Sleep while the baby sleeps. Use special swaddles. Try white noise. There are a million pieces of advice – and accessories to buy – to help your baby sleep through the night. But what really works? Here are some parenting tips for how to handle night wakings:
- Don’t expect babies to sleep through the night too soon. We all have that friend whose baby was born sleeping five hours straight at night. But this isn’t the reality for most of us. By about 3–4 months of age, babies learn the difference between day and night. When they reach 6 months old, most healthy babies no longer need nighttime feedings and can sleep through the night. (Talk to your doctor about your baby’s readiness to go without a night feeding if you aren’t sure.)
- Stick to a routine. Bedtime routines help babies learn when it’s time to go to sleep. Following the same daily process when preparing for sleep will be comforting, loving and relaxing for your child.
- Put your baby to sleep while still awake. When parents prepare their babies for bed by rocking, feeding or singing, children connect these activities with the process of falling asleep. Then, when they wake up during the night, they need to be comforted to fall back asleep. Try putting your baby to sleep while she is drowsy, but still awake.
- Don’t linger too long or make night wakings too much fun. Avoid providing too much attention when your baby wakes during the night. Go in to check on him, whisper “time to go to sleep” and then quietly leave.
- Ignore the “babies-who-eat-cereal-sleep-longer” myth. Many parents have heard that starting solid foods or introducing cereal early will help their child sleep through the night. This is a myth! In fact, the American Academy of Pediatricsdiscourages feeding solid food to babies before 4 months of age.
- Turn off the TV. Research shows young children who watch television before bed tend to have more difficulty falling asleep, sleep less and wake more. Limit screen time before bed and soothe little ones with lullabies instead!
- Let others help. Sleep deprivation is really hard. At some point, we all hit a wall. Ask for help. Sleeping at a friend’s house for a night and letting your partner or a family member care for the baby is a smart choice. You can’t take care of baby if you don’t take care of yourself.
Learning to sleep through the night takes time and practice. Being consistent, loving and using the guidelines above will help you find a way to teach your baby this important skill in a way that’s right for your family.