Getting your Newborn to Sleep Through the Night
Is it Possible for my newborn to Sleep Through the Night?
Many people think that it is not possible for newborn babies to sleep through the night and certainly for the first 4 weeks you cannot expect your baby to sleep through but by 6 weeks you should be able to get at least 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
For the first four to five weeks your baby's stomach will not be big enough to hold the required amount of milk to enable them to sleep through. However, you should be able to start getting your baby to sleep through from 6 weeks- much earlier than the 9 months that the National Sleep Foundation suggests is the average age that most babies sleep through.
Ultimately you'll be aiming for 12 hours sleep a night but for the purposes of this article I refer to sleeping through as 6 hours or more uninterrupted sleep. This may not sound like a great amount but for anyone who knows what it's like to wake up every two hours to feed a newborn 6 hours is a god send.
Is it Safe for my Baby to Sleep Through so Young?
The answer is quite simply yes! The method I will describe follows cues from your baby so you will not be forcing them to sleep before they are ready. Although a newborn's sleep patterns are not the same as an adults it is your job to gradually get them sleeping through the night - that is how humans are designed to sleep. You will never leave your baby to cry for milk in the night and if you follow the method you won't have to!
Moreover, it is impossible to underestimate the importance of getting a good night's sleep for new mums. many people seem to accept months of sleepless nights as part and parcel of being a parent- it isn't. Nothing makes the joyous experience of being a new parent stressful and difficult like sleep deprivation. And you can handle near enough anything during the day if you are getting a good night's sleep. There are also clear links between sleep deprivation and postnatal depression so don't believe that just because your now a parent you have to kiss goodbye to sleep.
The Sleeping Through Method
Firstly you need to encourage good sleep habits throughout the day.
I allow the first two weeks of your babies life before I start sleep training from this point on ensure you do the following:
- Always place baby into his cot/ moses basket/seat to fall asleep- your baby needs to wake up in the same place they fell asleep to feel secure sleeping.
- Let baby fall asleep on her own- don't rock her or sing to her etc - certainly don't do anything drastic like drive her round the block to get her to sleep.
- If your baby needs calming before he gets to sleep you can stroke or pat him but as soon as he is calm stop.
- Don't make the house silent when your baby is sleeping- you'll turn her into a demanding sleeper and also newborns find the hustle and bustle of the house comforting when they are drifting off- it reassures them you are still there.
- Listen to your baby's cues- most newborns will get tired after being awake for an hour- an hour and a half at the most- if they start to get grizzly at this point follow their cues and put them down to nap- don't try feed them or play with them.
- Other clues that your baby is tired are yawning, whining, lack of interest in toys, rubbing eyes and pulling ears.
Sleep in a newborn is closely linked to feeding so to ensure your baby sleeps through you must do the following:
- keep night feeds functional- don't talk to your baby, play with your baby and try to keep the room dimly lit- this reinforces the message that nighttime is for sleep.
- Only feed your baby when they are hungry! This is very important- I found that every time my babies cried a well meaning relative would pipe up " I think she needs feeding". Newborn babies have no other means of communicating and so when they cry there are a whole range of possibilities as to what they want- it is not necessarily to be fed!
- To make sure your baby is hungry and not crying for another reason think about when he were last fed- a newborn should feed every 2 to 3 hours on average so if you have fed him less than an hour and a half a go chances are he don't need feeding. Eliminate other possibilities- is he tired, over stimulated, bored, cold, hot, wet, needing a cuddle? Finally listen to his cry- the hunger cry is a rhythmic and relentless waa sound that will not be pacified by anything other than food.
- Do not nurse your baby to sleep- One it's a bad habit to get into but more importantly if your baby is falling asleep at the breast she will only get the watery first milk and will fall asleep before she gets to the rich and satisfying hind milk. This means even though you have just fed her she will soon need feeding again. For your baby to sleep through she will need to be having good, long, satisfying feeds this is why it is important to only feed your baby when she is hungry.
- Do not wake your baby to feed- Follow his cues! If he was hungry he would wake up himself. Some experts recommend a 'dream feed' at around 11 to help your baby sleep through- I would avoid this for the above reasons.
-There is however one instance when you can wake your baby to feed- If your baby is particularly sleepy during the day and only feeding every three hours it may have a knock on effect on his night sleep- if you find this is happening wake him up during the day and feed him every two hours instead.
On top of doing all this I would highly recommend following the Core Night Method. This is explained step by step in the excellent book Sleep: The Easy Way to Peaceful Nights By Beatrice Hollyer and Lucy Smith.
The Core Night again is all about following your baby's cues. Look out for a night, usually around 4 weeks, when your baby will suddenly sleep for a longer stretch of time than normal- this is now their Core Night. Your baby is essentially telling you I can sleep for this amount of time without being fed.
From this point on you never feed them during these hours. If your baby does wake up during her core night simply soothe her back to sleep with a dummy/pacifier or by patting her etc.
If your baby really won't settle you can give them some cooled boiled water. Obviously use your judgement as a parent if he is screaming for milk then you will have to give him milk.
The main thing is, as soon as the core night is established, if your baby wakes don't immediately pull them out of their crib and shove them on your boob/bottle- try to soothe them first - you may be pleasantly surprised.
Good Luck and Happy Sleeping!