Top Tips for Getting Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night
My first two daughters who are 18 months apart, would not sleep through the night until they were around 1 and half to 2 years of age. It was an absolute nightmare. I will admit, I probably enabled this by running to them every time they cried, picking them up and cuddling them and feeding them every 2-3 hours because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do!
I desperately wanted them to sleep through the night, because like most people, I do not cope well when I am tired. I love my sleep! I read a lot of parenting books and tried many different strategies, including trying to thicken their formula so they could last through the night and tried the controlled crying method, but nothing worked.
A few years later when I discovered French Children Don’t Throw Food, by Pamela Druckerman, I was astounded to discover that in France, it is very rare for a baby over 3-4 months of age not to sleep through the night! And that in other countries such as America, the UK and here in Australia, it is accepted as normal and "a part of parenthood" to deal with years of sleepless nights. I think there may be several reasons for this:
- French Parents Observe their Baby and “Pause”
French parents are taught to observe their baby while they are sleeping, rather then just rush in and pick them up when they make a noise. Newborn babies are noisy sleepers and often when they are making noises it is because they are dreaming or moving from one sleep cycle to another. When you are a first-time mother, you may stress out and think that you need to comfort them back to sleep, but babies can actually learn to “self-soothe”.
“One reason for pausing is that young babies make a lot of movements and noise while they’re sleeping. This is normal and fine. If parents rush in and pick the baby up every time he makes a peep, they’ll sometimes wake him up.
Another reason for pausing is that babies wake up between their sleep cycles, which last about two hours. It’s also normal for them to cry a bit when they’re first learning to connect these cycles. If parents automatically interpret this cry as demand for food or a sign of distress, and rush in to soothe the baby, he’ll have a hard time learning to connect the cycles on his own. That is, he’ll need an adult to come in and soothe him back to sleep at the end of each cycle.
This idea isn’t entirely new to me. It sounds familiar from some of my English-language books. But it’s usually mentioned among lots of other advice. I may have tried it once or twice with Bean, but never with particular conviction. No one has ever pointed it out to me as the one crucial thing to do, and to stick with.
Cohen’s singular instruction could solve the mystery of why French parents claim they never let their babies cry for long periods. If they do the Pause in the baby’s first two months, their babies can learn to fall back asleep on their own. That means parents don’t have to resort to ‘crying it out’ later on."
- Pamela Druckerman, French Children Don’t Throw Food
I have also come across this theory in the many baby books I had read, but like Pamela, it wasn’t made obvious as something particularly important to implement. Knowing this with Scarlett, has really made a huge difference in helping me teach Scarlett how to sleep through the night on her own.
- French parents understand the science of sleep. They understand that babies sleep in brief cycles and at the end of those cycles they usually wake up and cry a bit. Once babies learn to connect their sleep cycles on their own, they can sleep through the night.
- They understand that babies are noisy sleepers. So, they observe their baby, rather than rushing in and accidently waking them up.
- The French set the mood for sleep by having bedtime rituals such as giving them a bath, changing them into pyjama’s, singing a lullaby and saying good night.
- They believe that during the day your baby should stay in the daylight, even when they are napping, then at night-time they should sleep in the dark.
- They believe that their baby is a little human being who can understand and learn and grow, so they talk to their baby. If your baby is not sleeping through the night, they suggest you explain that everyone needs a good night’s sleep, that you will wait a couple of minutes before you come to them because you want them to learn to go back to sleep on their own.
- Believe that your baby will ‘do his nights’. “Convey this confidence to your baby (doing so really helps). Believe that if you keep gently and patiently teaching your baby how to sleep well, he will eventually learn – often just when your own sleep-deprivation experiment starts to feel unbearable.”
Inspire Baby Wear’s Top Tips
One of my closest friends was really good at sticking to a routine and getting her daughter to sleep through the night from an early age. When I had Scarlett, she shared with me some of her tips which were actually quite similar to the French style of parenting. Here are our tips that have helped us:
- While I was pregnant, I had a Desire Statement typed out on the notes section on my phone that I would read every morning while I drank my coffee. I wrote that Scarlett was an easy going, well behaved baby and she started sleeping through the night at 6 weeks of age. Whether that was luck or the Law of Attraction or the Law of Deliberate Intention in action, I’ll let you decide. But I am grateful it has worked!
- In the first few weeks when Scarlett was first born, when she would wake in the early hours of the morning, I would get up to make her bottle and noticed that sometimes she would go back to sleep in my arms. When she did this, I would put her back in her bassinet, instead of feeding her, to help stretch out her night-time feeds. Eventually the 2-3am feeds stretched out to 4-5am then 5-6am and now she goes to bed at 8pm and sleeps straight through until 6-7am.
- Also, sometimes in the early hours I would simply walk around the living room until she fell back asleep to help stretch out her feeds.
- During the day I tried to feed her every 4 hours instead of the recommended 2-3 hours. She was putting on weight well, so I didn’t need to feed her more regularly. This way she actually has bigger feeds but less often. I fed my first two daughters every 2-3 hours and found it really hard to stretch them out to 4 hours as they got older. They would drink less milk more often and I felt like I never got a break from it.
- I try to put Scarlett to bed while she is awake, so she can learn to put herself to sleep. From day 1, I would wrap her up, put her dummy in her mouth and explain to her that it’s night-time and she needs to go to sleep now. Sometimes she would fuss, so then I would put my hand on her chest or rock her bassinet and make a “shhhh” sound. Sometimes this worked, sometimes she would get really upset and cry so I would pick her up, rock her for a bit and then put her down again. I would repeat this until she fell asleep. Now at nearly 9 months of age she goes to her cot awake and falls asleep in as little as 3 minutes!
- I only put Scarlett to sleep in her bassinet/cot at night-time. During the day when she has a nap, I usually put her in her pram, swing or little baby couch. I think this really helps her to differentiate between daytime and night-time sleeps.
- Feeding, bathing and putting your baby to bed at the same time every night helps your baby understand that it is time for bed. My friend was really good at this. I try to keep a similar routine with Scarlett, but I have to admit I can be slack sometimes.
- A friend of mine gave me a swaddle blanket and it was an absolute life saver. I loved it so much I bought another one for Scarlett. They are brilliant because they keep your baby feeling safe and secure, but they aren’t able to escape easily like they can in a wrap because the velcro keeps them firmly wrapped up.
Newborn Swaddle Blankets coming to Inspire Baby Wear soon!
Having a newborn that just won’t sleep no matter what you try can be very stressful. If you really are stuck, I highly recommend my lovely friend Leanne who is a certified sleep consultant for newborns and toddlers. She does In-Home Consultations for people in Perth, WA, Australia and does Email Consultations and Phone Consultations for people outside of the Perth metro area. She is available at:
I would love to hear what your best tips are for helping your baby sleep through the night. Please feel free to leave a comment below.
❤️ Paula Cummings,
Inspire Baby Wear