Are you losing sleep because your baby still won’t sleep through the night? Read on to find out how I taught all of my babies (even at 1.5-2 months old) how to stay asleep and sleep through the night!
Newborn babies up to about a month need to eat every 2-3 hours. Letting them go an hour longer here and there is OK if they are content, but because they can’t regulate their blood sugars like older babies can, they need to eat a lot more frequently.
After one month or so (remember that every baby is different), you may notice that your baby naturally goes a bit longer at night between feedings. After 2 -2.5 months a baby can go many hours (in my experience 6-8 hours) before needing to eat at night. If they are comfy and snoozing, you, mom can get some much needed sleep!
At about 2.5-3 months old I had all of my 100% breastfed babies sleeping through the night (8-10 hours) pretty consistently! That may seem like crazy talk to you, but I promise you, it can be done!
Now please remember that:
- Each baby is a little different with different needs. If your baby was born prematurely then these guidelines may not apply to him right now.
- You should never withhold food from a newborn baby as this can be dangerous to their glucose levels.
- Your baby’s length of sleep may or may not depend on whether or not he is breastfed or formula fed (although the research is unclear on whether or not this makes a difference: Source 1, Source 2).
- You should never give a very young baby solids (like cereal in a bottle) to try to keep him asleep longer. Not only is this not recommended nutrition at this age, but it can increase the risk of SIDS.
Babies are wonderful and complex little creatures. If you are losing sleep because your baby is not sleeping though, I’m here to help you trouble shoot the problems, and to teach you how to teach your baby to sleep through the night!
The most common reasons why your baby won’t sleep through the night
While each baby is different, at least one thing applies to all babies out there: they need sleep, and lots of it! If your baby is only sleeping a couple hours at a time and is able to sleep more (over 2-3 months), or if your 6-12 month old and beyond won’t stay asleep through the whole night, here are some things to think about:
- Is your baby healthy? (think ear infections, stuffy noses, fevers, and tummy bugs).
- Is he on a consistent eating and napping schedule that sets him up for sleeping through the night?
- Is he eating enough at each feeding?
- Is he having gastric reflux?
- Is his sleep environment comfortable?
- Is he used to you picking him up each time he fusses?
Each of these reasons are common things that most parents have dealt with. The trick is figuring out which one is the culprit (it may be more than one), and learning how to fix it. Let’s look at each issue a little more in-depth and talk about possible fixes that will work for you and your baby.
1. Your baby is sick.
When babies are sick, you should never expect them to sleep through the night.
He may be having trouble breathing from a stuffy nose, being woken up by a cough, having ear pain when he lies down (common with ear infections), running a fever, or have an upset tummy that may cause vomiting.
In this case you should tend to his needs when he cries and take him to his pediatrician.
Note, a fever in a baby under 3 months old is a big deal, take him to his Dr. right away.
2.Your baby’s eating and napping schedule are inconsistent.
Babies as young as newborns can start being taught to get on a schedule when it comes to feeding time and nap time. If you are implementing a consistent schedule every day, your baby will get used to this within the first couple of months and your life will be much easier.
As a new mom, I had trouble with staying at home a lot to give my baby regular naps. I wanted to go out and do things daily. Fortunately, my first baby would fall asleep in the carseat whenever I took her, and as long as I fed her enough during the day, her sleep time wasn’t too affected.
However, once she got older, this sleeping in the car would start to wreck her nighttime sleeping- especially if she slept too late in the day.
You can be a mom who loves to go out, or stay in, but you do need to keep in mind if whatever you’re doing is working for you and your baby.
If baby’s naps are constantly getting interrupted at different times on different days, this could be the reason why he is not sleeping well or consistently at night.
Your can make your schedule whatever works for you and your baby. Make sure though, that he is getting fed enough, and is sleeping enough.
Click to printout the sleeping chart below!
