As most new parents will tell you, it is perfectly common for new babies to wake up during the night- sometimes several times. While this can be frustrating to the sleep-deprived family just getting adjusted to the idea of having an infant, it's also normal. But it does help to know that at some point in the future, this behavior will stop. Your baby will eventually sleep through the night. Knowing when and how to speed the process along will assist you immensely in coping with the nighttime hours in the meantime.
Typical sleeping schedules
The key to how long a baby will sleep lies in how often they need to be fed. While a newborn may wake up for feeding every few hours, a six-month old will probably sleep for about six hours before he or she is hungry again. Generally, most babies sleep through the night before they hit the age of one year old.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. If your baby is over one year old and is still not sleeping through the night, don't get upset- this happens to a certain percentage of children, and it's not abnormal. What it does mean is that you may have to step in with a few techniques to help make the child more comfortable and to ensure yourself a good night's rest.
Helping your baby to sleep through the night
Many of the tips for helping your baby to sleep through the night are similar to those given when older children or even adults have insomnia. The important thing is not to stress out and to develop a bedtime routine that works for both you and your child.
It's important to regulate the child's feeding time according to when you want them to fall asleep and when you want them to wake up. Since most babies wake up due to hunger, you should consider putting them to bed early, then waking them up a few hours later for an extra feeding in order to help them sleep through the night. For example, if your three-month old baby wakes up hungry every few hours, feed them around 8 pm and then put them to bed. Stay up yourself if you have activities to do (or catch a short nap and set an alarm). Wake the baby up for a feeding at 11 pm or midnight, and they should sleep into the morning with fewer disturbances.
As your child gets older, he or she will be more prone to spurts of energy and playful behavior. That's why it's important with babies over six months of age to do quiet activities before bedtime. Read to the child, or listen to music quietly together during preparations for bed. The baby will learn to associate this calming-down practice with sleep, and should have a much more peaceful night.
Another important step in getting your child to sleep through the night is to set a consistent schedule. Babies should be put to bed at the same time each evening and woken up at the same time each morning to avoid confusing their systems and to ensure that they are tired at the right times every day.
What to do when a baby cries at night
If your baby is waking himself up crying at night, your first step is to investigate and see whether there's a certain issue causing the problem. A baby will sometimes cry for no reason, but often there is something such as a noise, a temperature change, or a discomfort that is causing the tears. Check for lights and sounds that may be disturbing the baby. Also make sure that he or she doesn't need a diaper change or a feeding, or that the room is not too hot or too cold. If the baby seems particularly fussy, check for a temperature or other signs of illness or physical discomfort.
It's important to respond to a crying baby early if you're expecting them to fall back asleep; the longer you let the child cry, the more disturbed their sleep is going to be. If, on the other hand, the child is crying for no discernible reason, you may have to make the decision to let him "cry himself to sleep." Most parents are uncomfortable with this, and it can help to set a timer for five to ten minutes so that you can go into the baby's room if they have not stopped crying by the time it goes off.
Getting your child to sleep through the night can be stressful for new parents and experienced ones alike. But with a little patience and the right techniques, you shouldn't have to worry; it's a natural process that will work itself out in the end.