You just put your baby down for the night. You’re exhausted, and all you want is some uninterrupted sleep, but after just a few hours, your baby starts crying again. You feel frustrated. Why won’t your baby sleep just through the night? Unfortunately, it’s a common problem that many parents face, but in this blog, we’ll cover a few ways that you can set yourself up for sleeping success.
At Sleepably, we provide adult and child sleep coaching services, including sleep training for babies. We want to share a few of the common baby sleep problems that we see daily. We’ll also give you some pointers for overcoming each of these sleep challenges so you can wake up feeling rested and excited to spend the day with your child. If you need help training your baby to sleep through the night, we’d love to talk to you.
Why Babies Wake Up at Night
When they are very young, babies can’t sleep through the night because they need frequent feedings. Their little bellies simply don’t hold enough food to keep them full through the night. Until at least 3 months old, your baby will need to be fed multiple times during the night. According to Stanford Medicine, two-thirds of babies can sleep through the night at six months old, but definitions of sleeping through the night vary. Your baby will probably be around nine months old before he or she can sleep 10-12 hours with no feedings.
So, your baby is older than nine months but still not sleeping through the night. Here are some other common causes:
Inconsistent Bedtime Routine
Having a set bedtime routine is important for young children. It helps their bodies and minds know that it’s time to wind down and go to sleep. If your child’s bedtime routine is inconsistent, it can be one of the reasons why he or she isn’t sleeping through the night. A consistent bedtime routine can include a bath, storytime, putting on jammies, and a bedtime feeding.
A sleep crutch is something your child uses to fall asleep that he or she can’t do without. This could be rocking, nursing, sucking on a pacifier, etc. If your child is relying on a sleep crutch, he or she will likely be unable to fall back asleep on their own during the night. When their natural sleep cycle ends, they’ll look for that same comforting behavior that helped them fall asleep the first time.
To help your child break the dependence on a sleep crutch, you’ll need to wean them off of it gradually. For example, if you rock your child to sleep every night, start by sitting in the rocking chair for less time each night. You can also try putting your child down when he or she is still awake but drowsy.
Uncomfortable Sleep Environment
If your child’s sleep environment is too hot, too cold, or too bright, it can keep him or her from sleeping through the night. The National Sleep Foundation recommends keeping the room between 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit. Blackout shades can also help make the room darker and more conducive to sleep. Having your baby sleep on their back is the safest position for avoiding SIDS, but sometimes babies will resist, so you can try swaddling to make them feel more secure on their back.
Not Enough Activity During the Day
Just like adults sleep better after a busy day, so do babies. If your little one consistently has trouble sleeping, try incorporating more engaging activities throughout the day. Going for walks, playing games together, and floor time are all great ways to wear your baby out during the day.
Every few months, your baby will go through a sleep regression. This is when he or she suddenly starts waking up more during the night or has trouble falling asleep. Sleep regressions are normal and usually only last for a few weeks. The most common sleep regressions occur at 4, 8-10, and 18 months. At Sleepably, we actually like to call these cognitive progressions because they are usually triggered by your baby learning a new skill. They are so excited to continue practicing that it can affect their ability to sleep.
If your baby is going through a sleep regression, the best thing you can do is be patient and try to stick to your child’s normal bedtime routine as much as possible. You can also reach out to a pediatric sleep coach for help with sleep training.
If your baby is teething, that can cause him or her to wake up during the night. Teething can start as early as 3 months old but usually begins around 6 months. The most common teething symptoms are irritability and increased drooling, but some babies also have trouble sleeping. To help soothe your teething baby, you can try teething toys or gels.
During a growth spurt, your baby will need to eat more frequently. This can disrupt his or her sleep schedule and cause night wakings. Growth spurts usually occur around 2 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months. If your baby is going through a growth spurt, try to feed him or her more during the day and make sure they are getting enough to eat at night.
How to Help your Baby Sleep Through the Night
If your baby is having trouble sleeping through the night, take a look at your bedtime routine. Do you keep things consistent every night to let your baby know that it’s time to wind down? Are they used to being rocked to sleep every night, so now they can’t fall back to sleep on their own? Once you understand the problem, you’ll find it easier to come up with a solution that helps you both get the rest that you need.
It’s also important to keep in mind that it’s normal for babies to have nights where they don’t sleep well. They could be going through a cognitive or physical progression; they might not be feeling well; or there could be other factors at play. Work to create a healthy routine for you and your baby, and give yourself grace on the nights when things don’t go according to plan.
If you and your baby still aren’t sleeping through the night after trying the tips in this blog, contact one of our child sleep coaches. At Sleepably, we’re experts at baby sleep training and can help you identify and solve baby sleep problems. We want you both to thrive, and well-rested parents and babies are healthier, happier, and more prepared for life’s challenges. We’re based in Denver, CO, but offer virtual services to parents nationwide. So don’t wait. Get the sleep that you and your baby deserve.