Why won’t my baby sleep? The question you’ll find every new parent asking – so don’t worry you’re not alone! Just after you’ve finally mastered the bedtime routine, your little one decides to throw you a curve ball – the dreaded night-time waking! Whilst getting your child to sleep is one task, don’t forget the part where they sleep all through the night too. According to your baby, 3am is the perfect time for a party, and mummy and daddy are top of the guest list. Or maybe night-time parties have always been a thing and you’re getting desperate for some well-deserved shut-eye?
Here comes the eternal question – how to get a baby to sleep? Sadly, there isn’t a magic cure. We understand it can feel like mission impossible sometimes, but you shouldn’t feel bad if you haven’t quite cracked it – there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Thankfully, we have some great top tips to help at least set the stage for a dreamy night’s sleep.
How much should a baby sleep?
Just like us, little ones sleeping patterns tend to vary. From birth, some babes will need more or less sleep than others. Below, we’ll breakdown the average amount of sleep babies need over the period of a day according to the NHS (including daytime naps):
Most teeny tinies spend more of their time snoozing than being awake. Their total daily sleep will differ, but it can be anything from 8 hours to 16/18 hours. Little ones will of course wake up during the night because they’ll need to be fed. As well as this, being too hot or too cold can also spoil their peaceful slumber.
3 to 6 months old
As your cherub grows, they won’t need as many night feeds and will be able to snooze away for longer. Some little ones will be able to sleep for 8 hours or longer at night – but it’s important to remember that this doesn’t apply to all. By 4 months old, your baby spends around twice as long sleeping at night as they do throughout the day.
6 to 12 months old
Good news for parents – shut-eye may be around the corner for you now! For bubs between 6 to 12 months old, night feeds may no longer be needed, and some will sleep for up to 12 hours at night. Although, be wary that at this point teething discomfort or hunger may wake some little ones during the night.
You can expect your sweetheart to snooze for around about 12 to 15 hours once their first birthday passes.
It’s important to remember that your sweetheart will experience developmental changes during this time which can cause sleep regression. Whilst it doesn’t happen at exact ages, typically they can occur around about 4 months, 9 months and 18 months old. If you want to get clued up on everything there is to know about sleep regression, you can read our blog where we cover everything you need to know about sleep regression.
Top tips for getting your baby to sleep
In the first few months of your angel getting to know the world, their social, emotional and intellectual skills slowly mature. During this time, new experiences can cause your little one to create new things to worry about, be conscious of, think about and be afraid of. Whilst some stylish sleeping furniture can go a long way, nothing will be as comforting as mummy and daddy during these changes. However, you also need to rest! So, we’re going to breakdown what you can do, to help your bub get some ZZZ, and stay snoozing.
Getting your newborn to sleep
- Learn the cues
Similar to how your little one will start to take cues from their bedtime routine, you can also learn to take cues from them. As newborns don’t follow a set schedule, knowing their signs of sleepiness is essential. It’s important to look out for overtiredness too as it’ll take your cherub much longer to doze off if they’re overfatigued. Some common cues that your baby is sleepy include yawning, rubbing their eyes or head, being fussy and not holding your gaze.
- Create a nappy changing strategy
Many parents will change their child’s nappy post-feed to keep timings between nappy changes short. But listen up mummies and daddies – pre-feed changes can actually work better when trying to get babies to snooze. Changing post-feed can cause them to become alert right before bedtime, whereas if they’re already changed, they can fall into a peaceful slumber a lot sooner.
Getting your newborn to stay asleep
Swaddling is one of the most tried and tested techniques for getting your newborn to doze off. Teeny tinies have a surprise reflex which can make them feel like they’re falling – this is what of course wakes them up. Swaddling helps stops this by preventing little ones from flapping their teeny tiny arms or legs about. All of the benefits of swaddling can help your bub go back to sleep and stay asleep. From around 4 to 5 months old, babies become little adventurers who may be able to free their arms from their swaddle. At this point – it’s time to stop swaddling.
