Do your new baby’s sleep habits have you feeling like you need an I.V. with coffee through a drip line? Mommas, this is what I like to call the zombie flu.
It’s a flu that almost every new parent catches when they first bring their newborn home. Personally, I caught this flu and it hit me hard, and to be honest, it lasted way too long. In the wee hours of the night, I would find myself desperately searching for answers on getting a baby to sleep through the night.
In my search, I found that for most babies, it is typical to start sleeping longer stretches once they reach the age of 4-6 months old. And they begin sleeping through the night upon the elimination of night feedings, which is typically after 6 months of age. Looking back now, this was not the case for me, and it was due to critical mistakes I had made unknowingly.
By the time Hayvn was 5 months old, she stopped taking naps and started to fight bedtime. She would take hours to fall asleep at night and then once she finally was asleep, she would wake up every half hour to an hour during the night. I began to dread nighttime. To say I was sleep-deprived was an understatement. It got to the point where I actually became physically ill. I was beyond exhausted. I was delirious, drained, lethargic, and to be honest, I felt very hopeless.
After about a month of waking up every half hour to an hour throughout the night, I had reached my breaking point and I decided something had to be done. I was completely broken after all sleep deprivation is a method of torture used in war, it’s enough to drive anyone mad.
So to help any mommas out there feeling like they’ve reached their breaking point, I’m here to tell you, not all hope is lost, and it does get better. My sweet Hayvn sleeps all through the night now and I get plenty of rest! Just be sure to avoid these mistakes I made, and utilize the lifesaving tips provided in this post, and your baby will be sleeping through the night in no time!
Keep reading to find helpful tips for getting a baby to sleep through the night.
Why Won’t My Baby Sleep?
First things first, you must establish the reason as to why your baby is waking up/won’t fall asleep. There could be many reasons that you may not be aware of, besides the obvious reason being that they’re hungry.
As a first time mom, I missed all the cues as to why Hayvn wasn’t falling asleep and come to find out that a large part of her waking up was due to the same reasons as to why she wasn’t falling asleep.
So a crucial part of getting a baby to sleep through the night starts with having an understanding of the four main causes of disrupted sleep patterns.
The FOUR major causes of your baby’s interrupted sleep patterns include:
- Awake For Too Long – Overtired
- Lack Of A Routine
- They’re Too Dependent On You
Something I had no clue about when I first had my daughter was something called overstimulation. It sounds self-explanatory, but it’s when a baby becomes overwhelmed by experiences or sensations. This could be too many new faces, crowds, or loud noises, or even being passed around from person to person.
So yes, that includes all those visitors that want to come meet and hold your new baby. Although they mean well, this can be detrimental to your baby’s sleep patterns.
How To Avoid This – To avoid overstimulating your new baby, watch for cues that they might be getting overwhelmed. Things like avoiding eye contact or turning away from you, clenched fists or overall body tenseness, crankiness or fussiness, and fast breathing are all signs that your baby is overstimulated.
Once you recognize these cues, cut off the stimulus immediately, whether it’s taking your baby to a quiet dark room, or laying them in their crib away from any noise or people.
As a new mom, it came as a shock to me that babies are not like adults in the sense that they do not get more tired the longer they are awake. In my mind, it made sense to keep my daughter up longer so she would be more tired and sleep longer through the night. Boy oh boy, was I wrong.
When a baby is awake for too long they become overtired which actually prevents them from falling asleep. Once they become overtired, it means they are past the point of falling asleep, which then signals a stress response in their body. This happens when the brain sends a message to the body and releases adrenaline to keep the baby awake.
Now with all of that adrenaline coursing through their body, your baby has no chance of falling asleep, or at least staying asleep.
Signs a baby is overtired: If your baby has reached the point of being overtired, you will see signs like arching their back, fussing will turn into inconsolable crying, clenching fists, yawning, sneezing, or even hiccuping. When I first had Hayvn, I had no idea that these were signs telling me she was overtired, and looking back now, she displayed every single one of them.
How To Avoid This: Don’t keep your baby awake for extended periods of time, especially newborns. Watch for cues that your baby gives when they’re getting tired. Signs like eye rubbing, yawning, turning away from you, slow blinking and closing fists.
