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How to Get Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night: The First Year

How to Get Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night: The First Year

As a new mom or dad, your dream is to help your sweet little baby sleep through the night. This goal may feel unattainable during the first year but don't give up hope. You can take several actions to help your little bub (and you) get a peaceful night's rest. Keep reading to learn how to get your baby to sleep through the night.

What Does "Sleeping Through the Night" Really Mean?

Uninterrupted sleep sounds amazing, doesn't it? Sleeping through the night means your baby sleeps continuously without rousing from slumber.

When your little love is under 12 months old, their capacity for sleeping through the night is usually a stretch of six to eight hours. It's a little short of that full eight hours you need, but this amount of sleep is quite an achievement—and quite extensive when you compare it to sleep cycles in the newborn stage. 

When Do Babies Start Sleeping Through the Night?

The timeline for when babies start sleeping through the night varies greatly. Just like other milestones, your little one will sleep through the night when they're ready and able. 

Some babies might achieve this milestone as early as three or four months, while others may take longer. By around six months, many babies are capable of longer stretches of sleep, but remember, every baby is different, and there's no one-size-fits-all timeline.

Baby sleeping

How Do I Get My Baby to Sleep at Night Without a Feeding?

Transitioning your baby to sleep through the night without a feeding involves patience, consistency, and understanding. 

Here are some gentle strategies that you can try to help encourage longer stretches of sleep:

  • Make sure they're eating enough during the day. Your little one may wake through the night if they're not consuming enough during waking hours. Offer frequent and full feedings throughout the day to help reduce nighttime hunger.

  • Gradually reduce nighttime feedings. If your little bub is accustomed to feeding at night, incrementally reduce the duration and frequency of these feedings. You can start by slowly decreasing the time you spend feeding your baby during nighttime wake-ups.

  • Comfort your little bub without feeding them. When your baby cries out at night, try comforting them with other soothing techniques, such as gentle rocking, patting, or singing, to help them settle back down and drift off.

  • Swaddle them just right. Swaddling can provide a sense of security for newborns and help them sleep more soundly by preventing the startle reflex. Use a lightweight, breathable swaddle blanket or swaddle sleep bag to wrap your baby snugly, ensuring their hips and legs have room to move naturally. As your baby grows and becomes more mobile, transition to other sleepwear options, such as a sleep bag or sleep suit. (Read more about how many sleep sacks your baby needs.)

  • Put them to bed in healthy, snuggly soft fabrics. Your baby sleeps better when they're wearing sleepwear made of buttery-soft, healthy fabrics (this applies to crib bedding too!). Opt for breathable fabrics like cotton or bamboo to help regulate body temperature and prevent overheating. Ensure your little love is not overdressed or underdressed for sleep to promote comfortable and safe rest. (Learn how to dress a baby for sleep.)

  • Establish a bedtime routine and be consistent with sleep cues: Create a calming bedtime routine that signals it's time to sleep. Consistency is key here, so follow the same sequence of activities each night to help your baby associate these cues with bedtime. (Find out if your baby needs a bedtime routine.)
  • Encourage self-soothing: Help your baby develop self-soothing skills by allowing them time to settle back to sleep on their own if they wake up at night. This might involve giving them a few minutes to fuss or babble before intervening.

  • Create an environment for sleep: Ensure your baby's sleep environment is conducive to restful sleep. Keep the room dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature (20–22 degrees Celsius or 68–72 degrees Fahrenheit). 

The suggestions above may help your little one extend their sleep window or even sleep through the night. Try to introduce only a few changes at a time. Be patient and consistent; it takes time for babies to adjust to changes in their sleep routine. And remember, every baby is unique. What works for one may not work for another. 

If you have concerns about your baby's sleep patterns or development, reach out to your pediatrician for personalized guidance and support.

At What Ages Do Sleep Regressions Typically Occur?

Sleep regressions are like little speed bumps on the road to peaceful nights, lasting anywhere from two to six weeks. They often coincide with developmental leaps and can occur in the first year, typically around four, six, eight, and 12 months. 

However, don't take these baby sleep regression ages at face value. Your little bubs may experience them sooner or later than expected, have an extra regression, or skip over a regression entirely. Remember: These phases are temporary disruptions. Remain consistent and patient, and your little baby will be back to better sleep soon. 

Why Is My Baby Fighting Sleep?

Babies often resist sleep for various reasons rooted in their development and environment. These can include discomfort, overstimulation, separation anxiety, or simply being overtired. 

