What should I do if my baby can’t sleep through the night?

When your child wakes up a lot and doesn’t seem to be able to sleep through the night, it can be exhausting, both literally and figuratively. Sleeping structurally and unintentionally more than you want (and need) is a common problem among young parents. Many parents start to doubt themselves and/or their child. Rest assured: that’s not necessary! In this blog you will find practical tips to help your child sleep better at night.

Realistic expectations about sleeping through

First of all, it is important to have realistic expectations about your child’s ability to sleep through the night. In this article, “sleeping through” means when a child is able to sleep for 7-8 hours in a row, without depending on help from the parents. Sleeping through does not mean that a child sleeps non-stop. Like adults, it is normal for a child to wake up several times during the night. For example, at the end of a sleep cycle or due to environmental factors such as noise.

For one child, sleeping through seems to come naturally, while another child may need more guidance in this regard. A newborn baby usually needs several night feeds and expecting a newborn baby to sleep through is not always realistic. Whether a baby is able to sleep through depends on several factors. Things such as health, weight and the ability to fall asleep independently usually play important roles.

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Also read: What’s the ideal bedtime for my baby?

Night mirrors the day

What many parents don’t realize is that the night mirrors the day. If a child mainly sleeps during the day, chances are they will be awake at night. At the same time, we also see that when a baby does not sleep at all during the day, they will be so overtired that it interferes with sleeping at night. What can be enormously helpful is, as a parent, to be aware that you are helping a baby develop a day and night rhythm. You can do this by waking your baby up around the same time each day and by providing the right balance in the amount of sleep during the day. Making sure your child feeds enough during the day, more than during the night, as that is also something that contributes to a day/night rhythm. As does more interaction during the day than in the evening and at night.

Work on falling asleep independently

An underestimated but essential part of sleeping through and getting more hours of consecutive sleep is learning to fall asleep independently. Some babies master this skill right after birth, but most babies have yet to learn how to fall asleep on their own. In this article, with falling asleep independently I mean: the ability to go from awake state to falling asleep on their own, without help from a parent, and falling back to sleep on their own after waking up (briefly) (due to a noise, coughing).

Some children can fall asleep on their own but are still used to getting help when they wake up later on. When they depend on parental help, it seems (or they think) that they need that help to fall asleep again. This creates a vicious cycle. This is not a bad thing, but it does explain why a child does not want to sleep through the night. Working on falling asleep independently (again) is essential.

This article was written by Myrthe Stapper from Slaaptipsvoorbabys.nl. Slaaptipsvoorbabys provides information about the sleep behavior of babies and toddlers with the aim of creating more (night) rest. 

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