Babies from 0-3 months of age
Night time disruptions are a part of parenthood. Fact. But if there are ongoing problems, it can make it hard for your tiny human and you to get the rest required to solve the issues. For example, if your baby has been rocked to sleep and held a lot for the first few months of its life, and this changes, it can be a crude awakening - literally. Babies get used to being put to sleep in your arms, and they resist sleep when it comes to changing this and transitioning.
Problem: it can look like restless, unsettled fussing when your tiny human is laid down to sleep because they feel more secure when sleeping on their stomachs, which isn't ideal due to potential health risks. Therefore, experts recommend laying babies on their backs, keeping the issue persisting.
Solution: Try swaddling your baby so it feels safe, secure, and cocooned. If you're open to it, a pacifier can be well received by your baby, meaning bonus sleep is up for grabs. It's another 'give it time' game, and let's hope swiftly, your baby will get used to sleeping on its back.
Confusion about whether it’s day or night
Problem: we've all experienced that mix-up of day and night when we’ve traveled long haul, right? Sometimes your baby can end up sleeping all day and awake all night. Not ideal for anyone involved.
Solution: limit daytime naps to three hours so your baby realizes the distinction between the two, which can be a little jarring after nine months in the womb, sleeping and partying on their own terms. Also, avoid artificial light, and the TV during night feeds will serve you well!
Not being full-up enough
Problem: most 2-3 month-old babies need their tummies filled up once or twice at night, which can be even more prevalent for breastfed babies. If they're not full up, they could wake up more often.
Solution: it could be an idea to track how many feeds your baby has at night and talk to your medical practitioner about it before reducing overnight feeds because you want to ensure your child has enough during the day.
Ultimately, we encourage all parents, whether for the first time or not, to seek medical support and advice if their intuition and experience suggest more significant issues at play. Never feel like you can seek help or guidance - you are 100% allowed to ask.
Babies from 3-6 months of age
Between 3-6 months old, babies begin to sleep through the night and sleep for more extended periods, but this is also the time when sleep regression can start. It is perfectly normal and can happen a few more times before your baby's first birthday.
Problem: at four months old, your child is beginning to become more aware and engaged with the world around them. You'll likely start to notice sleeping patterns tipping a little off balance - like not going to sleep or waking up a lot more often.
Solution: this is a prime time to set up a solid routine for your child - a warm bath, comforting feed, lullabies, dimmed light, and cuddles to set them up for bedtime. Give space for your child to adjust to this new phase of development, and sleep patterns should follow close behind. Bear in mind that a baby without sleep during the day will likely be overtired and find it harder to settle and sleep at night.
Shifts in nap routines
Problem: as babies grow older, their nap routine changes. Some babies adjust swiftly, and it doesn't impact their nighttime sleep and nap routine. However, some tiny humans nap less often and can get cranky and have trouble sleeping at night.
Solution: a great way to ease them into naptime is, you guessed it, a routine beforehand. Perhaps you can play some soft and gentle music, read a story, or do a delicate baby massage to set them up for what's coming. Sleep!
Change up their bedtime routine
Problem: when your child reaches six months old, sleep patterns have likely changed and balanced out, with your baby sleeping approximately 10 hours at night with a couple of naps a day, and by nine months, even longer! However, there can be interruptions, such as not being able to fall asleep independently. This is typically when some parents opt for sleep training/teaching, but it's not necessary; it's a personal choice that you get to make.
Solution: a little shake-up to the bedtime routine can work wonders. For example, the last feed before bed can happen approximately 30 minutes before bedtime or a nap which will help your child get sleepy - this is prime time to place them in their cot. It's around this age when they learn to soothe themselves, perhaps there’s some crying and unhappiness, but we encourage you to stick with it. You could bring in a pacifier if you use one, but your baby will settle and drift off to sleep peacefully with a bit of perseverance.
Allow your baby to cry
Problem: this is somewhat of a controversial topic, and there are debates about whether it is good or not to let babies cry themselves to sleep. Recent research by the University of Warwick suggests it does not adversely affect their behavior development or attachment.
Solution: while leaving your tiny human to cry can be challenging and pull very firmly at your heartstrings, especially when they are smaller, it can work because, by six months old, babies are aware that crying tends to result in being picked up, fed, or rocked. Still, once they realize that mom and dad aren't buying that one, they nine times out of ten stop crying and choose to rest after approximately four nights. This is, of course, personal preference.
Babies from 6-12 months of age
Help them sleep longer
Problem: now your baby sleeps through the night around 6-months old, and you're doing life with ease and grace, the chances are you'd love a little sleep-in to boot!
Solution: you can employ a few tactics to ensure they're not up at the crack of dawn, like adjusting nap schedules and experimenting with different bedtimes. You can also improve their bedroom setting by making it more light and soundproof so as not to disturb them, so they sleep longer.
Problem: when the telltale signs of drooling, irritability, chomping, and fussing at feeding time start, this means teething has begun, and it could also interfere with sleep.
Solution: as we focus on rest and ensuring routine and harmony lead, try to avoid picking your child up. Instead, soothe them with a teething ring, a solution to apply on their gums, or a gentle stroke of their head as you settle them back to sleep.
Problem: Sleep disruptions can happen due to a change of environment or routine, an illness such as a chesty cough, growth spurts, or the room's temperature. Perhaps you’ve been on your first family vacation, and they’ve gotten used to sleeping in their travel cot, and now you’re back home, and it’s all new again.
Solution: Try to get back into your usual rhythm so your baby can resume its regular routine. It might take a few days, so go easy on yourself and your co-pilot during these times.
Signs of overtiredness
Problem: many parents have learned that overtired children don't like sleep even though it's the one thing that will do them good. When you spot signs of sleepiness, that's your cue - rubbing of eyes, yawning, nodding off while eating their last bites.
Solution: as much as possible, avoid putting your baby down to sleep when they've tipped over the edge - so you don't also. It's also essential to keep a mental log of how much sleep your baby has and needs. If they wake up earlier than expected from their last naptime, it might be an idea to put them to bed a little earlier to avoid overtiredness. Vice versa, if the night is restless, increase the nap time.
Those early days and months of newborn life can be tricky; trust your intuition and that your baby is more than likely on the right track regarding the amount of sleep they need.