Why Babies Resist Sleep
Babies arent born ready to sleep through the night for 8 to 10 hours. In fact, there are concrete and science-backed reasons why babies dont sleep as much as youd like. Here are a few:
- During the first few weeks, they dont even know its nighttime. In the womb, day and night werent really a thing, so how would they know?
- Newborns eat every few hours and shouldnt be going too long without a feeding. Breastfed babies will eat
Your Baby Doesnt Know If Its Night Or Day
Some babies start sleeping on whats called a day/night reversal schedule. Your baby sleeps well during the day, but is awake and busy at night. Its frustrating and exhausting, but its temporary.
Here are a few things you can do to help your baby learn that day is for play and night is for rest:
- Keep them awake a little longer during each waking period during the day. This will help increase the need for sleep later. Some sleep experts recommend playing with your baby for a few minutes after a feeding instead of letting your baby fall asleep.
- Get your baby outside and in the sun . Natural light helps reset their internal clock. If you cant get outside, place your babys crib or sleeper near a window that gets steady, bright light.
- Avoid sleep-inducing activities, if at all possible, during the day. Dont fight your babys need to sleep. But if you can keep them out of the car seat for a bit, that extra time awake will help them later.
- Keep lights low or turn them out at night anywhere near babys sleeping area. Likewise for sound and movement. Your goal should be zero disruptions.
- Consider swaddling your baby at night so their arms and legs dont move and wake them. You can also try putting them to sleep in a small crib, so they feel snug and secure.
To Understand How To Get Your Baby To Sleep Through The Night You First Need To Know If Your Baby Is Able To Sleep Through The Night
You can also help set the stage for a good night’s sleep by making sure your baby is cultivating good sleep habits during the day, which will help them sleep better during the night too.
Your baby has to be able to sleep through the night before they can! There are a few milestones they need to reach first, like a decrease in Moro Reflex. Check out our article on When Do Babies Sleep Through the Night to learn if your baby is ready/able to sleep through the night.
If your baby is capable of sleeping through the night but still struggling, there might be an underlying reason your baby isnt sleeping through the night OR theyre right on the cusp of starting to sleep through the night. There are several reasons that can cause your baby not to sleep through the night, including sleep regressions, a growth spurt or illness, or the inability to fall asleep independently.
Whether your baby is experiencing one of the problems above, or theyve just surpassed the milestones to be able to sleep at night, there are ways you can help your baby sleep through the night.
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Don’t Rely On Soothing Methods
“If you put your baby in the crib when they’re already asleep and they wake up in the night, which all humans do, they won’t recognize their surroundings and will need your help getting back to sleep,” notes Dr. Givan. “Try to put your baby down drowsy but awake.” This will help them learn to self-soothe and fall asleepand, more importantly, fall back to sleepon their own, which is the main goal of sleep training.
Adrienne Porzio of Centerport, New York, can attest to this. She began driving her newborn around at night to get her to fall asleepand she was still relying on that crutch when her daughter was 5 months old. “The issue we get the most calls about is parents automatically repeating soothing habits to the point that the baby is hooked,” says Los Angeles sleep consultant Heather Turgeon, coauthor of The Happy Sleeper. Newborns benefit from rocking, bouncing, and soothing to sleep, but babies develop quickly and don’t need those things forever.
“By about 5 months, most babies have the capability to fall asleep on their own, and if we’re still doing it for them, we’re getting in their way,” says Turgeon. “Start practicing in the early months to put Baby down awake, at least once a dayusually the first nap is the most successful.” Keep your cuddle time, but gradually stop the patting and shushing and rocking to sleep.
Limit The Length Of Naps During The Day
I know its hard to wake a sleeping baby, but sleeping too long of a stretch during the day can rob nighttime sleep. If the baby sleeps past the 2 2.5 hour mark, I would go ahead and wake the baby up, feed him, keep him a wake for a bit, and then lay him down for another nap. If you feel the baby truly needs longer naps, feel free to increase the nap limit to 2.5 hours. Breaking up sleep during the day will help your newborn baby sleep better at night. It also enables you to get more feedings in during the day, which is very helpful.
There were, of course, times where our son was overtired and needed a little recovery nap. We would allow him to sleep for a little bit longer for just that one nap and then we started getting back on track with our daily routine.
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Help Your Baby Get Settled: Make The Hour Leading Up To Bedtime A Time Of Security Happiness And Emotional Reassurance
None of us sleep well when were anxious or irritated, and babies are no different. So before bedtime, take steps to ensure that your baby feels safe, secure, happy, and loved.
Consider following a bedtime routine .
Look after your own emotional state, because stress is contagious. Babies become more distressed when their caregivers are distressed .
And if you detect negative emotions in your baby, counter them with soothing and reassurance.
Observational studies suggest this makes a difference. Parents who respond soothingly to their childrens emotions report fewer infant sleep problems, and this is the case regardless of a familys sleep arrangements. Whether children share a bedroom with their parents, or sleep elsewhere, they sleep better when their parents are sensitive and responsive .
Where Your Baby Should Sleep
Cot death or sudden infant death syndrome is the sudden and unexpected death of a baby who seems healthy during sleep.
It can happen in a cot, pram, bed, car seat, baby seat or anywhere a baby is sleeping.
The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot in the same room as you.
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What Is Tummy Time
Tummy time is when you put your baby on her stomach while shes awake. It can help make your babys neck, shoulder and arm muscles stronger. It also helps prevent flat spots on the back of your babys head that she may get from sleeping on her back. Always watch your baby during tummy time or make sure an adult who is awake is watching your baby.
Tip #: Use Light To Teach Babies Day And Night
Its always dark in the womb, so light and dark are new distinctions to a baby.
