The Most Common Reasons Why Your Baby Isn’t Sleeping Through the Night and How to Improve Them
Many parents worry about their baby not sleeping through the night. When we are exhausted from numerous night wakings, we start googling why this might be happening and if it is even normal. The first thing we need to know is when it is normal to sleep through the night. By 4 months of age babies will often sleep for 5 hours straight at the beginning of the night and then wake up every 3 hours or so after that for a feeding. By 6 months of age a baby will generally sleep for 8 hours uninterrupted. It isn’t until all babies’ hits 9 months that they can go 12 hours without waking. This doesn’t mean your baby can’t sleep through the night early, but you can chat with your pediatrician to determine what is right for your baby.
If your baby isn’t sleeping through the night and waking up much more than what I have outlined above, then chances are there is something else going on, that is disrupting their sleep. It is likely something you can work on to fix, whether it be on your own, or getting support from a child sleep consultant. I will outline below the most common reasons your baby might be waking, and give you my expert tips on how to fix them.
The bedroom environment
Babies, and children benefit from a bedroom environment that is dark, cool and conducive to sleep. Babies are very sensitive to light. If there is a lot of light coming in through the bedroom windows, this may be disruptive to their production of melatonin – making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. Early morning light coming in can also wake your baby up earlier than you would intend them to be awake.
Tip: Keep the bedroom temperature around 72°F and invest in some blackout blinds. The darker the room the better!
Inability to self soothe
If your baby is used to having you breastfeed, rock, pat or cuddle to get them to sleep in the middle of the night, they could be waking up overnight for that same help to return to sleep. It is very normal for a baby (or adult for that matter) to regularly briefly wake overnight while switching between sleep cycles, but what isn’t normal is for your baby to be waking up crying and not being able to return to sleep until they get help from you. A baby should be able to roll over, switch positions and get comfortable then return to sleep without any help from their parents. If your baby isn’t sleeping through the night, try these tips to help your baby with the ability to self soothe.
1) Give your baby the opportunity to self sooth
2) If they are under 4 months put them down drowsy but awake so they can finish off the falling asleep process by themselves. If they are over 4 months old, it is best to put them down awake and aware so they can do it all by themselves. The more they practice, the better they’ll get at it. This skill can then transfer over into night wakings.
3) Delay going in to your baby when they wake overnight. Give them time to try and fall back to sleep by themselves.
Night waking can be to do with your baby being overtired. When a baby is overtired, or gets a second wind, they find it hard to not only fall asleep, but sustain sleep overnight. They could be feeling this way because of bedtimes being too late, not enough sleep during the day or the whole sleep schedule being off. Have you heard the saying “sleep begets sleep”? It really is true. The more sleep your baby gets in general, the better they will sleep overnight.
1) Provide your baby with some early bedtimes to see if this helps improve night sleep.
2) Make sure your baby’s nap times are in line with their biological rhythms. A baby over 6 months old should be sleeping around 8:30/9 am and 12:30/1 pm for their morning and midday nap.
3) Try not to have wake windows that are too long between the last nap and bedtime.
Pacifiers can be great. They trigger the calming reflex, which in turn can help your baby to fall in to a blissful slumber. But unfortunately, they can be problematic in the middle of the night when your baby wakes up and finds that the pacifier dropped out of their mouth. Some babies will be fine with this scenario, other babies will cry wanting you to come in and find that pacifier and reinsert it for them.
Tips: Decide how you would like to handle the pacifier. If your baby is still little (under 6 months), you might decide to just get rid of it cold turkey, because they can’t reinsert it themselves. Otherwise, no matter their age you can decide to only give it at the start of the night, but not reinsert it any other time. A baby older than 6 months may be able to find it in their crib and put it back in their mouth.
Now that you have read the most common reasons your baby isn’t sleeping through the night, I hope you can take some of these tips and make some improvements. You and your baby deserve a good nights sleep!
About the Author
Mylee Zschech is a social worker and Certified Sleep Consultant. She is the owner of Little Big Dreamers (www.littlebigdreamers.net) and helps tired and stressed parents improve their child or baby’s sleep through extensive education, individualized sleep plans and ongoing support.