Fun fact: our first baby didn’t sleep through the night until she was over a year old. Yeah. It was a long year. So for baby #2, we were determined to beat our previous record and figure out how to get our baby to sleep long stretches at night – once and for all. Cue the inspirational music.
This led to a lot of experimenting. We tried all the popular “get your baby to sleep through the night” strategies. We tried recommendations from family and friends. We tried recommendations from the pediatrician. And finally we did get something to work before he reached one year -spoiler alert! And we haven’t looked back (except that one time he had a cold and didn’t sleep for 2 weeks).
Attempt #1: Get rid of the sleep associations
This is probably the most popular advice you’ll come across if you’re looking for ways to get your baby to sleep longer stretches at night. And it makes total sense. It basically means if you consistently rock your baby to sleep or feed your baby to sleep (whether breast or bottle), it’s probably a good time to stop. Your baby begins to associate these things with sleep, which is bad because if baby wakes up mid-sleep, he/she will need them to get back to sleep. Therefore the recommendation is if your baby falls asleep during one of these activities, tickle their feet or do what you need to wake them up and then put them in the crib awake so they learn to not need these things to get to sleep.
Definitely something we recommend doing as it was recommended to us by our pediatrician and probably works for most kids. In the case of baby #1, it never worked for us. And in the case of baby #2, he would fall asleep right away even being fully awake. But never stayed asleep. Worth a shot though!
Attempt #2: Create a nighttime routine
Another popular piece of advice. Do the same thing every night. Choose a bedtime routine that works for you, but stick to it every night. So for us, that looks like: get home from work and make dinner, bath time, play time, then downtime (which usually consists of reading books with the lights dimmed). This helps to counteract those negative sleep associations and create positive ones.
We kept at this and created the routine. But alas, night wakings persisted. So on to the next idea.
Attempt #3: White noise machine, temperature, and darkness
An important consideration for getting your baby to sleep longer stretches at night: is he/she comfortable enough to fall asleep or stay asleep? This means things like, is the room the correct temperature? Babies can’t regulate their body temperatures well on their own, so double check the room is an appropriate temperature. General advice is to keep the room between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Typically, a little cooler is better than too hot as overheating is linked to greater risk of SIDS. We followed this advice and used a sleep sack. These Nest temperature sensors are a-freaking-mazing!
Another environment related check is the darkness level in the room. All the research you’ll come across says to keep the room pitch dark. This helps regulate sleep-wake cycles and ensures your baby knows when it’s time to sleep. We had kind of a sheer curtain so we switched this up to make sure the room was completely dark.
Sometimes you’ll also hear about white noise machines and this is something we swear by. It didn’t lead to our kids sleeping through the night, but had a major impact on getting them to sleep at the beginning of the night and even more importantly, not waking up if there is noise in the house. If you have other kids, a dog barking, or just general noise, a white noise machine can help drown that out so your baby doesn’t wake to outside noise. We’ve used the same color changing sound machine for both kids and love that it’s super portable (as frequent travelers – we make room for this thing in our suitcase. It’s that important).
We did all these things and while it seemed to help both kids get to sleep and not wake to noises, it didn’t really help them to sleep through the night. Though, the white noise machine may be debatable. We swear by that thing.
Attempt #4: Follow a good sleep schedule, including naps
With this one, you blame daycare for not implementing proper nap times, which in turn messes up the whole sleep schedule. Kidding – but another piece of advice we found was to ensure our little one was getting the proper amount of sleep during the day (at the right times). This would ensure he would be tired at bedtime.
We talked with our daycare on nap schedules and it seemed like they were following the typical advice. You can find some sample sleep schedules here. Once we ensured daytime naps were on point, we looked at whether he was going to bed at the right time for his age. He seemed to go to bed a little later than suggested so we adjusted and bumped up his bedtime a bit. Here’s an article on how to calculate an appropriate bedtime for your kiddo. And here are some suggested bedtimes. We made sure the amount of sleep and sleep times were correct for his age, but still no sleeping through the night. Boo.
Attempt #5: A full belly
After trying all the above methods, we moved on to what we assumed was another useless strategy in our attempt at getting our baby to sleep through the night. Our kiddo was a champ at eating solid foods and surely that was not an issue. Like, is there a such thing as feeding your baby too much? According to our pediatrician, your baby will tell you when he/she is full. So why not offer some additional solids and see what happens?
Well as it turn out, a lot. We offered more solids and within a day or two, he was sleeping through the night. Not just longer stretches. But completely through the night. 7pm – 7am. It was AMAZING.
Here’s where we should probably disclose, there have been growth spurts, sleep regressions, stuffy noses, and other bumps in the road that set us back to night wakings periodically. So it’s not 100% smooth sailing. But with every stage, we go back to what worked for us. And what worked for us, may not work for everyone. But hopefully one of these strategies will work for you. Experiment a little.
And if nothing else, there’s always lots and lots of coffee…10PM isn’t too late for coffee, right?
And for more baby tips:
Sleep training clock when your baby becomes a toddler (keep them in bed after you get them to sleep through the night)