One retrospective study asked mothers questions about their babies. It concluded that a consistent and early lights-off time was associated with longer sleep. In other words, turning out the lights at the same time each night can help train your little one that its time to sleep.
In addition, a regular bedtime routine can help alert baby that its time to swiftly head off to dreamland.
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Where Should Your Baby Sleep
The safest place for your baby to sleep is by herself in a bassinet or crib. If you have multiples , put each baby in his own bassinet or crib. Here are some dos and donts about making your babys sleep space safe:
- Dont use sleep positioners. These sometimes are called nests or anti-roll pillows. They often are mats or wedges with pillows on either side to help keep your baby in place. The Food and Drug Administration warns that sleep positioners can cause babies to die because of suffocation.
- Dont let your baby sleep in a carrier, sling, car seat or stroller. Babies who sleep in these items can suffocate. If your baby falls asleep in one, take her out and put her in her crib as soon as you can.
- Dont put your baby to sleep on soft surfaces, like a waterbed, sofa, soft mattress or cushion.
- Dont keep crib bumpers, loose bedding, toys or other soft objects in your babys crib. They put your baby in danger of being trapped, strangled or suffocated.
- Dont use cribs with drop-side rails. Dont put portable bed rails on a regular bed. Babies can get stuck in rails and choke. Dont try to fix a crib that has broken or missing parts.
Put Baby Down To Sleep
Be sure to put baby to sleep when drowsy but still slightly awake allowing baby to drift off to sleep on own. This helps baby learn how to self-soothe to sleep, a skill that can help baby fall back to sleep on his or her own, when baby naturally wakes during the night. Now is a good time for a safe-sleep check. Make sure to put baby to sleep on her back and double-check that no toys, blankets, pillows or other things remain in the crib.
Now its time to tiptoe out of the room, turn on the baby monitor and see if you can catch a few Zs yourself!
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Baby Sleep Tips Thatll Help Baby Sleep Longer Stretches
Sitting on the couch with my swollen legs propped up on pillows, I looked over at the stack of newborn baby sleep books on the coffee table. Over the course of several hours, I devoured each book, skimming through the pages.
I was determined to learn how to make a newborn sleep.
Thenmy son was born.
And.he didnt sleep.
Imagine that. A baby not sleeping the way a book says
I fumbled through it the first six weeks. I was so unsure of myself.
Thankfully, we pulled ourselves together, armed ourselves with some key infant sleep facts, developed a plan and implemented it.
We stuck with it, and at 4 months old, our son was sleeping 11-12 hours at night and naps extended to 1.5 to 2 hours. Woohoo! Weve experienced sleep regression, sleeping on the go, sleeping through teethingand so much more!
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How To Get Your Baby To Sleep Tip : Learning Your Babys Sleepiness Cues
In the first 3 months, babies don’t follow a set schedule for sleep. That is why we need to learn to read their tiredness signs, or “cues”. By 3 – 4 months of age, a sleep pattern will emerge and you will get better at reading their cues.
At any age, you want to watch for over-tiredness. A common myth that the longer you keep them awake during the day, the better they sleep during the night. Thats like suggesting that if you starve them during the day they eat better at night. Unthinkable, right?
Sleep is just like that. In fact, babies that are overtired will take a lot longer to fall asleep. So keep watching for their tiredness cues. Here are some of these cues, some more subtle than others:
Yawning: The easiest way to tell you baby is sleepy is if your baby yawns.
Rubbing Eyes, Ear or Head: Consistently scratching the ear or rubbing the head or eyes is a common sign of sleepiness.
Looking Away: Your baby may not hold your gaze and may look away.
Jerkiness or Fussiness: An overtired baby also gets fussy. The cry may vary from a soft whimper to harsh shrill, depending on how tired the baby is. Listening for cues earlier in the process will help preventing them from getting to this dangerous point. Once crossed this point your baby may take a lot longer to sleep making it a painful experience for both you and him.
How to Soothe an Overtired Baby
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Be Mindful Of Television And Other Electronic Media
As already noted, nighttime use of electronic screens can cause trouble because they emit sleep-busting, artificial light. But as I explain in opens in a new windowthis Parenting Science guide, daytime electronic media use might be problematic as well.
Researchers report links between total electronic media use and late bedtimes . And in one recent study, the effect was strongly dependent on the dose:
For every additional 2.5 minutes that babies watched, it took them 5 extra minutes to fall asleep at night .
How To Find A Good Rhythm Routine Or Schedule:
- Determine the average time between feeds. If your baby usually goes between 2.5 to 3 hours between feeds, create a routine based on those times.
- Start your day at a consistent time. Choose a time each morning and feed the baby every single day at that time. Soon your baby will sleep until 7 and thatll be your normal start to the day.
- Write down a feasible schedule that allows 2.5 to 3 hours between feedings with nap times in between each feed. See my sample newborn routine with all its times here.
- Make sure general feeding times dont coincide with other major activities you cant change like car pickup, dinner time, or the bedtime routine of older children. Of course, youll have to be flexible, but take these times into consideration and attempt to feed before or after those events.
- Cluster feed during the late afternoon early evening, more on that here.
- Get the baby sleep routine cards, the baby sleep checklists, AND all 25+ routines for babies aged 6 weeks to 5 years right here.
- Make sure to wake baby up to maintain your routine during the day. Dont let baby sleep for 4 hours during the day because, inevitably, shell need to feed twice during that period at night to make up for it. At night, let the baby sleep as long as they are able between feeds. You determine day, they determine night.
If you still have questions about how to craft a routine, here are my routine archives full of practical tips age by age.
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