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6 Ways To Get Your Baby Sleeping Longer At Night


Helping Your Baby Sleep Longer At Night Is Easier Than You Think

Sleep. It is an essential part of life for every living creature. Sleep allows your body to recover, your energy to replenish, and promote your healthy growth and development processes. However, your baby may not be as adjusted to your desired sleep schedule as you would hope.

Any household with a baby knows – nobody sleeps if baby cannot sleep. In addition to that, being sleep deprived can lead to behavioral and growth issues for everyone. After all, who isn’t cranky when they are overtired? Helping your baby to sleep not only benefits your baby, but also everyone else in the household. After all, your other kids still have to grow and develop as well which relies heavily on their ability to get quality sleep. Your own ability to work, focus, and care for baby are also impacted by lack of sleep.

Helping baby sleep through the night may not be as hard as you thought. Below, I offer some of the best tips for how to get baby to sleep longer at night.

Circadian Rhythms

Like many things in life, there is a scientific reason for why sleep cycles are what they are. Understanding this may give you a better picture of why you and baby’s sleep schedule just can’t seem to sync up. (Which in turn may help you retain your sanity just a bit longer! I know I questioned my own as my baby, Oliver, would wake throughout the night.)

“Circadian rhythm” refers to the 24-hour life cycle in which we are all accustomed to. In fact, every living being has its own circadian rhythm that establishes important timelines, like eating and sleeping patterns. Your circadian rhythm affects brain wave activity, hormone production and regulation, cell regeneration and much more. For most people, this pattern largely depends on external factors, like daylight and darkness. (In other words, your bedtime pattern, which is part of your circadian rhythm, corresponds with night because darkness causes your body to crave sleep.)

While we are all born with the need to sleep, babies are not born with the same circadian rhythm you have. Why? Because baby just spent the first 9 months of life within the darkness of your womb. And, if your pregnancy was like mine, they were most active while I was trying to sleep!

Babies have to adjust to the world around them. In fact, it can take 3 to 6 months to fully establish a pattern that supports a nightly bedtime. For my son, Oliver, it certainly felt like it took forever. And, even though we are passed the 12 month mark and he sleeps through the night just fine – Oliver still has some nights where he seems to wake up constantly.

Sleep is an incredibly important part of life. Take care of yourself, your baby and your family by helping to foster a prolonged, healthy sleep cycle. Sleep deprivation can not only affect your children’s growth, but it can also lead to increased symptoms of depression.

How Much Sleep Does My Baby Need?

Now that you understand circadian rhythm, let’s address how much sleep is important. Babies and children need more sleep than adults. Why? Because they are undergoing growth and developmental periods that far exceed those of an adult. These periods require sleep in order to fully process. To ensure your baby is getting the optimum amount of sleep, experts recommend specific sleep quantities based on age.

From the time you bring your baby home until they are 4 months old, he or she should get 16 to 18 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. This time is split between nighttime (8 – 9 hours) and 3 to 5 naps that break up the remainder of the sleep balance.

From 4 to 12 months, however, this changes to a total of 12 to 16 hours. Nighttime sleep should now span 9 to 10 hours, while naps are reduced to a cumulative 4 to 5 hours, split between 4 to 5 hours total.

Between the ages of 1 to 2 years, however, the time spent sleeping is reduced again. Now, your baby should be sleeping between 11 and 14 hours a day. At night, your baby should be able to get 11 hours of sleep. Naps, which should be split between 1 or 2 periods, should make up the remainder of the 2 to 3 hours.

Reasons Your Baby May Struggle with Prolonged Sleeping

The natural sleep cycle (often referred to as Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) cycles) can also contribute to your baby’s ability to sleep soundly. For us adults, we typically just fall right back to sleep should a sleep cycle wake us. Not so for baby!

Teething, yet another part of your baby’s growth cycle, can cause pain that keeps your little one up at night. (With Oliver, this process felt like it took forever. In retrospect, I think that was just the Mombie talking.)

In addition to these natural roadblocks, various scheduled activities may also contribute to the lack of quality sleep. From inconsistent bedtime routines to feeding schedules, baby may be waking up for a host of individual reasons.

Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep

While the first several weeks can be grueling, baby can begin forming habits as early as 6 weeks old. Before we get into the specific tips, however, it is important to stress that you be as consistent with your routine and rules as possible. This helps to establish an early routine on which your child can become reliant.