Keep to a strict napping schedule. Especially if your baby has been stimulated more than normal, it is important to make sure they get enough sleep during the day to ensure good sleep through the night.
Establish A Routine
Another tip for getting a baby to sleep through the night depends on your day-to-day schedule. If you are not consistent in your baby’s routine, your baby won’t be consistent with their sleeping habits. It’s as simple as that.
This was a critical error I had unknowingly made as a new mom. Before having my daughter I did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. If I wanted to stay up until midnight watching re-runs of Naked and Afraid, I did it, and if I wanted to go to the mall during nap time, I did that too. I had no idea that I was messing with her sleep patterns by doing this.
Not only was I being inconsistent, but I was keeping my baby awake for too long. Before having my daughter, I knew that newborns slept a ton. But what I didn’t realize was just how much they actually slept. And I also didn’t realize that it was my duty to make sure she slept.
Babies and children will do as you teach them, starting from the minute they make their debut into this world. I was teaching Hayvn to stay awake for long periods of time, and that was causing her to become overtired, which was in turn, causing her to fight sleep when the time came to put her to bed for the night.
Without having a set schedule of nap times, and bedtime, my daughter didn’t know when to sleep, and therefore fought her body’s natural instincts of being tired, so she could stay awake. Along with fighting the urge to fall asleep, her sleep patterns had been thrown out of wack which would cause her to only sleep for short periods of time, i.e. waking up every half hour.
How To Avoid This – Mommas. Establish. A. Routine. Now. Start the minute you get home from the hospital. Newborns need to sleep every 45 minutes to an hour. And then by the time they’re 4-6 months old, they should still be getting 3-4 hours of daytime sleep spread throughout 2-3 naps.
If you are resetting your baby’s sleep/wake patterns, follow strict nap times every day for a week. This means that if nap time is 9 a.m. you put your baby in their crib at 9 a.m. regardless of if they seem tired. Let them sit and play in their crib until they fall asleep. If they don’t fall asleep, leave them in their crib until the designated nap time should be over. Your baby will eventually learn, that this is when they are supposed to sleep.
*Bonus Tip – If you have trouble sticking to a routine, keep a note on your phone of when your baby went down for a nap and when they woke up to help you stay organized and really help reset their sleeping patterns.
You should also establish a bedtime routine and put them to bed at the same time every night. For us, our bedtime routine was a bath, some cuddles and singing in a dimly lit room, and then we placed her in her crib drowsy but awake.
Which leads me to my next point. Put your baby in their bed once they are drowsy but still awake. I have seen this so many times when parents will rock their baby to sleep before putting them in their bed. This is a big no-no if you ever want to sleep again.
I’ll admit, my husband and I were guilty of this for a while because, out of desperation, it was the only thing that seemed to work, until it didn’t.
When your baby becomes dependent on you to fall asleep, it can become problematic when you finally go to lay them down and they wake up, or if they wake up in the night and realize you are no longer holding them. You want your baby to be able to fall asleep on their own and learn how to self soothe.
How To Avoid This – When Hayvn was at her worst in terms of sleeping, we quickly realized it was because she was waking up and realizing that we weren’t there with her. So to stop her crying my husband and I would take turns rushing to her crib side to hold her, soothe her back to sleep, only to start the cycle again 30 minutes later.
In order to help combat this, we began putting her to sleep when she was drowsy, as well as topping her off with a bottle late at night just before we went to bed. This is called dream feeding.
Dream Feeding – this is when you gently wake your baby a few hours after you’ve put them to bed for the night (we did this around 10-11 p.m.) and feed them a bottle, in a dark room, while they are slightly awake or drowsy, just to top them off.
This helps with breaking the habit of rocking them to sleep because with their bellies full they are more likely to fall asleep on their own from a drowsy state. You can eventually eliminate this feeding and wean them off night feedings altogether.
Mommas, let me tell you this little trick worked wonders on getting our daughter to fall asleep on her own and I would highly recommend it to any parent that values their sleep. Not only does it help with falling asleep, but it’s absolutely necessary for getting a baby to sleep through the night.
