12 hours of uninterrupted sleep… the dream for all parents! Here’s how I got my baby (now toddler) to sleep through the night.
When my daughter Sage was a baby, pretty much until she was 6 months old, she wasn’t a great sleeper. I thought she just didn’t like sleeping! She’s very alert and high energy (like her mama!) and the whole sleep situation was definitely a struggle. However, if you’re also sleep deprived and zombified, I have good news for you. There are things you can do to help your little one to sleep better. Now, making tweaks to her sleep schedule (like transitioning from 2 naps to 1, which we’ve just done) is actually fairly easy because we did this foundational work early on.
So, are you ready for more sleep? Of course you are! Here’s how to get baby to sleep through the night…
Our sleep journey with Sage really began when she hit the four month sleep regression. She actually hit it a little early at about 3.5 months old. We had inadvertently introduced a bunch of bad sleep habits and it took a fair bit of work to teach her how to fall asleep, stay asleep and put herself back to sleep if she woke up. You can check out exactly what Sage’s sleep was like in those first 6 months right here.
This is a really big one that I honestly had no idea about in the early months. Some parents are lucky enough to be able to rock or feed or cuddle their little one to sleep and still have a great sleeper, but that wasn’t the case for us. If we put her in her bed once she was already asleep, she’d wake a couple of hours later startled and unable to go back to sleep on her own. Think about it, if you fell asleep in one place and then woke up somewhere totally different, you’d freak out too!
To prevent this from happening, we started putting her in her bed awake. If she fell asleep while breastfeeding I’d just lightly wipe her face to wake her up and then settle her into her crib. It’s a terrifying thought – waking a sleeping baby – but it helps them be aware of their surroundings and know where they are when they fall asleep.
Bedtime is the same time for us every single day. Obviously, life happens. We’ll occasionally be out at dinner with friends or traveling which throws our routine out a little, but for the most part we aim to get her down between 6:30pm and 7:30pm. Babies thrive on routine and eventually your baby’s body will get used to going to sleep (and staying asleep) at a specific time.
You might think keeping your baby up as much as possible in the day is the secret to a good night’s sleep, but trust me when I say an overtired baby is so much harder to get to sleep! Figuring out what that sweet spot is for your baby will involve a little bit of trial and error, but observing your little one’s behaviour over a few days will give you some clues. Signs that they’re sleepy include…
While you don’t want to keep your little one up too much in the day and cause an overtired baby, you can also go too much in the opposite direction and have them sleeping too much during the day. As much as a four hour nap sounds great – and sometimes if they’re sick or teething they’ll need it – I would recommend capping naps. I know there’s the old saying “never wake a sleeping baby”, but from experience, I don’t believe that. If she sleeps too much one nap, she won’t go down for her second nap and then she’ll be way too tired come bedtime. Or she’ll have too much sleep during the day and be undertired when bedtime rolls around. I recommend figuring out your baby’s ideal wake windows, and fitting naps around that. You also want to make sure their last nap ends early enough that they can have a good amount of awake time before bed where they can have dinner, play and burn off some energy.
Pro tip: If your little one falls asleep in the car, keep an eye on how long they sleep for. Anything over 10 minutes will replace their usual nap, but anything less than 10 minutes won’t interfere with your schedule.
I truly believe a calming environment will help your little one wind down and get ready for bed. Think about yourself. If you watch TV or eat right before bed and the room is light and noisy, you’re going to struggle to get to sleep. We have an evening routine where we lower the lights and keep everything nice and calm in the lead up to bedtime. It allows Sage to start winding down. We’ve also got a few key things that signal to her that it’s time to sleep, such as putting her in her sleep sack, turning on her sound machine, blacking the room out as much as possible and giving her a stuffie (note – do not do this before your baby is one year old). The good thing about having these key signals is you can replicate them if you’re traveling, so your little one will still go to sleep wherever you are.
Pro tip: Make sure your little ones pyjamas are comfortable! My favourites are these ones.
We started reading books with Sage basically when she was born. I know it seems weird to read to a newborn who can barely see in front of them, but it’s good to get in the habit early. Now, Sage loves reading time. It’s a great time to sit and relax without any screens, and it’s also another bedtime cue. I really do feel like it’s a type of meditation for her. We have short, medium and long favourites so that we can pick according to how tired she is.
Pro tip: Make sure you enjoy the books too! You’ll be reading them A LOT, so pick ones that you don’t mind reading over and over again. I look for ones with pretty illustrations and tongue twisters.
We noticed a huge difference when we did this. Sage would often wake up in the night because her diaper was soaked. When we went up a size it just allowed for it to hold more pee so that she wasn’t waking up because of that wet feeling. I originally thought I should be changing her diaper every time she woke up, but soon realized it was disturbing her so much it was far better to only change her if she had done a poop. These are the night diapers we use.
The last meal of the day is so important. Even if you get home late and you feel like you don’t have enough time to fit in a dinner before bedtime, move their bedtime a little bit later. Get in that last meal of the day so that they’re not waking up hungry. It can be something quick and easy. We like no-heat dinners such as avocado, fruit and peanut butter on toast for those days where we’ve got home later than planned.
I mentioned before our evening routine, but in a nutshell here’s what we do when putting Sage to bed…
You may wonder what difference this could actually make, but when I sing something simple like You Are My Sunshine you can just tell she knows it’s the final step before bed. She squeezes her teddy, puts her thumb in her mouth and starts properly relaxing. It’s an easier transition than just finishing up story time and placing her straight in her bed.
Pro tip: Don’t linger after that final step. Once you’ve put your little one down in their bed, leave the room immediately even if they’re fussing a little bit.
When the four month sleep regression hit, we ended up working with a baby sleep consultant (use my coupon code HEALTHNUT50 for $50 off her ‘Your Dream Plan’). She changed the sleep game for us! I was struggling for a good month and a half. Working with Lily helped me to understand the psychology behind baby sleep and what Sage was going through. She also helped us create the perfect routine and schedule for us and our personal family lifestyle. It’s so important to create a schedule that works for you rather than trying to copy someone else’s, and that’s exactly what Lily does.
One of the main things we implemented was gentle sleep training. I didn’t feel comfortable with letting Sage cry it out, so Lily helped us come up with a gentler plan which included teaching Sage how to self soothe and put herself back to sleep. Be sure to follow Lily for top sleep tips!
So that’s it, how to get baby to sleep through the night! I’m so proud of Sage (and us) for getting to the point where she’s an amazing sleeper. If you’re struggling right now, know that good sleep IS around the corner. At the end of the day the best sleep routine is the one that everyone gets sleep. So don’t feel judged if that means everything opposite of what I mentioned in this post or if co sleeping or bedsharing is the only way and you love it, do it. Hang in there mama, you got this!
Do you have any top tips for how to get baby to sleep through the night? Leave a comment below to help out other moms!