My name is Mica. I am a certified sleep consultant and founder of Rested Mama, Happy Baby. I help families on their journey to establish healthy sleep habits and get the whole family sleeping again! The day your child sleeps through the night for the first time...it's the holy grail milestone that parents cannot wait for! Unfortunately, days, weeks, months, and for some families, YEARS will pass by before seeing their child sleep through the night. It has become SO common to see exhausted parents and interrupted sleep for children that people now label it as “normal.”
Using a definition of 6 - 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, this study found that 27.9% to 57.0% of 6 and 12 month old infants did not sleep through the night. However, this same study also mentions that by 4 months old, a child has the ability to self- soothe.
6 Reasons Your Baby is Not Sleeping Through the Night:
1. They are too young:
“Sleeping through the night” is defined differently depending on a baby’s age and weight. Newborns, especially under the age of 12 weeks, still wake due to hunger as they grow. It will be important to understand feeding needs and talk with your pediatrician to see if this might cause multiple wake-ups. If this is the case, you will want to respond to your child with feedings as prescribed and ensure they get as many calories as they need during the day as they transition to wean off-night feeds.
2. They are going through a developmental milestone:
Milestones are extremely exciting, both for us as parents and for babies, so much so that it can cause them to disrupt their sleep patterns and wake up in the middle of the night and stay awake. Think of a time you learned something new or had a project at work where you just had SO many new ideas that you couldn’t shut off your brain. Whether your baby just learned they have hands for the first time or that they can talk or rollover, this becomes a major distraction for them as they try to "figure out" their new skill. Help manage this by encouraging your baby to practice their new skill during wake times, and allow them to “get it out of their system.”
3. Environmental Disturbances:
Environmental disturbances can cause your child to wake, such as lights, noises, and even parental disturbance, usually found in bedsharing. Babies can have very light periods of sleep where outside disturbances can disrupt their ability to connect sleep cycles. Recent studies also show that babies will sleep better in their own space, without additional risk of SIDs. Try to mitigate these disturbances with dark rooms, white noise machines, and providing a space where babies can sleep uninterrupted.
4. Overtired or Undertired:
I know this one is tricky, but it stems from ensuring that your child is getting the RIGHT amount of sleep during the day. I can confidently say that most parents I work with usually have overtired children. Sometimes, they were told that they would make up their sleep at night if their child is exhausted. But, unfortunately, this is not how it works.
Good day sleep leads to good night sleep, and overtired babies are harder to settle and can have difficulty falling into the right sleep rhythms.
Now under tired babies definitely do occur, but I mostly see the issue of under-tiredness during the newborn stage when they are still regulating their nights and days and have someday. Night confusion. Ensuring you have the appropriate wake times for your child’s age will help you mitigate under tiredness or overtiredness.
5. Inconsistent Bedtime/Naptime Routine:
Children thrive off of consistency and structure. The predictability of their day and what happens next actually provides them with a sense of security. Routines (especially for bedtime and naptime) offer communicative cues that it’s time for sleep, which helps them feel safe and know what comes next. There are many benefits for bedtime routines, with studies showing that consistent routines help with sleep quality and length and positively impact maternal mood. If you haven’t already, establish a consistent bedtime routine, no more than 15-30 mins long, in the same order, at around the same time every day. If there is something in your routine you cannot commit to doing 80% of the time, skip it or bring it up earlier in the day.
6. Inability to Self-Soothe:
Having the ability and capacity to self-soothe but actually, self-soothing are two different things. Our children will utilize what they are used to aid them to sleep, so while a 4-month-old has the cognitive growth to self-soothe, they need the opportunity to master the skill. Without it, they cannot fall asleep between sleep cycles at night and will look for the sleep aid that helps them fall asleep at the onset of bedtime. Sometimes children can naturally learn to do this, and sometimes they need some guidance.
The inability to self-soothe is a top reason why a child isn’t sleeping through the night, and the best thing to do is encourage them to learn to self-soothe without any aid that they cannot control themselves.
Our programs offer gentle methods to help your child develop independent sleep skills if you're ready to start setting healthy sleep habits for your baby and get your entire family sleeping again, head on over to Rested Mama, Happy Baby to learn more because a happy mama and dad lead to a happy baby.
Rested Mama, Happy Baby Founder
Pennestri MH, Laganière C, Bouvette-Turcot AA, Pokhvisneva I, Steiner M, Meaney MJ, Gaudreau H; Mavan Research Team. Uninterrupted Infant Sleep, Development, and Maternal Mood. Pediatrics. 2018 Dec;142(6):e20174330.
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