When am I going to get some decent sleep?
I’m sure I am not the only mum to have asked themselves this over and over!
My children do both sleep through the night now (mostly) but to be honest at 6 and 3 years old if they didn’t then I would be in a complete and utter frazzled state!
I have to admit though that they have not been the best sleepers and I never got to be one of those smug mothers who proudly declares that her young child is routinely sleeping soundly through the night at a ridiculously young age.
My two were waking in the night for feeds/milk for much, much longer than the books said they should be and I was exhausted for months and months!
When they were babies we thought we were doing most things right, we had a good bedtime routine which we established very early on and whenever they woke in the night we would keep the lights off and make no eye contact with them but both of them kept on waking in the night for feeds for a lot longer than we had expected – or hoped for and then bad habits started to develop which took a long time to break!
Looking back now, I can see that there were things that we were doing that probably contributed to them both continuing to wake in the night well beyond the age of 6 months (in fact both of them were probably closer to the age of 2 before they were sleeping through the night routinely, how bad is that?!)
So at what age can a baby sleep all night long and go through the night without feeding?
A newborn baby (especially a breast fed one) will need to feed approximately every 3 hrs but by the time they are 3-4 months, the time between night feeds can reach about 5-6 hours, so at this age you would still be expecting to feed them once or twice in the night.
By about four months because most babies have reached 11lbs in weight (which means that metabolically they don’t need a night feed) so at this age you may be able to get your baby to sleep for 7-8 hours.
This is where it probably goes wrong for a lot of parents (it certainly was for me) as often babies will continue to demand a feed even though they don’t actually need it and continue to wake in the night out of habit. If your baby is waking for a feed at 6 months old and is of a normal weight you can be pretty sure that he isn’t waking due to hunger!
There are lots of things that you can do to start encouraging your baby to sleep longer at night and you can start from about 4 months old so hopefully by the age of 6 months you could all be sleeping soundly thorough the night.
Try to have a good bedtime routine established so your baby starts to learn the difference between night and day.
Help your baby learn to settle himself, if he can drift off by himself without being on the breast or the bottle he may be able to settle himself again in the night if he stirs.
You could try a dreamfeed – which basically entails, rousing your baby slightly to give them the breast or bottle before you go to bed. This could get you an extra hour or so if they fill up slightly before you go to sleep.
When you do feed in the night, keep all lights as low as possible, try to avoid too much eye contact and try not to fuss too much over them and do the complete opposite during day time feeds.
Start to shorten their night time feeds, don’t allow them to feed on the breast for quite as long or put less in the bottle. You can keep decreasing the amount they have over a period of time until they become ready to drop the feed all together.
Don’t rush to your baby in the night as soon as they stir, sometimes they will rouse slightly and then settle themselves again without the need for a feed.
If your baby is still sharing your room, you could consider moving them into their own room, having you close by could possibly be a factor that is encouraging continued night time waking and feeding.
I have never been ashamed to admit that my children have not been great sleepers. Once we conquered the night feeds and finally started to get some sleep would you believe that different night time issues began to develop!
My six year old boy became an early morning riser, I have seen 5am far, far too many times and even more annoyingly he appears to wake up as bright as a daisy and rearing to go (and I am NOT a morning person, just ask my Husband!)
My 3 year old girl is more like me, not good in the mornings but she became a little night prowler, managing somehow to always worm her way into mummy and daddy’s bed (sometimes with so much stealth that we wouldn’t even realise she was there until the morning!). (Some topics for future posts there I think!)
So over time I just accepted that my children clearly have no intention of doing things ‘by the book’ and maybe we contributed to this or maybe this is just who my children are, after all we are all individuals and just because the experts say so, or it is written in the parenting book it doesn’t mean that every child is going to conform to the rules does it! God bless the little cherubs, we wouldn’t change them for the world, would we!