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Effective Ways to Help Baby Sleep Through the Night

Often, all you need to help your baby sleep through the night is one simple change. Or you might experiment with several baby sleep tips and find out what works well for you.

There are a lot of sleeping tips for helping a baby sleep through the night. I am gathering the ones that are doable and effective here. That means that I or another parent have tried them out personally with success.

As usual, there is no magic. But you will create the best chances ...

Remember, it is best not to try too many changes at the same time. And give each experiment a week or so to see how it works. Also, before trying any specific tip, do check that you have the basics in place, such as a well suited sleep schedule, a good bedtime routine and self soothing practice.

Review "Isn't Your Baby Sleeping Through The Night Yet?" for realistic expectations about sleeping through.

How to reduce the number of night feeds

Night feedings

It is good to remember that, especially for a newborn and in the first months, night feeds are natural and quite necessary. Baby's tiny body is not ready to be without food for a 7 to 12 hour night. Feeding a young baby extra full in the hope of a longer night may even be dangerous and increase the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

Gradually the time your child can be without food will become longer. Most babies will be ready to sleep through the night - for about 6 to 8 hours - between six and twelve months. Some much earlier, some much later.

Night awakenings are not always about food of course. Waking up at night all alone in a dark room can be quite scary, and your baby may need you to reassure her.

So she will cry for you. Not to play tricks on you - not yet ... ;) - but simply because she needs you. It is your decision how far you go along in that. But it's good to know that, at this age, it is still very natural for your baby to need you when waking up at night.

If you reassure her while consistently encouraging her to go on sleeping, she will learn and become a confident sleeper.

Use the following ideas to reduce the number of night awakenings and feedings, typically from six months onwards:

  1. Make night feeds totally uninteresting

    Of course, if a night feed becomes a real treat, then your baby will happily wake up for it. Avoid any bright light, keep talking and smiles to the minimum. This way she will be less likely to wake up unless really necessary.

  2. Don't run in from the first second

    If your baby wakes up - and cries - give her a few moments before rushing in. She may only be half awake, and just need to find another comfy position to go back to sleep. If you go too soon, you might wake her up completely, making it harder to go on sleeping.

    This would typically be about a minute. In how far you let her cry it out after that is your decision, but she will then probably need you for a feeding or reassuring.

    No scientific evidence but from my own experience: often it was enough for me to start getting up and the noise of the blankets seemed to be enough to reassure my little girl. I've been half out of my bed many times, only to go back because I was "too late", she'd already gone back to sleep before I got to her room.

  3. Take turns with your partner or another carer

    - Tip for when you feel your baby does not need (so many) night feedings anymore, typically from about six months. If you are unsure if it is safe to feed less, it is best to check with your doctor first. -

    If baby is used to one person who will feed her at night - either breast feeding or same person feeding formula - she will expect to be fed when she sees that person at night.

    Taking turns with someone else who will only soothe but not feed can break that routine. He or she then simply soothes baby back to sleep. This will help clarify whether she woke up for feeding or reassuring.

  4. Reduce amount of feeding at night

    - Tip for when you feel your baby does not need (so many) night feedings anymore, typically from about six months. If you are unsure if it is safe for your baby to feed less, it is best to check with your doctor first. -

    Make breast feeding sessions gradually shorter, or offer just one side. If you bottle feed: gradually reduce the amount of formula. You can also gradually make the formula thinner, using more water.

    This way she will become less used to food at night, and will help her need less feedings.

How to avoid early awakenings

  1. Earlier bedtime for longer nights

    It is all about a good sleep rhythm. If you go to bed at the right time for your body, it will get better, and longer sleep.

    A drastic earlier night bedtime can work wonders to help your baby sleep through the night. Many parents find this hard to believe but trust me, and many other parents, it 's a fact. Changing a night bed time from 9pm to 8pm can make all the difference between a short and a long night.

  2. Keep lights constant in the bedroom

    Especially during summer, a bedroom can become quite bright early in the morning. This might wake up your baby earlier.

    Dark curtains and shutters are great. For an in-between solution, aluminum foil and masking tape work surprisingly well. (I always used to take aluminum foil and masking tape on holidays and they served very well ... helping us enjoy many sleep-in mornings).

  3. Keep the temperature constant in the bedroom

    A good bedroom temperature is around 20°C / 68°F. Also here, avoiding changes will help avoid your baby to wake up early.

How to get rid of the pacifier

The best way to get rid of the pacifier is ... never to start with it in the first place? Well, if you have the choice, then yes I believe it is best not to start with a dummy. That means, if your baby is easily soothed without one, don't force it on her.

A pacifier may help your baby sleep through the night. But if she wakes up and does not find it, she will probably cry for you and break her night.

Thumb or dummy?

It's often said that a dummy is easier to take away than a thumb. Of course, in theory it is since you can just hide a pacifier. But for your child to learn how to be without a thumb or a dummy is very much the same.

For sleeping, a thumb is of course easier as it is always ... ehm, at hand. Many parents with babies using a dummy end up running up to their bedroom several times each night to help them find their pacifier.

Consistent thumb sucking is well known to be bad for baby's teeth. Using the dummy for a long time can hamper speech development.

Either way, most babies make the choice themselves: they either prefer their thumbs or take the dummy or not. If they don't like the dummy, they will keep spitting it out each time you try ...

Many babies also simply suckle a couple of fingers during their first months and then after that nothing else. This is often so in breastfed babies.

If a dummy really benefits your baby: soothes her and helps her sleep then of course why not use it. If you want to avoid using it for a long time then it's best if she's not too dependent on it:

  1. Do not 'impose' the pacifier

    If she cries or is cranky, try to avoid the paci as the first rescue. Start with distracting her, soothing her by holding her, ... 

A baby very quickly becomes conditioned. So if you feed the dummy to her at the first sign of each discomfort, she will become more dependent on it.
  1. Have clear rules

    Very dependent on the child, but from about six to twelve months, you can start with introducing some rules.

    For example: pacifier only during sleeping time. Or during sleeping times and early evenings.

The younger you start, the easier your child will accept these rules.

As he grows older on the other hand, he will understand the rules better. It is then a good educational exercise: learning to be without pacifier in the same way as learning not to paint on the walls ...

For effective techniques in a complete approach to improve your baby or toddler's nights significantly, consult my step-by-step guide No-Tears Sleeping Through the Night.