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 four weeks you cannot expect this, but by six weeks you should be able to get at least six 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 the night. However, you should be able to start getting your baby to sleep through from six weeks—much earlier than the nine 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 six hours or more of 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, six hours is a godsend.
Is It Safe for My Baby to Sleep Through the Night so Young?
The answer is quite simply yes! The method I use 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 adult's, it is your job to gradually get them sleeping through the night—that is how humans are designed to sleep.
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 ruins the joyous experience of being a new parent like sleep deprivation. There are also clear links between sleep deprivation and postnatal depression so don't believe that just because you're now a parent, you have to kiss goodbye to sleep.
The Sleeping-Through Method
First, you need to encourage good sleep habits throughout the day. I don't recommend sleep training until your baby is about two weeks old to ensure you do the following:
- Always place the baby into their cot or crib to fall asleep. They need to wake up in the same place they fell asleep to feel secure while sleeping.
- Let the baby fall asleep on their own. Don't rock them or sing to them. And certainly don't do anything drastic like drive them around the block to get them to fall asleep.
- If your baby needs to be calmed down before they get to sleep, you can stroke or pat them but stop doing this as soon as they are calm.
- Don't make the house silent when your baby is sleeping—you'll turn them 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 or an hour and a half at most. If they start to get grizzly, follow their cues and put them down to nap. Don't tr toy 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.
A newborn's quality of sleep 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 or play with your baby. In addition, try to keep the room dimly lit as 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 is 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 they were last fed; a newborn should feed every two to three hours on average so if you fed them less than an hour and a half ago, chances are they don't need feeding. Eliminate other possibilities: Are they tired, overstimulated, bored, cold, hot, wet, or needing a cuddle? Finally, listen to their 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. First, it's a bad habit to get into, but more importantly, if your baby is falling asleep at the breast, they will only get the watery first milk and will fall asleep before they get to the rich and satisfying milk. This means that even though you have just fed them, they will soon need feeding again. For your baby to sleep through the night, they will need to be having good, long, satisfying feeds. This is why it is important to only feed your baby when they are hungry.
- Do not wake your baby to feed. Follow their cues! If they were hungry, they would wake up and let you know. Some experts recommend a "dream feed" at around 11pm to help your baby sleep through, but 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 their night sleep. if you find this is happening, wake them up during the day and feed them 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 is also all about following your baby's cues. Look out for a night, usually around four 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 that they can sleep for that amount of time without being fed.
From this point on, you never feed them during these hours. If your baby does wake up during their core night, simply soothe them back to sleep with a dummy/pacifier or by patting them. If your baby really won't settle, you can give them some cooled boiled water. Obviously, use your judgement as a parent. If they are screaming for milk, then you will have to give them 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!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.