NOT SLEEPING THROUGH YET?
Updated: Sep 21, 2019
I have so much empathy for every tired mom reading this post. I can only imagine that you must have tried everything you know (and everything everyone has suggested to try) to get your baby to sleep through the night. I can only imagine your exhaustion and desperation. Mama, you're not alone. I've been there.
With three small children in the home I can testify to the fact that they're all vastly different in every possible way. My first child slept through at around five months. My second did so at around three months and let's just say that the verdict is still out on my third. He does however suffer from reflux and eczema, which has been working against my best efforts to get him to sleep through.
I've driven to work so many days, not remembering how I got there. I've used up my entire lifetime coffee quota and I want to throw something at anyone without small children who dares saying they're exhausted. And if you've been tired for this long, it's like nobody even cares anymore.
It's different for every household and every child, but here are some things that may help you:
In her book SAVE OUR SLEEP, Tizzy Hall names a couple of factors that can affect settling and sleep. These include:
Winding small babies - Tizzy suggests doing so with every 30ml that is fed.
Colic - read more about colic HERE
Hiccups - Tizzy suggests giving gripe water
Posseting - the little bit of milk that some babies bring up after feeds
Gastro-oesophagal reflux that causes pain or discomfort
Thrush - an infection caused by a yeast germ called Candida. This can occur in the mouth or in the diaper area.
If you have a newborn and you're reading this, the rules don't really apply to you yet. Hang in there, dear Mama. Baby will fall into some sort of a routine and things will get easier. For now just give it time. At around three months you can expect to have more stability, hopefully even sooner! For now it's necessary for Baby to wake much so that they can feed often.
If your baby's sleep habits have suddenly gone South, it could be because of sleep regression. A sleep regression is a period of time (usually around 2 to 6 weeks) when your baby suddenly wakes frequently during the night and fights/refuses sleep in general after previously sleeping well.
The reason for the regression is because they are mastering new skills and reaching new milestones. Learning to roll, sit, stand, crawl, and walk can all cause temporary sleep regressions including taking longer to fall asleep and waking more at night.
Here is a quick breakdown of when to expect this:
4 months - that's right, just when most of us return to work :(
The good news is that it's not, in fact, a regression at all. A regression is defined as 'reversion to an earlier mental or behavioral level,' and that's actually the opposite of what your baby is experiencing. When it comes to the four month 'progression,' I'm happy to report that this is a one-time thing. Once you're through this, your baby will have officially moved into the sleep cycle that they'll essentially be following for the rest of their life! - Rachel Turner, Certified Sleep Consultant
IS BABY COMFORTABLE?
This might seem like something obvious, but room temperature and clothing, as well as bedding and blankets may play a role in a child's sleeping patterns. Also keep in mind a wet diaper or even dry skin.
IS BABY HUNGRY?
A hungry baby will never sleep well, so making sure that Baby doesn't get hungry throughout the night will be in your advantage. Here are some things you can try:
Feeding Baby a bit more milk at their last feed before bedtime.
CLUSTER FEEDING: Feeding Baby a bit more often close to bedtime.
DREAM FEEDING: Giving Baby an extra feed while they're sleeping, a few hours after bedtime. The key is not waking them for this feed and not changing their diaper.
IS BABY SICK?
A sick baby will inevitably have trouble sleeping. A blocked nose, post-nasal drip or coughing will hinder their sleep and may cause many wakings throughout the night.
SLEEP BEGETS SLEEP
Have you ever noticed that if Baby hasn't slept well during the day, the night is also bad? I don't know the reason for this, but it's definitely true. If Baby has sufficient good naps during the day, it should be a good night.
Meg Faure shares the following table to show appropriate awake times according to age. I have found her website to be very useful regarding all things baby over the years. Click on the image to visit her website.
A SHORT AND SIMPLE BEDTIME ROUTINE
Most experts agree on a bedtime routine that helps Baby wind down and get ready for their sleep at the end of the day. This will be slightly different in every home (and in our case for every child), but it can include a bath, playing soft music or singing to your child. Perhaps reading a story together or saying a bedtime prayer. You may want to switch off the television during this time of the day.
SLEEP AIDS OR SECURITY OBJECTS
According to the Baby Centre website:
If your baby is over six months old, give her a security object, such as a baby blanket or stuffed animal. At around six months or seven months, your baby begins to become aware of separation from you, so having a familiar object in her cot can be comforting at night. Don’t give your baby a comforter or soft toy if she’s younger than six months, as this can pose an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Before putting the toy in her cot, keep it near you for a while so it smells of you. If you’re breastfeeding, you could try expressing some breast milk on a small piece of muslin. Babies have a strong sense of smell, and when she startles awake, the smell of you will calm her down.
Every sleep therapist will agree that the most important thing that affects Baby's sleep is their ability to self soothe. This means that they should be able to settle themselves to sleep and fall back asleep again without assistance if they wake throughout the night.
When my children were over tired and overstimulated, there was no way that they would settle themselves to sleep when they were little. I would take every measure to MAKE them sleep, whether it meant switching off the television, rocking them or lying down with them. In my opinion it is unfair to expect an overstimulated child to settle themselves.
We made use of white noise with all three babies. It just prevents them from waking up from sudden noises, especially with older siblings around. We used a mobile app, but there are white noise machines and toys on the market that you can try.
There are various sleep training methods and it would be best to do your research and decide which you would be most comfortable with before approaching a sleep therapist. The methods include:
Crying it out - this is basically going cold turkey where you allow the child to cry themselves to sleep.
Controlled crying - where you allow the child to cry for short periods and then comfort them, with or without picking them up. Sometimes this is done over and over until the child settles themselves.
NATURAL SLEEP REMEDIES
There are many natural or homeopathic sleep remedies you might want to try. Many moms swear by an Epsom salt bath, but this never worked for us.
IF ALL ELSE FAILS
If you have tried everything you know and you're still battling, I can really recommend having a look at Dana Obleman's Sleep Sense programs. She's been a sleep therapist for many years and she's seen it all!
She provides online tools such as reading materials and videos, as well as phone support.
There is a money back guarantee if the program doesn't meet your expectations, so you really have nothing to lose.
Click HERE for a free sleep assessment and custom advice for your family.
I am an affiliate of the program and will receive a small commission should you make a purchase.
THIS IS SURVIVAL
I remember saying that no child of mine would ever sleep in our bed. I actually managed to somehow navigate this with our first two children, but after months of the bare minimum sleep with my third, I caved. I couldn't take it any longer. The choice was between getting up in the cold or having him sleep more peacefully with me. He still woke up multiple times, but I was right next to him to help him settle back to sleep. It sounds glamorous if you call it "co-sleeping" by the way... and it is an actual thing!
The point is that you do whatever you can to survive. This is just a season. A ridiculously crazy season where you learn that you're stronger and more capable than what you could ever have imagined. Hang in there!
I love how @wittyotter puts it on Instagram:
Look... all I'm saying is that I don't remember anyone in college who brought their parents along to co-sleep or breastfeed. Also, no one used pacifiers and we were all potty trained. Don't worry. It's just one chapter in hour child's very long book of life.
I can only imagine that you must be exhausted and overwhelmed right now, Mama. Go ahead and read my article DEAR OVERWHELMED MOM for some additional inspiration.
Edit: since writing this post, I gave up and got the assistance of a sleep coach. Read about HOW SLEEP TRAINING CHANGED MY LIFE.