Don’t get this confused with feeding your baby to fall asleep, that is essentially the same as rocking them to sleep. The key here is to make sure your baby is slightly awake and drowsy when you put them in their crib. Feeding them helps with the transition and keeps their belly full, to help them sleep longer stretches.
*This is a method of sleep training. It is not recommended to attempt sleep training before the age of 4-6 months. I am not a doctor, nor am I offering medical advice. I am simply relaying my personal experience.
Now, if all else fails, this one is a last resort, and given the circumstances, we had no other choice. At the peak of our sleepless journey, my husband and I were getting about 3 hours of sleep every night, and that’s not sustainable for any human being.
So, we looked into sleep training, and we found a humane method that we were willing to try, called the Ferber Method. It’s essentially like the “cry it out” method but is much more tolerable and let me tell you it works!
The Ferber Method is what I give credit to when people ask how I got my baby to sleep through the night. And I would recommend it to anyone that has tried everything but still has troubles getting a baby to sleep through the night.
Ferber Method Vs. Cry-It-Out (C.I.O.)
Before I can explain what the Ferber Method is, I must first start with the Cry-It-Out method. If you’ve ever heard this term, it simply means what it says, you let your baby cry it out until they finally exhaust themselves and fall asleep. Now, this sounds pretty harsh, and there’s a lot of controversy surrounding it, but I’m not gonna get into that here.
The Ferber method is a type of cry-it-out method, with the defining difference being, you still go in and comfort your baby as opposed to leaving them alone to cry until they finally fall asleep.
With the Ferber Method, you let your baby cry and space it out in intervals. For example:
- Put your baby in their crib, tuck them in and leave the room
- If they begin to cry, set a timer for 5 minutes and do not enter the room until the timer reaches zero
- 5 minutes go by – you go in the room, console your baby, but do not pick them up
- Once your baby is calmed down, leave the room
- If they begin to cry, set a timer now for 10 minutes and do not go into their room until the timer reaches zero
- Repeat the process, setting the timer for 5 minutes longer each time until your baby finally falls asleep
You can choose how long you want to space it out, as long as you continue to wait longer each time before entering the room again. Here is an example:
The end goal is to help your baby to know that you are still there to comfort them but to teach them that they need to self soothe and fall asleep when they are put in their bed.
I will tell you, this method absolutely saved our lives and brought me back from the shell of a human I had become.
Most parents shy away from resorting to this until they have exhausted all other options because it’s too hard to bear, and I will agree that it is painful to listen to your baby cry and to not rush in and console them. But with this method, I knew that once the timer hit 0, that I would be able to rush in there and console my crying baby.
Another important thing to note was that my daughter never cried for longer than 20 minutes before she fell asleep, so for those parents worried about their baby crying for hours on end, it most likely will never reach that point, although 20 minutes may feel like hours when your child is crying.
I also want to point out that my baby was sleeping through the night 3 days into implementing the Ferber Method. 3 DAYS!! That’s all it took for us to finally get a good night’s rest after going months without it.
Although everyone has their opinion on letting a baby cry it out, I say, to each their own, and desperate times call for desperate measures. Like I said before, it helped immensely with our daughter and she was sleeping through the night 3 days later, and is still, to this day, the best little sleeper ever!
*Bonus Tip: If you just can’t bear the sound of your baby crying, put in some headphones and play music or white noise, this will help ease your nerves, and smoothe over the process.
Get Some Zzzs!
So, mommas, there is a light at the end of this exhausting tunnel. With these corrections, I was able to re-evaluate and this was the answer to getting my baby to sleep through the night.
After a month of waking up every half hour to an hour to go console my crying daughter, I had reached my breaking point. I knew I had to do something and little did I know, it was because of simple errors that unknowingly made that were causing problems with my daughter’s sleep habits.
Please learn from my mistakes, and with these tips, you can rest (pun intended) assured knowing that you won’t have any more troubles with getting a baby to sleep through the night.
With this post, I hope to help new mommas avoid the mistakes I made and to get some Zzzs! You deserve it!
Did you find this post helpful? I would love to hear from you! If you have any questions, comments, personal stories, or advice, I would love to hear it! Please leave it in the comments section below.