6 Tips to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night
By Natalie Fitzgerald
I used to pull all-nighters in college. It was part of my “work hard/play hard” mentality back then. Truthfully, I didn’t mind those late nights at the time! The library buzzed with fellow procrastinators cracked out on coffee, and it felt good to know I wasn’t the only one up at 3am.
Now, as a mom, all-nighters aren’t as much fun – unless, of course, the late night involves a burrito and buzz…and a babysitter for the following day! But long nights with an inconsolable baby can be horrible, so that’s why I’ve put together 6 tips to help your baby sleep through the night. Everyone – including YOU – deserves a good night’s rest. Your baby’s development depends on it. Your mental and emotional health depends on it. Do it for yourself and your baby - say adios to all-nighters, and hello to sweet sleep!
1. Fill Baby’s Tummy Throughout the Day
You can’t expect a hungry baby to sleep, so you have to fill up baby’s tummy throughout the day if you want them to make it longer stretches at night. Frequent feedings throughout the day can help keep baby satisfied, which in turn can yield longer stretches of sleep.
2. Avoid Overstimulation/Over-tiredness
Ever come home late in the evening from a work event or dinner with friends, and you just need some time to unwind before going to sleep? Imagine how your baby feels when he’s been passed around at a family function for hours, oohed and aahhed at by several dozen people, touched with various scents, and exposed to lots of different faces, sounds, and sights. Over-stimulated might be an understatement. And then you place him in the carseat or crib, sing a song, snuggle, and expect him to fall asleep. Probably not going to happen! Overtired, over-stimulated babies have a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep, and most of the time will sleep more fitfully than a rested baby. When babies are overtired, their brains release the stress hormone cortisol, sending their bodies into fight or flight mode, making it hard to fall asleep. Help your baby fall asleep more peacefully by protecting him from frequent overstimulation (realizing these functions are part of life and sometimes this will happen – just try to slow down your baby’s routine and give him time to transition between social events and sleep).
3. Encourage Nap Consistency
Sleep begets sleep, and it is TRUE that the more rested your baby is during the day, the better he will sleep at night. Babies’ nap patterns begin to establish around 3-4mo, so this is a good age to help get them into a nap rhythm. Try putting your baby down around the same time each day for naps, and preferably in the same sleep environment when possible.
4. Put Baby Down Awake
This can seem terrifying, I know! But, if your baby is rocked, bounced, or fed to sleep to start the night, the odds are high that if he wakes at any point through the night he will rely on that same prop to fall back asleep (read all about sleep props from my post a few weeks back!). Help your baby learn how to fall asleep on his own, and fall back to sleep on his own, by laying him down before he falls into a deep sleep in your arms.
5. Listen and Pause when Baby Signals
Babies make a lot of noise throughout the night, and not all noises warrant a response. Listen to your baby’s grunts, moans, cries, squeals, or squawks and give him a few minutes before rushing over to him. Sometimes interfering too soon can actually arouse your baby and wake them up from a deep sleep. If you do intervene, try to see if you can lull baby back to sleep with your voice and touch instead of picking him up.
6. Set Up an Ideal Sleep Environment
That’s right – a dark, cool room with white noise can help emulate the womb – the place where your baby felt warm and cozy for 9 months. Add a swaddle, a repetitive nap or nighttime ritual, and your little one should be peacefully drifting off to dreamland!
Natalie Fitzgerald is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Postpartum Doula. Natalie’s approach to sleep training is tailored to each family she works with, meeting them exactly where they are and developing a customized plan to help them reach their sleep goals, based on their unique baby’s needs and their parenting style. Natalie walks alongside families during the time they need the most support, encouraging parents and helping them find a rhythm that works best with their baby and lifestyle. Before consulting with families, Natalie taught high school English and Campus Ministry. Natalie and her husband Danny live in San Diego with their three children Connor (6yrs), Kate (3.5yrs), and Makenna (1yr). You can follow Natalie or reach out to her with questions on Instagram and Facebook.