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When do babies sleep through the night? How can I get my baby to sleep? If you're asking these questions several times a night, use these techniques to establish good sleep habits
It's inevitable you'll have plenty of sleepless nights in the early days. But by the time your little one is six months old the disturbed sleep cycle and night feeds can start to wear you down. While some babies start sleeping through the night at three or four months, others need a little gentle persuasion. Here's how to encourage good sleep habits:
Avoid a late afternoon snooze
Even if it means you have to make bedtime earlier, your little one will settle better if they're naturally sleepy rather than buoyed by a 4pm power nap.
Have a bedtime routine
A giggly playtime on the floor minus a nappy (if you're brave!), a warm bath, then milk in a softly lit bedroom will all put your baby in the mood to sleep. If you do the same thing every night they'll soon associate it with bedtime.
Put your baby down awake
Between six and eight weeks you can start teaching your baby how to fall asleep on their own. They might be drowsy from a feed, but make sure they're still physically awake when you lay them down (always on their back) in the cot. You can stay with them until they drop off, but if you do it's likely they'll expect that during the night too. It's better if you can settle your little one, then creep out while they're still awake.
If your baby cries – which they might – go in every five minutes to reassure them with a quiet ‘shhh'. As hard as it is to hear them get upset, tears won't hurt them. Try not to pick them up and stay calm. If you give in, they'll know to cry the next time. Being consistent will help your baby learn how to go to sleep on their own at bedtime – and if they wake in the night. If you hear a grumble after a period of quiet, don't rush in. Give your baby the chance to settle again.
Most babies are ready to drop their night feed between four and six months, but as all babies develop differently talk to your GP if you're unsure. In fact, studies show bigger babies become night owls if they're overfed. More milk means more dirty nappies, so more chance of your baby waking because they are uncomfortable.
If you've taught your little one how to get to sleep on their own, you should find they give up night feeds more easily. If they wake from habit, rather than hunger, they'll simply drop off again without you. If your baby really does still need milk at night, make day and night feeds very different. In the daytime talk to your little one, tickle their feet and stimulate them. At night keep the lights dim and don't speak. That way if they are only waking for attention they'll soon realise they won't get much at 2am – and give up!
By Alison Palmer