  • Establish daytime and nighttime routines. In order to better help baby create an internal schedule, it is important to establish routines. During the day, create a lively, social environment that helps encourage alertness. Expose baby to noises, daylight and activities that help foster engagement. As night approaches, create an environment that is soothing, calm, and less engaging. This can help baby to associate the light changes with active and sleeping cycles.
  • Adjust your feeding routines accordingly. Like the daytime and nighttime association, you can use feeding routines to help encourage baby’s internal clock. In addition to this, some parents have found that “cluster feeding” helps prevent baby from waking up hungry throughout the night. Cluster feeding works best once baby begins to sleep for longer than 3 hours at a time. Cluster feeding occurs when you start feeding baby at frequent intervals right before bed. For example, if baby goes to bed at 7PM, you should do your first feed at 5PM, followed by another at 6PM, and perhaps a top-off shortly before bed. This helps to keep their tummies full for longer and prolong the digestion process to allow them to sleep.
  • Foster independent sleeping habits. While we just talked about cluster feeding occurring before bedtime, this may not work for every baby. For some, it might actually establish a routine that leads baby to require feeding before bed. This association is not ideal. Why? Because it creates a dependent habit. (Sorry, parents, but rocking baby to sleep is another dependent habit that can lead to sleep issues!) Instead, when baby becomes sleepy, but is still awake, lay them in their crib on their backs. This helps them to learn how to slip into sleep on their own, without creating a reliance on an external factor, like food or rocking. Now, I certainly spent plenty of time indulging in baby cuddles with Oliver during the day. After all, every second felt precious. Except for when it came time for bedtime. Learning not to rush to Oliver’s side and letting him learn to fall back to sleep on his own was hard. But it has been worth it!
  • White noise can prevent sounds from waking the baby. Babies tend to stir with every little noise. It had me tiptoeing around my home like a secret agent for weeks! For some, especially those who are dependent on external factors to sleep, this means it is unlikely baby will fall back to sleep should a noise wake them. White noise machines are a great way to help block out noises that may otherwise wake your sleeping baby.
  • Create a short, simple bedtime routine. (This is something both you and baby can benefit from! I know I did!) About half an hour before bedtime, start your routine. Turn off the television. Give baby a short, soothing bath and put on their pajamas. If you opt for a white noise machine, start it. Alternatively, you could read them a story or sing a lullaby. By establishing a set bedtime routine, you are able to help accelerate baby’s circadian rhythm adjustment and create an environment that encourages sleep.
  • For teething babies, medication may help. Always speak with your pediatrician before administering medications of any kind to your baby. However, for babies who are undergoing a teething cycle, your pediatrician may recommend the use of ibuprofen or Tylenol. Follow your pediatricians recommended dosage!

When All Else Fails, Speak with an Expert

You know your baby better than anyone else does. If you believe your baby is experiencing something more than common baby struggles with sleep, such as an illness or infection, contact your pediatrician. High fevers, infections, and other health concerns can be more serious in infants who have yet to fully develop their immune system. Pediatricians are your go-to baby experts. These professionals can not only examine your baby’s health and progress; they can also help provide personal tips or tricks that may help your baby sleep longer. After all, they can help you determine the underlying issue that might be causing your baby to wake up throughout the night.

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Oh my gosh!  Establishing a consistent routine and a white noise machine or sound from a fan or vacuum cleaner in a pinch are life savers.  Even though the lack of sleep in the family is a temporary thing that won’t last forever it sure can feel like it will never end.  Thanks for the great post!

Yes, the days are long but the years are short, I think is the saying? I know that someday my little guy will be a teenager sleeping all day and night – I won’t have troubles like this anymore. So I am definitely appreciating and enjoying him now. 

Exactly what I need Sophia!

I usually babysit on my free time at home while I blog and man, it is so hard to keep the baby sleeping through without crying every now and then. I’ve heard of white noise, it’s like that sound old TVs used to make with the buzzing right? That’s a brilliant idea since it blocks other sounds too but since white noise itself is already a sound by itself, wouldn’t it disturb the baby still?

White noise works by mimicking the noise in the womb. The same noise you hear from your white noise machine is the same noise that your baby hears while in utero. So its pretty much “Just like home” for baby when you think about it. It won’t be obnoxious or deafening if that is what you are worried about. White noise acts as a very soothing “background noise” that helps calm babies and adults alike. Try it out and see if you like it. 

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