Newborns are curious little creatures that sometimes manage only minuscule amounts of sleep leaving many new parents questioning if their babes will ever sleep through the night.
Mum’s Grapevine sleep expert Tara Mitchell says ‘when will my baby sleep through the night’ is one of her most asked questions. Tara reveals what parents need to know about healthy sleep habits for babies three months plus.
How do I know if my little one should be sleeping through the night by now? As a sleep consultant, I get this question a lot.
I really don’t encourage pressure being put on ‘sleeping through’ so much as healthy sleep habits. When your little one has great sleep habits, good quality sleep should follow naturally.
Healthy sleep habits (3 months +)
These are some of the main things I encourage parents to be mindful of when it comes to healthy sleep health for babies over the age of three months.
I am a big believer in looking ahead and sustainability. So, are the roles you play in getting your baby/toddler off to sleep sustainable and working for the entire family unit? If not, that’s when I recommend looking into making changes.
Some of these changes may be running a feed, play and sleep structure, teaching your little one to self-settle and using your child’s sleep space as much as possible, meaning their cot or bassinet. Of course, if you are co-sleeping and that’s the path you wish to head down long term, no worries.
I would next look at sleep associations. This is the most common reason that I work with little ones and it presents as a baby or child consistently looking for an external measure to get to sleep and back to sleep time and time again.
Some of these measures may include rocking, patting, constant snack feeding, replacing the dummy, co-sleeping and or sitting in the room. It is important to understand that above three months, one night feed is still extremely appropriate, so don’t feel pressure to achieve 12 hours straight.
Here are the most common signs your little one’s inability to self-settle and reliance on sleep props may be negatively impacting their potential for great sleep:
- Requires your assistance to get to sleep and this can take a range of efforts, time and tears to simply achieve and settle.
- Naps are short and they either wake upset or tire soon after waking.
- Wakes two hourly or more and/or has more than one wake in the second half of the night requiring resettling.
- Wakes screaming. Or you feel they suffer from nightmares or night terrors.
- Wakes and needs resettling within 45-60 minutes of going to sleep for the night.
- You are in a cycle of constantly blaming teething, reflux, leaps, sleep regressions or milestones. You may even find yourself giving pain relief regularly at night.
- Your baby screams in the car.
- Particular measures must be used to achieve sleep and your little one may even be preferable to who does them.
This is another point I would pay attention to. Is your little one getting into good quality sleep and drifting between sleep cycles well? As you know, broken sleep takes its toll. By having healthy sleep habits in play your little one will find it easier to get into better, deeper sleep cycles.
You can achieve this by making sure their awake times aren’t too long, offer sleep in their sleep space, I love the use of white noise and making the room as dark as possible for day and night sleep. Self-settling will also mean your baby or toddler won’t have to fully wake to find or use an external measure and therefore drift between cycles much more easily.
Tara Mitchell is a Paediatric Nurse, former international nanny, mum and qualified Infant and Toddler Sleep Consultant, she’s also the founder of The Gentle Sleep Specialist – a place for families to get help for sleep issues.