3. Your baby is not eating enough at each feeding, or is comfort eating.
Some baby’s like to gulp their milk until they are full, some like to graze here and there, and some like to comfort eat. My first baby was a comfort eater and it drove me insane after a while because she would eat almost every hour sometimes and I wouldn’t sleep!
If your baby is eating a good amount each time (check the signs below), then he is probably not waking up because he is hungry. You can skip to # 4.
But if your baby likes to graze (eats some, gets distracted, or falls asleep and then comes back for more- over and over again):
- Try undressing him or putting a cool washcloth on his forehead or back while he eats, stroking his forehead, playing with his ears, or tickling his back (especially helpful for newborns at night). This will help keep him awake and engaged.
- If he is older and is getting distracted by noises and movement around him, try using a blanket or nursing cover to help keep his focus on the boob.
Signs your baby is eating enough:
- He seems satisfied after a feeding.
- He is putting out 6-8 wet diapers per day (after 1 week of age).
- He is gaining weight well (check with your pediatrician if you suspect he isn’t).
- Your breasts feel soft and empty after a feeding.
4. Your baby is having acid reflux.
Acid reflux or GERD in infants is not uncommon. This occurs when stomach acid and food come back up part way (or sometimes all the way) into the esophagus because the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) doesn’t fully close after swallowing.
Because of their immature bodies, newborns are especially prone to having acid reflux.
Here are the signs of acid reflux quoted directly form Healthline.com:
- spitting up and vomiting
- refusal to eat and difficulty eating or swallowing
- irritability during feeding
- wet burps or hiccups
- failure to gain weight
- abnormal arching
- frequent coughing or recurrent pneumonia
- gagging or choking
- chest pain or heartburn
- disturbed sleep
My first baby had acid reflux and medication was necessary to help her through this stage. If your baby is displaying any of these signs, talk to his pediatrician.
Things you can do at home that may help acid reflux:
Recommendations taken from WebMD.com
- Elevate the head of your baby’s bassinet (you can do this using a rolled towel underneath the removable bed piece, or use an infant sleep wedge. Be very careful not to do this too high or your newborn will slump down in his sleep causing an unsafe sleeping position. I used somethings similar to this anti-roll sleep positioner with the sleep wedge to help keep my baby from slumping in her sleep).
- Keep your baby upright for about 30 minutes after a feeding.
- Don’t let your baby overfill by feeding him smaller amounts a bit more often.
- Talk with your pediatrician about thickening his formula or feeding solids earlier (if not recommended yet), or if medication is needed.
5. Your baby’s sleep environment is not comfortable.
I highly recommend that you read my article on how to set up the best sleep environment for your baby here.
As a recap, your baby’s sleep environment can greatly affect his desire to sleep and stay asleep. If he is uncomfortable for any of the following reasons, he may not stay asleep through the night:
- Swaddle (for newborns)
- Air quality
6. You pick your baby up immediately each time he fusses.
All babies make little cries and fusses here and there (especially newborns). Learning when to and when not to pick your baby up can be a bit tricky.
The general rule of thumb is:
- If your newborn baby is making squeaks or squeals in his sleep intermittently, then let him be.
- If a newborn is starting to fuss or is crying, pick him up and look for signs of wanting to eat.
- If an older baby begins to fuss, let them learn how to self-soothe for a few minutes prior to picking them up.
- If an older baby is fussing but it is not feeding time yet or he has recently eaten, give him a few minutes to self-soothe, and offer comfort after just a few minutes.
- If an older baby is crying in pain (usually a shrill cry that doesn’t stop), pick him up immediately.
If not taught to self-soothe when it’s appropriate, your baby may become used to being picked up each time he fusses, which isn’t necessary. Try assessing why your baby may be fussing in the night. If it isn’t time to eat yet, and he doesn’t show signs of being in pain, give him a few minutes to self-soothe and you may find him eventually going back to sleep.
Sleep is a beautiful thing, especially when both you and your baby are getting it! For an additional resource and interactive support, check out the book On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant The Gift Of Nighttime Sleep. By Dr. Robert Bucknam, and Gary Ezzo.