This question can be divided into 3 sections:
- How to initially get my baby to sleep when he doesn’t want to fall asleep
- How to get my baby to sleep for longer?
- How to get my baby to sleep through the night?
1. How to initially get my baby to sleep when he doesn’t want to fall asleep
One of the biggest reasons why babies don’t fall asleep is overtiredness. When a baby is overtired, they work themselves UP instead of DOWN, and then it is very difficult to get your baby to fall asleep (for a nap/bedtime). Then you have a baby who arches backward and just keeps crying. Maximum awake times between naps are very important. If your baby’s maximum awake time is 2 hours, put him down at 2 hours, even if he doesn’t look tired. A lot of babies don’t show tired signs, but when they start showing signs, it’s already too late. See the table below for the maximum awake time between naps for your baby’s age.
Here is a few things you can do to improve “falling asleep”
- Don’t make your baby overtired
- When you are at home, always have his sleep in his cot, in his room
- Your baby’s room must be dark (day and night)
- Have a nap routine:
- Tell your baby it’s nap time
- Walk him to his room
- Change the nappy
- Sleeping bag/swaddle
- In cot AWAKE
- Bedtime routine
- PJ’s (In baby’s room)
- Milk feed + Story
- Sleeping bag/Swaddle
- In cot AWAKE
- Consistency – Have the same routine (Eat, Play, Sleep) every day. If you have the same routine every day, your baby will get familiar with the routine, he will start to recognise the signals and signs and he will know what is expected from him –> SLEEP
2. How to get my baby to sleep for longer:
The one big reason why your baby doesn’t sleep for long periods is that he is unable to resettle back to sleep. We all have a sleep cycle. When we sleep, we go in and out of sleep and even wake up a few times, but because we can resettle back to sleep, we don’t remember waking up in the first place. An adult’s sleep cycle is 90 minutes and a baby’s cycle is 45 minutes. When a baby only sleeps for 45 minutes and is unable to go back to sleep, he catnaps.
Here are a few things you can do to improve “sleeping for longer”
- Get rid of sleep associations like dummies, rocking to sleep, patting to sleep, feeding to sleep, and co-sleeping. When babies rely on sleep association in order to go to sleep, they will need it to resettle back to sleep which will always involve YOU. that’s what you want to change.
- Make your baby’s room very dark during the day. When he wakes between sleep cycles and there is nothing to focus on because it’s too dark, he has a better chance to resettle and go back to sleep. The darkroom will also increase Melatonin levels in the body which will definitely improve sleep.
- Your baby must fall asleep in his cot, NOT in your arms
- Your baby must be AWAKE in his cot when going to sleep, NOT drowsy.
3. How to get my baby to sleep through the night?
One of the biggest reasons why babies don’t sleep through the night is because of sleep associations. Sleep associations are external strategies (like dummies, rocking to sleep, patting to sleep, feeding to sleep, co-sleeping) your baby relies on, in order to go to sleep and/or resettle back to sleep in the middle of the night. When they rely on external strategies to go to sleep and resettle back to sleep, they don’t have an internalised skill. Once you remove the external strategies (sleep associations) and teach your baby an internalised skill (via sleep training), your baby will start sleeping through the night.
Along with the removal of sleep associations, you also need to look at your baby’s day and night routine and sleep environment as discussed before. When you fix all 3 aspects (sleep associations, sleep environment, and routine), you will have a baby who will start sleeping through the night within 7 days.
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I’m Christine, the founder of Happy Sleepers. I am an ICU nurse, Midwife, Qualified Sleep Consultant and I’m a mum of twins. I’ve helped 100’s of babies and parents in the past and now I’m here to help YOU! 🙂