LAND OF NOD
Baby sleep consultant Emma Purdue on the dream of baby sleeping through the night
Sleeping through the night can feel like the holy grail of sleep, something we all think about at 3am when we’ve been up for hours, or getting in and out of bed like a yoyo. When considering sleeping through the night for six- to 12-month olds, the first thing to do is define what sleeping through the night means. Some people will tell you their baby has slept through since they were four weeks old, but once you ask them a few questions, it turns out they feed the baby three times a night. In their eyes, however, they sleep through! For the sake of this article, let’s call sleeping through the night an 11- to 12-hour night with zero to one feed. Being woken over and over at night can begin to feel a bit like torture for some people. Some parents can start to feel frustrated, exhausted and overwhelmed, while others appear to cope just fine.
Step by step
If you’re thinking it’s time to tackle your baby’s night sleep, there are four steps you can take to try to improve things. 1 GOOD DAYTIME FEEDS Hungry babies don’t sleep! Make sure that your baby is getting four to five good breast or bottle feeds a day and try to make these focused and undistracted. If your baby is eating solids, make every spoonful count. Ensure you’re using calorie-rich homemade foods, high in carbohydrate and protein to ensure your little one is getting the calories they need in the day to sleep at night. These milk and solid volumes will increase as you reduce night feeds. Be prepared for this so you don’t let your baby go hungry. 2 AVOID OVER-TIREDNESS If you’re struggling with nights, your naps might also be less than ideal. While it can be overwhelming to work on naps and night sleep at once, it’s important to avoid over-tiredness ruining your chances of good night sleeps. You have two ways to do this if your naps aren’t good: an assisted last nap of the day – go for a walk or drive, or feed to sleep, to ensure a good nap occurs, or a super-early bedtime to compensate for lost day sleep. 3 TEACH YOUR BABY TO SELF-SETTLE It’s normal for children to wake twoto four-hourly overnight; this fact no one is disputing. But if your baby depends on you to get back to sleep, you might find yourself feeding back to sleep numerous times each night. Alternatively, you might be popping a dummy back in, or rocking to sleep. All of these are great ways to get newborns off to sleep, but can mean long term, no one is getting much sleep, and the solution is to wean your baby off that association and teach them to self-settle. Parents often think self-settling and ‘crying it out’ are the same thing, but you can teach your baby to self-settle very gently without any crying. Using your voice and proximity to your baby, lots of touch without assisting to sleep is a good place to start on your selfsettling journey. 4 POSITIVE SLEEP ASSOCIATIONS Once we start removing associations, such as feeding or rocking to sleep, it’s nice to introduce some really positive associations to help promote sleep without you having to do much at all. Try some background white noise. Introduce a cuddly or lovie from six months, which can help promote self-settling as your baby develops attachment and begins to experience self-soothing. A sleeping bag helps encourage sleep through a positive and consistent sleep cue, which also prevents your baby waking up cold.