Don’t underestimate the power of milk! The dreamfeed is the feed given to your sweetheart right before you go to bed, and it helps prevent them from waking up lots during the night. If your baby is still waking up throughout the night to feed, it could mean they’re not getting enough milk during the day. You can use the dreamfeed technique until your cherub gets to about 4 months old. After that, this method can start to disturb their snoozing and create even more night-time waking.
Getting your baby to sleep
- Master the three B’s
The four B’s you need to nail are – bath time, baby massage and bedtime song. A consistent bedtime routine can work wonders. The order is up to you, but it usually entails a soothing bath, a relaxing baby massage and then a bedtime song for sweet dreams.
Bath time is an essential part of the bedtime routine. Not only does it give you a chance to give your mucky monster a good wash, but the warm water helps relax them and let them know bedtime is just around the corner. Learn more about creating the perfect bath time routine for your cherub.
Massaging your bub after their bath is a great way to get them relaxed and ready for a dreamy night’s sleep. It also gives you a chance to spend some sweet bonding time with your little one. Make sure you buy vegetable-based massage oils which are free from mineral oils, perfume and colours.
Parents get ready to warm up your vocal chords! Although, if you don’t fancy actually singing you may want to create a bedtime playlist of classical songs or lullabies to help your babe unwind. If you’re feeling brave, try singing softly to your baby, perhaps as you give them their bedtime feed. Not only will this soothe your little one, but the music will prepare them and let them know it’s time for snoozing.
- White noise
If your bub is a light sleeper – going to the toilet in the middle of the night can feel like an SAS operation. Introducing white noise creates a gentle hum which will mask any other noises that may stir or wake your little one. There are white noise apps you can install on your phone, or you can buy special white noise toys for the nursery.
- Dim the lights
If your baby sees light, it signals daytime to them. Therefore, blocking out the sun will help them to fall into a peaceful slumber, so we recommend shutting out as much light as possible. Yes – this even includes the night light! Your brave babe isn’t likely to fear the dark until they’re at least 18 months old. If your bub is a night-time nurser, prop on a dimmer switch to a lamp and turn it on and off slowly for night-time feeds.
Getting your baby to stay asleep
Some babes learn how to fall back asleep on their own, whilst others may need a little nudge with the help of sleep training methods – this could happen at any age past 4 months. There are many different sleep training tactics, however, we encourage parents to resist the temptation to pick your cutie up to soothe them. Your bub needs to fall asleep on their own, in their crib, not to be rocked to sleep and then popped into their crib. Give your little one some time to settle down first, don’t immediately rush to the rescue, and try not to pick them up.
Once your babe has learned to self-settle, if they wake in the night, they’re more likely to be able to send themselves back to sleep. To help your cherub learn to self-settle, try putting them to bed sleepy and drowsy but not fully asleep, allowing them to drift off on their own.
Once your not-so-little one reaches about 6 or 7 months old, they may begin to develop separation anxiety. This is essentially baby-FOMO (fear of missing out) – your bub will wake up during the night and realise mummy’s not there, and they’ll desperately crave your company!
Welcome a security object into your baby’s life like a soft toy or blanket to help them feel safe and sound if they wake up during the night. Keeping the comforter near you before giving it to your little one will mean it will smell of you. Naturally, this will help relax and comfort your cherub. Remember – only introduce a comforter after your bub turns 6 months old!
See, there’s no need to fret over questions like why won’t my baby sleep and how to get a baby to sleep – it’s all perfectly normal! And thankfully, there are lots of ways to get your little one to snooze and stay snoozing. Remember – every baby different and what works for one may not work for another. Being firm with your decisions is key – stick to your guns and don’t jump ship immediately if your babe isn’t taking to your chosen tactic. It’s worth trying a few tactics first before you throw the towel in. Before you know it, you’ll have mastered most of them! Although, it’s worth reminding you to also enjoy sleepy cuddles whilst they’re available – babies grow far too fast and your interrupted nights won’t last forever!