One of the biggest challenges I found when I became a new Mom was adapting to MUCH less sleep. Both my daughters were TERRIBLE sleepers who breastfed frequently throughout the night and I really struggled with the resulting sleep deprivation, surviving on no more than 5 hours sleep a night. For the first year of my daughter’s life I kept avoiding questions about my daughter’s sleep (usually by other Moms whose babies had slept through from a very young age) and wondering when the day would come when my baby would finally sleep through the night.
If you have a young baby and are wondering when (or IF) you will ever get a full nights’ sleep again, then its important to remember that every baby is different. Whilst your first baby may have been a brilliant sleeper, your second may wake every hour on the hour. There is also a big difference between when your baby is developmentally able to sleep through the night and when they actually decide to do so.
Up until around 4-6 months of age, most babies sleep for relatively short periods at a time, waking up regularly for feeds, nappy changes or simply because of their short sleep cycles, and don’t tend to show any routine or pattern in their waking and sleeping times.
Around the 4 – 6 month mark is when patterns start to emerge in your baby’s sleep routines. You may find that they have more predictable timings, nodding off at similar times of day and for similar lengths of time. You may find they sleep for longer stretches and blocks at a time and that night time feeds decrease – with your baby being comfortable going longer between feeds. This is often because as your baby gets bigger they tend to become more efficient in their feeding technique (practice makes perfect!) and can take more milk more quickly and fill their tummies far more effectively.
Generally, from 8-10 months your baby should be developmentally able to sleep through without waking – but just because they can doesn’t mean that they will.
So why isn’t your baby sleeping through the night? What may be preventing it?
If your baby still isn’t sleeping through the night – consider your child’s bedtime routine. Good sleep habits and establishing a consistent bedtime routine doesn’t guarantee a good nights sleep however it does make it far more likely. Having familiar repeated patterns in their daily routines can help babies learn through actions, and send recognizable triggers that its almost time to go to bed. This also helps them understand the different between night and day, and learn that evenings are when we are supposed to go to sleep.
Recognizing your baby’s tiredness cues is also important in order to ensure that your baby isn’t becoming over tired, as this in itself can have a negative effect on how easily a baby settles to sleep (and stays asleep).
Finally, your baby should ideally be going to bed drowsy but awake, helping them learn how to self soothe and get themselves back to sleep when they rouse. If they are still feeding to sleep or relying heavily on rocking, patting, singing or other external factors to help them get to sleep, this can be a harder pattern to break, leaving them more dependent on you to get the full amount of sleep they require.
It’s also important to remember that even when you think you’ve cracked it – life with a baby is never clear cut. Throw in some sleep regression, teething, illness and separation anxiety and at times it can feel like your right back at square one.
One things for sure, babies certainly like to keep us on our toes!