How To Get Baby to Sleep Through the Night

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What to do when your Babywise baby is not sleeping through the night. How to get baby to sleep through the night.

Baby night sleep

If you knew exactly when your baby would sleep through the night, you could be patient. If you knew in two weeks you would reach that magical day, you could persevere.

The unknown is hard.

The unknown can be soul-crushing.

The unknown can make you very impatient.

You don’t know if you are on the right path and you just need a glimmer of hope!

You want baby sleeping through the night and you want it to happen now.

When your baby is not sleeping through the night, you cannot solve the night wakings without figuring out why baby is waking up.

Baby is not waking at night for no reason.

Figuring out the why can take time and often takes experimenting, but you cannot get your baby to sleep through the night without fixing the “why” for the waking.

Your first step will be figure out why, then you will fix the why.

Here is a list of whys and how to address each one.

A word on addressing issues. You need to think scientific method here. You cannot take this entire list and address it all tonight.

Change one thing at a time and see if that fixes it. If so, great. If not, try the next thing.

Here is a basic checklist of what we will talk about below:

  • Have patience as baby gets old enough and big enough to sleep through the night
  • Figure out if baby needs to eat in the night or not
  • Make sure baby is not sick, in pain, or uncomfortable
  • Figure out if baby is waking out of habit or not
  • Have a consistent bedtime routine
  • Make sure the schedule and routine are all working for baby
  • Sleep train baby so baby can fall asleep independently. Avoid sleep props

Have Patience

The first thing to do is to have patience. I get a lot of frustrated questions about 7 or 8 week olds who are not sleeping through the night.

It is fully in the range of normal to be that age and not sleeping through the night, even when you use On Becoming Babywise (affiliate). It is fully normal even until 12 weeks old.

So your first step in the process of figuring out why your baby is not sleeping through the night is to figure out if you just need more patience.

I know you are tired! I know you are anxious not knowing when that magical night will come.

You still have to be patient.

Note that breastfed babies tend to sleep through the night later than formula fed babies. This is not the case ALL of the time, but it often is true.

What Age Will Baby Sleep Through the Night?

There is quite the range in when baby will sleep through the night.

Baby can sleep through the night as young as 7 week old, but this is not sleeping 12 hours straight. This is about 7-8 hours of sleep at night uninterrupted.

Other babies will take as long as 12 weeks or more to reach this same milestone.

By three months of age, most babies will be sleeping at least that 7-8 hours at night of sleep.

Analyze Night Feedings

When your baby gets up in the night, how does he eat for nighttime feedings?

Does he eat well for the feeding in the night? Does he just eat for a couple of minutes and then quit? How are sleep patterns after the feeding?

Baby Eats Well for First Feeding of Day

If he eats well, how does he eat for the very first feeding of the day?

If your baby eats well in the night and eats well for the first feeding of the day, your baby legitimately needs to eat in the night.

Do not despair!

There are things you can try if that is the case.

You can add a dreamfeed if you do not have one so your baby can get an extra feeding in before your night time.

You can try cluster feeding in the evening to squeeze in an extra feeding during the day and tank baby up before night.

You can also try feeding more often all day long to fit in an extra feed during daytime hours and hope baby then won’t need a night feeding.

For example, if you are feeding every 3-3.5 hours during the day, you can feed every 2.5 hours and work an extra feeding into the daytime.

Those things won’t always work, however, and you might need to just be patient until baby no longer needs that night feeding.

Baby Does Not Eat Well for First Feeding of Day

If your baby does not eat well for the first feeding of the day, then your baby probably does not need to eat at night.

In this case, you can work to eliminate the night feeding and see what happens.

You can cut the feeding all together, or you can slowly cut back the amount of time spent eating or total amount eaten if you are feeding with a bottle.

Always keep in mind that growth spurts happen, so a baby who was not hungry in the night last week might be hungry in the night this week.

Always be sure you feed extra for growth spurts during the daytime hours to avoid more night feedings from needing to happen.

>>>Read: How to Drop Middle of the Night Feeding

Follow a Schedule

If you are not following a schedule in the day with your baby, this is the time to start one. Have a morning start time that is consistent. Have an eat/wake/sleep schedule in the day. Have a consistent bedtime. If you are not yet following a schedule, see my Starting Babywise Late Guide.

Consider Sickness 

A sick baby will not sleep well at night. If your baby has a cold or any other sort of sickness, expect sleep to not be as solid as it would be otherwise.

Once baby is done with the sickness, you can move on to try to get baby sleeping through the night, but during a sickness is not the time to fight that battle.

Consider Pain

A baby in pain will not sleep well. Your baby might have gas pain or reflux pain going on, preventing baby from being able to sleep well and sleep solid through the night.

>>>Read: What To Do If Your Baby Has Gas

If your baby is old enough, baby might be teething, causing pain.

A baby in pain will not sleep as well as she would have if she were not in pain.

If you think your baby might be in pain, try remedying the pain and see how sleep goes.

If it is reflux, talk to your baby’s doctor about ways to help relieve the pain. Keep in mind that most reflux medication dosages are based on weight, so as your baby gets bigger, it is highly possible she will suddenly stop sleeping as well because her reflux meds are no longer enough and her pain is back.

If you suspect your baby has gas pain, try giving gas drops through the day each day. You also want to be sure you are burping thoroughly.

If your baby is waking up from teething pain, you can give some pain meds before bedtime to help with the pain and hope it won’t wake baby up at night.

I have had babies with disrupted sleep from all of these types of pain, and more (like ear infections). You have to work through the pain to get to a point when baby can sleep well.

