Before we answer the question of why your baby isn’t sleeping through the night, it’s important to determine if your baby is developmental READY to sleep through the night!
Depending on who you talk to, you’ll get lots of different opinions. Over the past five years, many pediatricians I’ve worked with have had a general guideline for starting sleeping training and helping a baby sleep through the night:
- when baby is 4-6 months old
- has at least doubled birth-weight and is 14 pounds or more
- when baby is gaining weight and hasn’t gone down in the percentile
- is healthy (ie, doesn’t have any unresolved issues like reflux)
Whether you’ll be giving up all or some of the night feeds during sleep training is case-by-case, including baby’s weight, pediatrician recommendation, etc.
There are books and doctors that say you can start earlier (although I think that’s crazy – I’m very conservative when it comes to starting sleep training) and some pediatricians will say 9-12 months (personally I think that’s too long to wait if you’re ready to start sooner – the longer babies have to reinforce bad sleep habits, the harder it is to create healthy sleep habits).
SO, we’ve determined that your baby is developmentally ready to sleep through the night…so why isn’t she???
These are the 3 biggest culprits:
Does your baby need you to rock/feed/bounce her to sleep? Will she only sleep while in motion in the car, stroller or swing?
I’ve thought about sleep props a lot over the past several years…and why parents (including myself way back when) are so reluctant to stop using them. I understand when you’re in that survival mode, you’re only thinking about how to get baby to sleep at that moment, so you’re not necessarily thinking how it’ll affect sleep tomorrow, next week, in a few months…
Just remember that a baby who’s dependent on one or several sleep props won’t wake up one day and say, “I’m good today, I think I’ll try to fall asleep on my own without you rocking me to sleep!” It’s something you need to nudge them to do!
Putting baby in the crib awake is key so she can go from Point A awake to Point B asleep on her own without you “carrying” her 50, 70, 100% of the way!
Remember that if your baby is put to sleep by rocking to sleep, every wakeup in the middle of the night will require you to recreate how she originally fell asleep. And the night wakings will usually increase in frequency or duration as the night goes on!
If a baby is going to bed overtired, I can almost guarantee you’ll have a baby on your hands that has a harder time falling asleep at bedtime, waking up more frequently at night and/or waking earlier in the morning.
Overtiredness is the enemy of great sleep! Make sure you’re watching for tired signs and putting her down before overtiredness sets in.
I see this scenario a lot: mom hits rock bottom with exhaustion and decides to start sleep training Friday. But it hasn’t been thought through well enough. She forgot that they have a baby shower that Sunday that she’ll be taking the baby to all day. They have a trip the following weekend. She’ll be working crazy hours and needing to have baby at daycare more hours than usual. Or some combination of activity.
When you decide to help your baby start sleeping through the night you first want to clear your schedule for two weeks. If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right, and this is no exception. The more you can make this process a priority, the easier it will be for you and your baby! There are so many situations with daycare, multiple caregivers, busy schedules, etc and that’s something I help parents create a game plan for.
The other scenario I see is that the spouse is kind of on board. Grandma – who is a part time caregiver – doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with rocking baby to sleep for each nap and just holding her for a few hours so she gets a nice long nap. The nanny is unpredictable in following your directions. You have the best intentions, but at 3am, your resolve has disappeared.
Consistency of each caregiver is also important. It sends a very confusing message if rules change based on person or time of day. Children learn with repetition and this is no different. When you can be consistent with whatever method is right for your baby (remember CIO is the very last method to try with a baby – there are more gentle approaches that I always prefer), your baby will learn how to sleep through the night faster!
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