredibly important as it will teach your baby what’s happening and when. After a while, they’ll start yawning at the right time and be more accepting of sleep. Employing a routine will have your baby sleeping through the night in no time!
From the age of 6 months, it might be good to start ‘combi’ feeding. Breast milk and solids throughout the day and a bottle before bed. This has been known to help many parents. Full babies will likely sleep well. However, some babies don’t take to the bottle and this can be really difficult to manage.
We bought every type of bottle under the sun to encourage her to bottle feed at night. We even spent around £25 on one bottle that was supposed to be a sure thing… She hated it the most! She flat out refused to take a bottle, hated formula and wouldn’t even drink expressed milk. If they’re fine on the bottle, you could try expressed milk or formula before bed.
Another key to breaking the cycle of breastfeeding before bed, try to get your partner involved. This may take some time for your baby and partner to get used to, but is incredibly effective in all of you sleeping through the night!
Your baby sees you as their milk-making source of comfort and wants to be close to you in a cosy nook drinking the nectar of the Gods. Introducing your partner will change this association. Your baby will still get comfort but won’t be grabbing at your top to get to their favourite pastime.
They may cry at first, this is normal. Give them comfort, the way you would during the day to help them settle. They may wake up for a little while, but just employ some of your nighttime routines to help them doze back off.
If your baby refuses to take a bottle, the alternative is stopping them from falling asleep while on the breast. Keep them awake while they feed and let them fall asleep either in your arms or stroking their head in their cot.
If this works, they’ll likely be full and you can know that they’re not waking for food, but comfort. Transitioning to your partner will be easier this way. Eventually, they’ll see that mummy the milk maker isn’t coming in at night and many start sleeping through because they’re becoming aware of their new routine.
After some time (could be a few weeks), many babies start accepting it and fall asleep, then sleep through the night completely!. Others may be really strong-willed and won’t accept the change, in which case, move onto contact.
The above was one of the most effective methods we used and worked like a charm for us.
When your baby wakes up, it seems instinctive to pick her up and rock her. Providing this kind of comfort seems to be effective, you notice she responds to this and calms down, not necessarily falling asleep but is settled in your arms.
Perhaps she’s looking at you, maybe she even wants to play. Oh God she wants to play! So many times in the early stages of our daughter sleeping in her own room led to either of us being in her room for nearly 3 hours per night trying to get her back to sleep!
She was too used to being held, rocked and sung to. As a first time parent it’s incredibly difficult to know the right thing to do.
If you want her to sleep through the night it’s time to change tact! Don’t pick her up until necessary. First, offer her comfort by stroking her head and perhaps singing her sleeping song (part of her sleeping routine). Many babies/children/adults also like to be stroked on the spot between the eyes leading down the bridge of the nose.
If this isn’t successful on its own and she is used to being rocked, place your hands on her chest and bottom and give her a gentle rock side to side to help her drift off. You can slow this down to a gradual stop with great effect, but it has to be gradual, otherwise the change will be great enough to wake her up!
If unsuccessful and you have to pick her up, that’s fine too, but as a last resort. Once in arms try to calm her without rocking or feeding. When she’s calm, place her back into their cot and try the above steps until she falls asleep.
Your baby is learning how to sleep through the night without being held, it can take quite a while for them to get used to; some babies seem like they take an age!
Our daughter fights sleep at every chance she gets; Most of the time we try to put her in her cot awake, she’ll spend nearly an hour just talking to herself, playing by herself or singing songs…
If I go in and sit with her in her chair, gently stroke her head and talk to her softly, she’ll fall asleep in minutes. However, if she wakes up in the night, I’ll go in and she’ll say “Daddy, stroke my head” 5 minutes later she’ll be asleep.
You need to find what works for you. But when getting your baby to sleep through the night, another extremely important thing to consider is getting their sleeping environment right.
Getting your baby sleep environment right is incredibly important. This can be the difference between a good restful night sleep and a disturbed one. There are a number of different factors that will keep them awake throughout the night; from temperature to brightness, from nighttime routine to the noise in the room. Eliminating these will help your baby sleep through the night with a lot less trouble.
Things to consider:
- Room/baby temperature
- Open or close windows and make sure they’re wearing appropriate clothing and coverings (blanket or sleeping bag)
- Blackout blinds or window coverings
- The introduction of white noise to block out other sounds and help with relaxation
- Reading to them daily, the same book at the same time will help them associate that time and book with sleep
- Cuddly toy (depending on age)
- Camera to know if they’re safe
- Depending on age, a visual clock to train them in the correct time to wake up
We have selected all the products you’ll need to make the perfect baby sleep environment. The application of the above routines and schedule coupled with this will have your baby sleeping through the night in no time.
Getting your baby to sleep through the night can be challenging, whether you’re a first time parent of a seasoned ‘vet’ on baby number 4. The steps above will really help to make a difference, but with most things parenting – it takes time and a whole lot of consistency.
Stick at it and you’ll have your baby sleeping through the night in no time at all.
Be sure to try it out and leave a comment below if you found this helpful or you think there was anything I missed.
Alternatively, if you have a friend or a family member who is struggling with this, please be so kind as to share it with them or on social media to help others who are struggling as well.