Does your newborn only sleep one hour at a time at night? Learn how to get baby to sleep longer stretches at night between feedings!
Even though you know that newborn sleep is erratic, you’re struggling with your baby’s inconsistent patterns.
On some rare nights, he’ll eat every three hours like clockwork, giving you a few stretches of decent sleep. But other times, you can’t get him to sleep until midnight, and the whole family is exhausted. Despite all your preparation, the lack of nighttime sleep is starting to wear on you.
It doesn’t help when you hear about other babies the same age getting a couple of four to five hour stretches of sleep between nighttime feedings. You feel like you’re doing something wrong that yours isn’t, or that you’re missing out on a secret method that would do the trick.
How to get baby to sleep longer stretches at night
Every first-time mom has tried to figure out if there’s anything that can help her baby sleep longer stretches at night. We’ve all heard stories of older babies and even toddlers who still won’t sleep past two hours at a time and worry that ours will do the same.
Thankfully, even though your baby can’t sleep through the night yet, you can still work on good sleep habits now to set him up down the line.
A few caveats, though. First, don’t feel discouraged by back-and-forth patterns. You might have a good night of long stretches, only to go back to frequent wake ups the next. Just because your baby sleeps well on some nights is no guarantee that he will for nights on end. Expect the dips to happen.
Second, check in with your pediatrician regardless of advice you hear and read. She’ll be able to pinpoint and help with issues you may not even know about, or at the least, reassure you that this is all normal.
And lastly, sometimes the best thing to do during the newborn stage is to roll with it. This is a temporary season in your life—you will get your eight hours of sleep once again. Knowing that this won’t last can help you accept and even laugh about these crazy times.
In the meantime, let’s take a look at how to get baby to sleep longer stretches at night, even during this newborn stage:
1. Balance your baby’s wake windows
Finding the right balance of keeping your baby awake is key, especially right before bed. You want him tired enough to want to fall asleep, but not too tired that he’s cranky and inconsolable right when you want him to sleep.
Newborns in general shouldn’t stay awake past 90 minutes, so experiment with his last wake window to find when he’s tired, but not overtired.
To start, avoid timing his last nap too close to bedtime—that way, he still has a chance to be awake before sleeping for the night. Prevent him from feeling overtired by either looking for newborn sleep cues or watching the clock and making sure he hasn’t been awake too long.
This goes for all his wake windows throughout the day, too. The more rested he is during the day, the better he can sleep at night.
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2. Have an earlier bath or bedtime
Your baby might benefit from having an earlier bedtime, especially if your current one is later than 8:30pm. The early evenings are prime time for the “witching hour,” or when infants get fussy after a long day. So much so that, come bedtime, they’re too exhausted and overtired to feel rested and sleep.
The solution? Move bedtime earlier. For instance, start the bath at 7:15pm, followed by pajamas, reading, and songs. Feed your baby right before bed, and by then, 8:30pm rolls around and it’s time for him to sleep for the first stretch of the night.
3. Feed your baby often during the day and before bedtime
Until your baby is old enough to sleep through the night, he will wake up throughout all hours to feed. This is, of course, normal. His stomach is tiny and needs frequent feedings, and he isn’t used to set meals during the day.
That said, you can help him sleep longer stretches at night by making sure he feeds often during the day and around bedtime.
Feed on demand, or whenever he cries for milk (because, let’s face it, he’s most likely crying out of hunger). If you’re breastfeeding, empty both breasts each time. Make sure he’s actually awake during a night feeding instead of dozing off, as this can give you the false feeling that he’d been eating all that time.
And lastly, feed him plenty around bedtime, both right before you put him down in the crib or bassinet, and even a few hours later before you go to sleep.
For instance, don’t shy away from cluster feeding him the last, say, three hours before bedtime. Maybe spend a bit longer during those feedings instead of cutting him off.
Then, give him one last “dream feed.” Let’s say you fed him at 7:30pm and put him to sleep, but you don’t go to bed until 9:30pm. Get him up for a feed at 9pm to top him off even more. It’s okay if he’s sleepy—the idea is that you’re giving him one more feed before you tuck in for the night.
4. Continue with a bedtime routine every night
It may not seem like it, but your baby is picking up cues throughout the day, especially those that are done consistently. While he may not understand your words, he can begin to notice that certain activities follow the same ones, over and over.
He’s not literally analyzing this in his head. Rather, he simply begins to expect them to happen as part of the flow and rhythm to his day.
That’s why having a consistent bedtime routine every night can be so helpful. This allows him to resist the activities less, and to accept what happens next even more.
I noticed that the longer I had a routine with my babies, the more predictable their sleep became. Even though they would wake up throughout the night, they started doing so at the same times. Not only that, as they got older, the gaps between wake ups stretched longer and longer.
If anything, a bedtime routine will help you stay on track and not have to think too hard about what to do next. Everything will feel automatic.
5. Have a dark room and white noise
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Help your baby sleep longer at night by keeping his sleep environment dark. While nighttime naturally lends itself to the dark, you can up the ante even more. For instance, hang darkening curtains to block light from outside, and remove even small night lights when they’re not in use.
Then, add white noise as he sleeps. This helps muffle sudden sounds that might startle him awake, from a creak of a door to the television playing in the next room. A white noise machine, app, or even a fan or heater can do the trick.
Sleep deprivation is normal and expected during the newborn stage. But that doesn’t mean you can’t help your baby sleep longer stretches at night over time.
Having an earlier bedtime helps avoid him feeling fussy, especially if he’s currently sleeping late as it is. Balance his wake windows, making sure he’s awake long enough to welcome sleep, but not too long that he’s overtired.
Feed him on demand during the day, and as often as you can before bedtime (an extra dream feed can top him off as well). Stay consistent with a bedtime routine, and soon you’ll notice that he’ll wake to feed around the same predictable times.
And finally, keep the room he’s sleeping in dark throughout the night, as well as playing white noise. Both will help extend his sleep where light and sudden noises might wake him sooner than later.
Applying these tips just might turn those erratic and frequent wake ups into longer stretches of sleep.
Get more tips:
- How to Get an Overtired Newborn to Sleep
- What to Do When Your Overtired Baby Keeps Waking Up
- How to Survive the 3 Month Old Sleep Regression
- What to Do with Your Newborn Cluster Feeding All Night
- How to Tell If Baby Is Hungry or Wants Comfort
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