If you’re reading this in the early morning while trying to rock your baby back to sleep, then parents: we stand with you. We’ve all been there, trying to figure out when our restless munchkins will let us catch a few more Z’s. Or even figure out why this baby is such a different sleeper than their siblings were.
While you can’t predict the exact timing of when your baby’s schedule will normalize, it can be helpful to get a sense of how long most babies sleep, why they wake up, and how to help them.
Your baby’s sleep patterns will change dramatically in their first year of life.
It is normal for babies to wake up at night. Eventually they should be able to go back to sleep on their own. If your little one is up frequently, there are a few common reasons why.
If your little one seems to wake up more than expected as they should be aging out of nighttime disruptions, there are a few things you can try to help your baby sleep longer.
Consistent cues such as a warm bath, singing lullabies, or a gentle massage before bed can help signal that it’s time to sleep. A swaddle is a great part of a nighttime ritual to help prepare your baby for bed and feel secure and comfortable. And when your baby is transitioning from a swaddle, a Magic Sleepsuit helps maintain that familiar feeling of support and also muffle startles that wake babies during the night.
Stick to the standard ABC’s of sleep recommended by experts—babies should sleep (A) alone, on their (B) back, and in a (C) crib. Excessive decorations can cause distractions, and loose bedding or objects inside the crib are unsafe. Make sure the temperature of the room is not too hot or too cold. Experts recommend between 68 and 72 degrees as the ideal temperature.
If your child is still wanting to feed at night beyond 5–6 months, talk to your pediatrician about how to wean them gradually. You might increase time between night feedings or feed for shorter periods at night. Make sure your baby is feeding plenty during the day so they have a full tummy at night.
Rather than rushing in immediately when your baby wakes up, allow them the opportunity to self-soothe. If you decide to sleep train, you might let them cry it out or wait a little longer before going to respond. Then, offer a gentle pat and few soothing words, but don’t linger.
Even when doing all you can, your baby has a personality of their own. Some babies are naturally better sleepers than others. If they keep waking up at night despite your best efforts, be patient. Most often, babies’ nighttime tears will lessen with age and you’ll gradually start to see a difference. If you have any concerns about your baby’s sleep, talk to your pediatrician.
Importantly, take care of yourself! You’re the best parent you can be when you’re well-rested, and so if your infant’s frequent wake-ups are leaving you constantly groggy, reach out to a partner, relative, or fellow parent for support. They can help you get a good nap, as well as provide some reassurance that your restless infant won’t be in this stage forever.