If it is not always appropriate or a good time to work on your child’s sleep. This may be because
your child is too young for sleep coaching, they are teething, ill, going through a developmental
milestone, or perhaps the timing is not right for your family to start working on sleep habits.
Adapting to life with a new baby can be challenging; especially since the early months usually
include plenty of crying and regular sleep disruptions in the night. There are several things you
can do to get by in the short-term. Here are some tips that can help you manage during this
Have realistic expectations – It is normal and healthy for your baby to wake through the night
and need to feed and cuddle etc. This will be very individual and your baby's sleep pattern and need for night feeding is likely to fluctuate as they go through various stages and activities. Babies tend to be able to function quite well on fragmented and reduced sleep. Here is an example of what might be in the realms of 'normal'
0-3 months - 2-6 waking's
3-6 months - 0-3 waking's
6-18 months - 0-2 waking's
Interestingly close to 70% of all babies aged 6-18 months are waking at least once in the night with 20% waking more than three times (Hysing et al., 2014)
If you have a very young baby and you are experiencing very frequent wakings every hour or so and your baby is very unsettled it is a good idea to reach our for a specialised feeding assessment from an IBCLC.
Don’t worry about long term sleep problems – Many families worry that they are creating
lifelong sleep problems because their child is not falling asleep (or back to sleep) without
assistance, or because naps and night time sleep are not ideal. The early months are defiantly not a time to worry about creating ‘bad’ habits. Many babies, whether they have good sleep habits or not, will still have disturbed sleep at some point. Families that nurse, feed or comfort their babies to sleep will be able to help their baby learn other ways of falling asleep when the time is right, if that is what they want. It is never too late.
Naps – sleep when baby sleeps. Or at least rest – You have probably already heard this and it is
great advice, however, many parents are unable to do this. If you have older children, responsibilities, or you just can’t sleep in the day, try to at least sit or lie down for a while and just rest. Having a few minutes of rest can make a big difference in how you feel.
Go to bed when baby does in the evening – Adjust your routine so that you can end your day
as soon as you put your baby to bed for the night, even if this is as early as 6 PM.
Alter sleeping arrangements for better sleep – Consider one parent sleeping in a separate
room to maximize sleep.
Tag team parenting – If it is an option, parents and caregivers can spell each other off. Ideally
each parent can get a minimum of 5.5 hours of sleep, even if it is broken up.
Get some help – Ask for help from family or friends with meals, running errands, helping with
laundry, older children, cleaning, etc. Consider having someone watch baby for a few hours so
you can take a nap or get out to an exercise class or event. Even just having someone to talk to
can provide much needed emotional support. Accept offers of help, and consider making a list
of what your needs are and posting it by the door for guests and family to see.
“This too shall pass” – Remember that with babies, everything will usually get better with time. Crying usually deceases after 4 months of age. Naps and night sleep usually improve around 6 months, however even if it doesn’t natually fall into place, there will be a time when it is right to make changes and if you need help making them please reach out.
Hysing, M., Harvey, A. G. and Torgersen, L. (2014) ‘Trajectories and predictors of nocturnal awakenings and sleep duration in infants’, Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 35(6), p. 391. doi: 10.1097/01.DBP.0000452559.76425.1f.