Firstly what does sleeping through the night actually mean? I find it means different things to different people. Some parents are happy with one or two wakes and a solid 4 hours sleep others want no wakes and a solid 8 hours sleep. So the next time someone says to you 'she slept through the night' and you want to scratch their eyeballs out (yes sleep deprivation gives me the rage as well) you might want to clarify what exactly they mean.
For me, sleeping through the night means going to sleep around 7pm and not waking again until 7am the next morning. This is what I aim for with my clients, often they don't expect that is what will happen for them and are shocked when it does happen within a matter of weeks.
Sleeping through the night IS POSSIBLE with babies and much younger than most people realise. I find many people tell themselves this isn't possible for them or their baby isn't ready yet because it hasn't happened. There are some simple things you can take to increase your chances of baby sleeping through the night.
There are however, some simple rules to follow to identify if your baby is actually ready to sleep through the night and I discuss these now.
Baby's Age & Feeds - Expectations
Firstly you cannot expect newborns under 3 months to sleep through the night, they need to be feed on demand and are still finding their line in terms of weight gain. If baby is under 6 months old and not yet on solids then you need to be focusing on 1-2 night feeds.
Over 6 months old and established on solids you can look at increasing their daily calorie intake of solids and milk and expect that they will sleep through the night, assuming weight gain is good.
If you're still feeding to sleep you'll need to work on stopping this and as you do, baby will naturally increase daily intake. To stop it, just cut down slowly - reduce time at the breast or reduce amount of formula in the bottle every couple of nights.
In order for a baby to successfully sleep through the night they need to be ready for sleep. The balance of hormones Melatonin and Cortisol need to be correct so that they don't fight sleep and become restless.
Lots of people don't realise babies only need a certain amount of sleep across a 24 hour period so you need to manage their naps accordingly. If they are sleeping a lot in the day they may also be sleeping through their feeds so waking them at the right time is important as well.
Again, my nap guide helps you to know what to expect in terms of number of naps and when they should be across the day. If your baby is napping to much they will wake at night due to being under tired and if they aren't napping enough they will wake from overtiredness.
In order to maximise your child's chance of sleeping through the night it's important to get naps right and wake them up the same time each morning so that you can get the correct day sleep in.
This is a big one, if your baby or toddler can't self settle then they won't be able to resettle which means they need you to get to sleep and for all wake ups. This skill needs to be taught in order for them to sleep through successfully, teaching this also enables you to distinguish between genuine hunger Vs habit wakes and comfort feeds.
Choose a settling method that you're comfortable with, one that you're most likely to stick with and follow through on. It takes about 2-3 weeks of consistency to remove sleep associations and teach them to fully self-settle and re-settle.
Remember that if baby isn't sleeping through the night, neither are you. All too often I see people accepting that being a parent is about never getting a full night's sleep. This simply is not true, we are all human and sleep is a biological need for babies as well as adults.
I am not saying that every baby, toddler and child should sleep all night every night, they all go through phases and leaps that will make some nights worse then others but it is possible and reasonable to expect a baby over 3 months of age to sleep all night broken by 1-2 night feeds.
Understanding and knowing that means that if it hasn't happened yet there is something else at play which is preventing this. I work with each parent on an individual basis, I look at your baby's day and night sleep, their feeds, what they are eating and when as well as the room environment.
If you think your baby is ready to sleep through the night but you are struggling to identify why they still haven't done it yet then get in touch now for a free 15 min call.