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If babies need more sleep during the first few months than at any other age then why do we see so many new mama’s pulling their hair out with tiredness? If you’ve been there yourself – or know someone going through the same thing thing – then you will know that the only question on these new mom’s lips is the age old one: when will my baby sleep through the night?
Sleeping ‘through the night’ usually means sleeping for eight to twelve hours without waking for a feed. Although it’s not that common, some babies will start sleeping through the night from only eight or nine weeks old. If you did get a baby like that then consider yourself one of the lucky ones! At around four months most babies will start sleeping for around five hours, usually waking for a feed before dozing back off for another few hours. However when it comes to getting that full ‘through the night’ snooze you so desperately long for the National Sleep Foundation reckons that about 70% will be doing so by nine months. But as we all know, nine months can be a long time for any shattered mother. Feeling so sapped of energy and constantly tired can make it hard to function and make you much more prone to depression. So is there anything you can do?
Babies don’t know that night is for sleep and that day is for being awake and so it takes time for them to adapt to this routine. Time spent in daylight, especially in the afternoon, seems to help babies to sleep longer at night. During the early months many babies need some help to soothe themselves in order to fall asleep. Wait till they are sleepy (but awake) to place them in their cot at bedtime. Research has shown that this encourages little one’s to sleep on their own for longer periods of time. Start a regular bath and bed routine from as early as you can and when your baby does wake during the night, keep noise and light to a minimum. Some moms swear by ‘dream feeding’, semi-waking their baby for a feed between 10pm and midnight. You should try to make daytime feeds social and lively affairs and night time feeds calm and quiet. This might help your little one differentiate between day and night. You could also try using an object like a baby blanket or a soft toy as a comforter. Keep it near you so it starts to take on your scent then use it to soothe your baby when they wake.
The question of ‘when’ your baby will sleep through the night is a tough one as all babies are different. Some sleep more than others. Some for long periods, others in short bursts. Your baby will have their own pattern and it is unlikely that it will slot in nicely with your own! So remember that a lack of sleep and feeling drained is normal and that many mothers are going through the same thing. Generally during the first few months most babies will still need to wake for night feeds although this should lessen the nearer they get to the six month mark. After that night feeds are not usually necessary and it is common for babies to start sleeping through at this point – but not always so don’t panic if your little one is still waking. If you are still having problems by the time your child reaches a year then it might be time to start looking into other approaches.
As a last resort, many exhausted parents will turn to sleep training as they are so desperate, usually by practising controlled crying or using the ‘cry it out’ method. This is considered a controversial approach by many and most professionals insist it is only necessary if you have exhausted every other avenue. If you do feel you have no other choice then research sleep training properly before you practise it and try not to even consider it until your baby is at the very least six months old.