How do you get a breastfed baby to sleep through the night?
This is the question myself, and probably a billion other mamas, ask themselves frequently.
The truth is that some babies are resistant to sleeping through the night no matter what you do. However there are a few things you can do that will set you on the right path to getting your baby sleeping for longer stretches at night time.
A lot of people claim the only way to get a breastfed baby to sleep through is to give them formula. This simply is NOT the case.
Formula fed babies are just as terrible at sleep as breastfed babies. The only problem parents can have with breastfed babies is that you are unsure of exactly how much they are taking at each feed.
There’s no way of telling if they have taken a full 100ml feed or just sipped down 20ml. Some babies just love to snack 24/7 while others will take an enormous feed every three hours, day or not. They are all different.
I had very different breastfeeding journeys with both of my girls, however I did eventually get there with getting them to both sleep through the night.
These are the things I tried that helped us grab back those precious hours of sleep!
1. A solid daytime routine
This is the thing to put into place above all others. You cannot do this with a tiny newborn, they just won’t conform to a routine for the first six to 12 weeks. That’s OK, you don’t need to panic about that.
However as your baby gets a bit older it’s a good idea to try some semblance of routine. The main reason for this is to ensure that while they are getting enough sleep in the day, because naps are important, they are not sleeping for too long during the day.
A three-month-old will generally take around three to four naps during the day, spread out over time with feeds between each one.
The other purpose of a routine is to make sure your baby is getting the bulk of their milk during the day, so they are not playing catch up at night.
A three-month-old will normally have around four to five feeds in the day and some can also have a dream feed at around 10pm.
2. A good bedtime routine
A decent bedtime routine is absolutely vital for getting your breastfed baby used to the differences between daytime and nighttime.
I have lots of tips for implementing a good bedtime routine in my post here.
3. Extra daytime feeds
If you think your baby is genuinely hungry in the night, try slipping some extra feeds in during the day. For example if you’re feeding every three hours, why not try every two hours and see how they get on. Of course you should keep an eye on their weight gain at all times.
4. Limit the noise
If your baby does get up in the night, don’t make it an exciting affair. Do speak to them to calm them but do it quietly and calmly, don’t start singing lively songs and getting them worked up.
Try to emphasise that this is night time, and try to help them relax.
5. Blackout curtains
These can be particularly useful in the summer months. Blocking out extra light can help give your baby the signal that night time is for sleeping. In order to reinforce this, throw open the curtains during the daytime and when they are playing as this will help them get their internal clock set.
6. Try to avoid changing nappies after bedtime
If they have done an enormous poo, of course you need to change them! But try to avoid it as much as possible in the night, as it can make them less drowsy.
7. Offer water
Once your baby is weaning you can try ditching the milk altogether and offering water in the middle of the night.
As long as you are confident your baby is getting enough calories in the day, then there is no reason not to give this a go.
Many babies, mine included, will use the breast to settle themselves back to sleep. It’s just too relaxing and warm to resist!
If you offer water, they are turned off pretty quickly. It may not work the first few nights, but persevere. It’s what finally worked with my second baby, who was very stubborn at night.
8. Try a dream feed
Many people swear by a dream feed at around 10pm just as you are going to bed. This never worked for me with either of my kids, but it’s definitely worth a try. You can always express some milk so your other half can give a bottle while you are catching up on sleep.
9. Consider a dummy
The dummy worked wonders for my first baby, though my second refused to even consider it.
Some little ones are particularly sucky and need it to comfort themselves to sleep. There is no harm in using this to help your baby drop off to sleep. My daughter ditched it at six months.
10. Use sleep cues
Using sleepy music and night lights can help to teach your child that it’s time for them to close their eyes and go to bed.
11. Offer clothes that smell like you
This is a good way of providing comfort to your baby. Try a soft cotton t-shirt which you could place underneath them. Try to tuck the edges underneath the mattress so that it isn’t loose.
You can also try offering a comforter such as a muslin which you could wear as a scarf for the day to pick up your scent.
Many babies will simply begin sleeping through when they are ready, but these ideas should at least lengthen your child’s sleep to a point that you can manage.
If you have any questions at all please message me or drop a comment below!