Consider Habit

Some babies start out waking up for a legitimate reason, like hunger. Then they just get used to waking up at that time each day and each night and continue to do it out of habit.

If it is habit, baby will literally wake up and just about the exact same minute each night.

Baby can wake up at the same time and be hungry, so you can’t assume it is habit just because it is consistent.

If you think it might be habit, you can test it by helping baby fall back asleep without feeding baby.

If baby wakes up an hour later (at the next sleep transition), you can safely assume baby really is hungry.

If baby sleeps longer than an hour before waking again, there is a good chance it is habit.

What to Do If Waking is From Habit

If you figure out that it definitely is habit, there are a few options before you.

You can help baby fall back asleep and hope baby learns to sleep through and not wake from habit.

You can wait ten minutes before going in to see if baby will just resettle and go to sleep.

You can also do cry it out or some form of sleep training.

You can try doing a wake to sleep from the Baby Whisperer.

Also, when you to in to your baby in the night, keep the interaction low-key and as boring as possible. Do not make night time feedings a party or baby will be more inclined to try to keep that feeding.

Consider Comfort

Is your baby uncomfortable in any way?

When your baby transitions between sleep cycles, discomfort can lead your baby to wake up rather than drift into the next stage of sleep.

A diaper being too wet or poopy can wake your baby.

The room being too hot or too cold can wake your baby (see also this post on optimal temperature for sleep).

Your baby not being dressed in the optimal way can make it so baby doesn’t sleep well.

The swaddle, or lack thereof, can wake your baby.

If your baby is uncomfortable in any way, change things up until you find the right temperature, diaper size, swaddle type, pajamas, etc. for your baby to sleep well.

Keep a Consistent Morning Waketime

I can’t stress the importance of a consistent morning waketime enough.

I know you are tired. I know you want to sleep in and just let baby sleep, especially if baby is waking in the early morning hours (or late hours of the night).

You can sleep if you really want to, but know you will most likely delay baby sleeping through the night if you do so.

Consistency with your first feeding of the day is the single most underrated tool for getting baby to sleep through the night.

If your baby is waking a little too early in the morning, see this post for help.

Analyze Bedtime

Timing is key for good sleep. Timing for bedtime is important just like it is for naptime.

I aim for bedtime to happen about 12 hours before I want baby waking up each morning. Keep bedtime consistent. You want to get baby to bed about the same time each night.

If you think bedtime might be off, experiment with different bedtimes. Keep a log of what time bedtime happens so you can track if a certain time works better than another.

The Babywise Mom Book of Logs eBook cover

Not only do you need your bedtime timing consistent, you need your bedtime routine consistent.

If the bedtime routine is the same each night, it really helps signal to your baby that it is night time. A solid routine can also help baby calm down and settle in for good night sleep. A solid routine is really important for helping baby have good sleep habits.

>>>Read: Perfecting Your Babywise Bedtime Routine

Analyze Dreamfeed

The dreamfeed should happen between 10-11 PM for most babies.

Some babies are quite sensitive and need the dreamfeed just so or they won’t sleep well.

I would say most babies are not hyper sensitive to the dreamfeed timing, but some are. My fourth child was so sensitive that she had a five minute window that worked.

If I fed her outside of that window, she would not sleep well that night. Experiment with the timing for your dreamfeed. Go in five minute increments in case your baby is sensitive about it.

You also might need to just drop the dreamfeed. Some babies get so disrupted by the dreamfeed that it hurts night sleep rather than help it.

Analyze Overall Daytime Sleep

Your baby might not sleep well if daytime sleep is either too much or too little.

If it is too little, your baby will be overly tired, and sleep begets sleep, so baby may not be well-rested enough to sleep well. Lack of sleep in the day will not equate to great sleep at night. It will usually mean sleepless nights for both you and baby.

If your baby has too many naps for her age, you might need to drop or shorten a nap to get daytime sleep in the right spot for night sleep to go well.

Read my post on the Best Ages for Dropping Baby’s Naps to know if it might be time for a nap change.

Analyze Sleep Props and Self-Soothing Ability

If your baby has a sleep prop, the prop might be leading to baby waking in the night.

If baby relies on a prop to fall asleep, then when he transitions at night, if the prop isn’t there, he will likely wake instead of falling back asleep. Sleep props can lead to bad sleep habits.

It is not uncommon for babies who sleep with pacifiers to have a period of time when sleep is disrupted. At that point, parents decide between getting rid of the pacifier or pushing through.

>>>Read: Weaning from the Pacifier: When, Why, and How

Sleep props are not always bad. Read more on when sleep props are okay and when you should avoid them. One sleep prop I personally love and used with many of baby babies at night is white noise. It really helped baby at night and during naps to sleep through noises.

Another sleep prop is the inability to fall asleep independently.

If your baby can’t fall asleep alone, in other words, has no self-soothing ability, then baby likely will wake up in the night and need help falling back asleep.

You might need to do some sleep training to get your baby to sleep through the night. One of my favorite sleep training methods for no-cry sleep training is the Four S’s. If your baby is a newborn, this can work very well. 

Conclusion

Hang in there! Your baby will sleep through the night at some point. It might just happen one night, but you might need to put in some effort with doing some experimenting and figuring it out.

Babywise is great and helpful, but even among the Babywise babies, there is a normal range that is quite large in Baby Standard Time.

Even if you are baby wise, there are always outliers and extenuating circumstances, as listed above, that can interfere with night sleep happening when you hope.

Go through this list. Try and see if any of them are interfering with sleep.

If not, it might be time for some sleep training to get baby sleeping through the night. Your night will come.

Related Posts

This post originally appeared on this blog in February 2018

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