1. Days vs Nights
When you want to improve your baby's sleep at night, it's important to think about their daytime naps.
Although naps don't have to be perfect and your baby doesn't have to be able to self-settle for them, there are a few things to check.
Questions to ask yourself
Firstly, is there any consistency in your baby's napping schedule?
Secondly, are you making sure your baby doesn't oversleep during the day, which can interfere with their night sleep?
Finally, are your baby's naps supporting their night sleep?
Your baby needs a certain level of sleep drive in the evening that aligns with their homeostatic sleep pressure and biological clock. If these things are out of alignment, your baby may feel off, jet-lagged, and struggle to sleep, resulting in tearfulness and poor sleep quality.
To ensure your baby's sleep needs are being met, you should aim to have them sleep for the majority of their daytime sleep (9am-3pm) with any additional naps being short power naps.
This helps to ensure that your baby is tired enough to sleep well at night, without being over-tired.
A good sleep routine can also help to support your baby's night sleep by ensuring that their naps are timed correctly.
2. Settling to sleep affects sleep consolidation
Look at how your baby settle’s to sleep.
Questions to ask…
Does baby require you every time?
Is your breast your babies sleep association?
Are you rocking to sleep?
When we talk about babies sleeping through the night, we are essentially asking them to be able to consolidate their night sleep. This means they need to be able to put themselves back to sleep when they wake up from a light sleep cycle at night.
To better understand your baby's sleep behavior, think about how you feel when you're rocked to sleep and suddenly wake up after a sleep cycle.
You would likely look for that rocking motion to help you get back to sleep. Similarly, when your baby wakes up, they may cry because they are looking for the same soothing techniques that helped them fall asleep, such as rocking, a dummy, or breastfeeding.
This can often lead to frequent night wakings, which is a common concern for parents. However, the solution is to gently reduce the amount of assistance you provide to your baby when they wake up. Gradually use the dummy less, feed less, rock less, or proactively work on helping your baby learn to self-settle to sleep.
By doing so, you can help your baby develop healthy sleep habits and reduce the frequency of night wakings.
3. Genuine hunger vs habitual hunger
Night feeds can be a confusing aspect of baby sleep. No parent wants to deprive their baby of food if they're genuinely hungry. To determine if your baby needs night feeds, there are three things to consider.
Firstly, reverse cycling may be a factor. This often happens around 3-4 months and quickly becomes a habit. If you notice your baby feeding better at night and being quick or fussy during the day, it may be time to drop a night feed and gradually increase calories during the day to reverse this pattern.
Secondly, check if your baby is hungry for their first feed of the day. If they are not, their night feed may be filling them up and putting them off their breakfast feed. In this case, you can shift the calories from the night feed to the morning feed to ensure that the overall calorie intake remains the same.
Lastly, if your baby is already established on solids and still waking up for more than one feed at night, these feeds are most likely habitual rather than due to hunger. In this case, you can develop a plan to increase daily calorie intake or teach your baby to settle without feeding at night.
Once you determine whether a feed is habitual or genuine hunger, you can develop a plan to help your baby sleep better and ensure they're getting the nutrition they need.
Our online sleep programs include all the night plans you need.
4. Simple fixes like environment matter!
It's amazing how often a one-on-one consultation with me has resulted in a dramatic improvement in night-time sleep simply by making an environmental change. If the room is too hot and stuffy, then your baby will wake up thirsty and uncomfortable. If it's too cold, then they'll need more layers to stay warm. Other factors, such as street lights, noisy neighbors, or roosters, can also disrupt sleep. By ensuring that the sleep environment is optimal, you can eliminate it as a possible cause and focus on other areas that may need improvement.
5. Stop - Pause - Listen - Respond
This is one of those phenomonally small changes which make a big impact on night sleep moving forward.
Scientific studies show that by 12 months there was a stand out variable all babies who are sleeping through the night or sleeping well at night shared. It is the parental response at night and the amount of time spent in their cot.
Translated this means increasing how long you stop, pause and listen for at night, then formulating a response based on your childs needs, not guilt or emotion.
Does your baby need to sleep or feed? Do they need to sleep, or get up and go for a drive?
Often settling and reassuring while keeping your baby in their cot will have you both back to sleep quicker than if we pick up, and pace, and panic because there crying or grizzling.
Remember not all cries are equal, some cries are tired cries, or protest cries, while other cries are hunger or emotional cries.
Stop, pause, listen and respond and you'll get it right.
6. Over tired vs Under tired
Is bedtime early enough or too early?
Getting the balance right is crucial if you want your baby to settle into a deep sleep and stay asleep for a good 4 hours.
It's often necessary to have a bedtime before 7pm until the baby is 1 year old.
Over-tired babies do not sleep well as they produce stress hormones that block their ability to get into a deep sleep.
This leads to unsettledness or wake-ups before 10pm at night.
On the other hand, under-tired babies might cry at bedtime because they simply aren't tired enough, or older toddlers will be bouncing off the sides of the cot, showing no signs of settling down soon. Some babies will wake up for 2-3 hours and create a split night in response to being under-tired at bedtime.
This highlights the importance of ensuring that day sleep supports night sleep. If you get the balance right, night sleep will easily fall into place.
Sleeping through the night is seen as the holy grail of sleep in the parenting community. For some families, this means 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep, while for others, this means perhaps just one feed at night.
Whatever your goal is, make sure it is age-appropriate, and with a plan, you'll be getting the sleep you all need in no time!