How to Get Your Baby Back to Sleep at Night
It is extremely common for babies to wake up during the night. A lot of times, parents aren’t quite sure what the best way to get their baby back to sleep is. A common occurrence is to take your baby to bed with you so that you can hopefully both get back to sleep faster and easier. This can easily develop into co-sleeping, which typically means no one is getting quality sleep. Safe sleep is vital and the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly discourages co-sleeping due to the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
Depending on your baby’s age, if they are a bit younger, they may be waking up to eat during the night and have their diaper changed. If they’re older, they may be waking up because they haven’t learned the skills yet to soothe themselves back to sleep. By around 6 or so months, most babies have the ability to sleep through the night. If they have not been sleep trained or taught how to soothe themselves to sleep, you can almost guarantee that you will encounter many overnight wakeups.
I know that it can be so frustrating and exhausting to have to wake up constantly throughout the night to then try and get your baby back to sleep. But luckily, sleeping through the night is a learned skill that you can definitely teach your baby! There are many effective ways to get your baby back to sleep at night so that you can both enjoy nice, long, uninterrupted nights of sleep.
How to Get Your Baby Back to Sleep at Night
Having a consistent bedtime routine sets the foundation for your child’s entire night of sleep. A good bedtime routine doesn’t need to be a long, drawn out process. It’s simply a set of tasks or activities that you do every night before settling down for bed. You can start with a super basic routine from the earliest newborn days. A basic routine can be as simple as feeding your baby, putting on pajamas, reading a book, turning on their white noise, rocking and snuggling and then putting your baby down in their crib for bed. Having a set sleep routine triggers your baby’s brain to recognize that once the routine starts, sleep will follow. When your baby learns the skill of soothing themselves to sleep each night, they will have the ability to fall back asleep on their own during the night.
Once your baby reaches around four months of age, they have the ability to sleep longer stretches. This is the PERFECT time for sleep training. Sleep training is basically the process of teaching your baby to sleep on their own. When your sleep trained baby wakes up during the night, they have the skill to fall back asleep without any intervention from you. Even if your baby is still doing nighttime feedings, if they are sleep trained, they will have the ability to go back to sleep on their own. I have an entire blog post about the benefits of sleep training. And no, sleep training is not just letting your baby cry in their crib alone! Please check it out if you have any questions about how sleep training can be beneficial to you and your baby.
Change Diaper Before Feeding
If your baby is feeding during the night, be sure to change their diaper if they’ve had a bowel movement before you sit down to feed them. This way you get the most involved part of being in with them out of the way before their quiet and relaxing feeding.
If your baby is waking up during the night, and you decide to go in their room to soothe or feed them, be sure to keep the environment as calm as possible. The best way to get your baby back to sleep is to keep them from getting over stimulated. Like I mentioned above, if your baby needs a diaper change, do it first so that you can calm them down quickly and quietly afterwards. Another way to keep the environment calm, is to keep your interaction all business. The less talking the better as you don’t want to over stimulate them and get them wide awake and ready to party at 1 AM!
Wean Night Feedings
If you feel you’ve reached the point where nighttime feedings are hindering your child’s sleep more than helping you can choose to wean them from overnight feedings. When it comes to dropping night feedings, you have a few options. You can try the cold turkey method, this might be tough on you and your baby at first, but by staying consistent with your response and decision, it will only take a few days. You can also try a bit gentler method by slowly decreasing the amount of time or ounces your child is getting during the night.
If breastfeeding, reduce their feeding time by one minute per night until you reach zero. If bottle feeding, reduce by one ounce each night until you reach zero. You can also offer an extra feeding throughout the day to make up for removing the night feed. The key to dropping a nighttime feeding is to stay consistent every night until your baby is no longer waking to eat at night. If you have any questions about dropping feedings, be sure to check with your pediatrician!
Be sure to be patient with your baby and yourself! Baby sleep can be a complex thing for parents and each baby is different. There isn’t a one size fits all approach to baby sleep. And there are also so many different factors that can affect a baby’s sleep schedule and sleep pattern. There are sleep regressions that your baby will go through, their sleep can be thrown off by an illness or teething, or they may just be plain overtired and this is causing them to wake up during the night. Remember to be patient and help your baby at night as best as you can, whether that be soothing them yourself or teaching them to soothe themselves back to sleep.
Follow Your Instinct
At the end of the day (or night), follow your instincts when it comes to how to get your baby to sleep at night! Sleep training and teaching your baby to self soothe isn’t a rigid, black and white process! If your baby is crying during the night and your instinct is telling you that they need you, go in and check on them! If it turns into an ongoing thing that is causing major disruptions in your sleep or theirs, reach out and I’m happy to help you get your baby’s sleep (day and night) on track!