Every day is a new and exciting adventure for your little bub. As babies grow and reach new milestones, such as rolling over or learning to crawl, they may become more interested in exploring their surroundings, making it challenging to settle down for sleep. 

Why Is My 3–6 Month-Old Baby Fighting Sleep?

During this stage, babies often fight sleep due to a combination of factors related to their rapid developmental changes (you've seen how much they've grown in a few short months!). 

At this stage, infants become more aware of their surroundings and may experience separation anxiety when transitioning to sleep. They may resist bedtime due to overstimulation from the day's activities or discomfort from teething pain or digestive issues. Additionally, their evolving sleep patterns, including the onset of more structured sleep cycles, can lead to confusion and difficulty settling down. 

Why Is My 6–12 Month-Old Baby Fighting Sleep?

Teething discomfort can intensify between six to 12 months, leading to increased fussiness and difficulty settling down. Separation anxiety may also peak, causing babies to seek additional comfort and reassurance when it's time to sleep. 

Babies in this age group are also on the go. Their newfound mobility makes them want to explore more and it can be challenging for babies to wind down for sleep. Additionally, as their cognitive and social skills continue to develop, babies may become more alert and engaged, making it harder for them to go from playtime to bedtime.

What Is the Normal Sleep Time for a Baby?

Understanding your baby's sleep needs is crucial for promoting healthy sleep habits. On average, newborns sleep 14–17 hours in 24 hours. This gradually decreases to 12–15 hours between four and 12 months old. 

These numbers are average, but you know your baby best. Some babies sleep more or less than what's typical for their age group. If you are ever concerned about how much sleep your baby gets, speak with a health nurse, pediatrician, or other medical professional.

How to Put My Baby to Sleep for the Rest of the Night?

Two components lead to tranquil nights for you and your baby: a sleep schedule and a bedtime routine. Bedtime rituals signal that it's time to wind down and prepare for drifting off to dreamland. A schedule sets your little one up for consistent and predictable sleeping patterns (barring moments of sleep regressions). 

These complementary guides contribute to healthy sleep habits, so when your little one gets to a place where you put them down for bed, they will hopefully snooze for up to eight hours.

7 Ways to Create the Ideal Baby Sleep Schedule

In general, there are seven things you can do to help your baby get onto a better baby sleep schedule:

  1. Observe their natural rhythms: Note when your baby seems tired and alert.
  2. Establish nap times: Based on your observations of your baby's sleep habits, set regular nap times for your child.
  3. Choose a bedtime: Consistent bedtimes are conducive to sleep, so try to put them to bed at the same time every day.
  4. Create a routine: Develop a calming bedtime routine to signal sleep.
  5. Stay flexible: Your baby's needs will change, so adjust their sleep schedule as needed.
  6. Optimize the environment: Ensure a dark, cool, comfortable sleep space, and use a noise machine to help lull them to sleep.
  7. Monitor their sleep patterns: Use an app or another way to track your little one's sleep patterns and adapt as necessary.

Following these steps can help you create a structured sleep schedule for your baby, promoting healthy sleep habits and restful nights.

Nest Designs swaddle sleep bag

How to Create the Best Bedtime Routine

A bedtime routine for your baby involves establishing a series of calming activities that send cues your little one will start to associate with preparing for sleep. Here's a simple guide to help you create an effective bedtime routine:

  1. Begin the bedtime routine about 30 minutes to an hour before your baby's intended bedtime to give them time to gradually transition away from being active and alert. 
  2. Dim the lights in your home to create a calm and cozy atmosphere. 
  3. Select a set of soothing activities you can perform in the same order each night. These could be a warm bath, gentle massage, cuddle time, and/or quiet storytime.
  4. Dress them in cute, cozy, and seasonally-appropriate sleepwear. (Learn more about what your baby needs for bedtime in the winter.)
  5. Use a consistent cue to signal the end of the bedtime routine and the start of sleep time, such as turning off the lights or placing your baby in their crib with a gentle goodnight kiss.

At Nest Designs, we know how important it is to set your little bub up for sleep success. Read more about creating a peaceful bedtime ritual here.

Wake Up on the Bright Side

Getting your baby to sleep through the night may have ups and downs, but your little one will get there. Their sleep needs change a lot during their first year of life, but stay consistent and flexible to ensure you both get that peaceful slumber you need to rise and shine in the morning.