Mom sleeping with her baby


What You Should Know if Your Baby Doesn't Sleep Through the Night

Before bringing home your new baby, many parents warn you of the sleepless nights and restless mornings that will follow. They’ll encourage you to get as much rest as you can before the big day. While it’s true that newborns have sporadic sleeping schedules and require around-the-clock feeding, that doesn’t mean that you should say goodbye to regularity. To help you address any external problems, here’s what to know if your baby doesn’t sleep through the night.

Understanding Children’s Sleeping Habits

One thing to keep in mind is that babies rarely sleep through the night. They are going to wake up no matter what and it’s natural. In fact, we all rotate through different sleep cycles and experience periods of wakefulness every night. The differences are the reasons we wake up.

Newborns wake up because they need to be breastfed, infants may not fully understand how to self-soothe, and toddlers are still working on the proper circadian regulation. To better understand how to soothe your baby and increase the likelihood that they sleep through the night, or at least sleep for longer blocks of time, you need to consider some common sleeping problems.  

Common Sleep Problems in Newborns

Newborns don't usually sleep through the night because they're in the process of adjusting to a sleeping pattern and they need to wake up frequently for feedings. Newborns generally sleep for about 14 to 17 hours every day and tend to feed every hour or so depending on their age. Sometimes, it can take anywhere from 2 to 3 hours to get newborns back to sleep, which can seem like a never-ending cycle. If your baby is suffering from colic, addressing that will help with sleep problems.

Newborns also need a lot of naps during the day, which can make it challenging for parents who are trying to keep them on a schedule. Sleep patterns will change as your baby develops and grows into a toddler, so in order for your newborn to learn how to sleep through the night, you'll need some patience. Some of the most common sleeping problems in newborns include resisting back-sleeping, day/night reversal schedule, and restless sleep.


Resistance to Back-Sleeping

Resistance to back-sleeping is when your baby can't seem to get comfortable when you lay him or her on their back to sleep. While many babies find tummy sleeping more comfortable, it's dangerous and drastically increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Make sure that there are no physical reasons for discomfort and consider incorporating swaddling to help keep your baby comfortable and safely on their back.


Day/Night Reversal Schedule

Another common sleeping problem in newborns is mixing up daytime and nighttime. This occurs when your baby sleeps all day and then is awake all night. While it's natural for your baby to be nocturnal during those first few days, this should adjust over time.

They are becoming increasingly aware of their surroundings and the world outside, so stimuli and light can cause confusion. Limit daytime naps to no more than three hours and keep light exposure high during the day. Then, when night rolls around, send your baby sleep signals by decreasing the light in a room, keeping stimulants low, and making sure to reduce sounds when you put your newborn down for bed.


Restless Sleep

A common sleeping problem with newborns up to three months is that they become restless during the night because they want to be fed. While it's completely normal to continue feeding newborns at least once or twice during the night, this pattern of restless sleep shouldn’t become the norm.

Sleep patterns change after the third month, but until this time, if your baby is waking up every three hours or so at night, keep track of how long he has been sleeping. If you note a pattern (i.e., he wakes up every three to four hours), try varying his feeding schedule by starting feedings earlier or later in order to keep him asleep for longer periods of time during the night. If you're worried about your newborn's sleeping habits or feeding schedule, talk to your doctor or pediatrician.


Common Sleep Problems in Infants

As babies grow into infants and toddlers, they begin sleeping in longer stretches at night and can go up to 10 or 11 hours without waking up for feedings or being rocked back asleep. During this time, they may wake up once or twice for feedings and then fall right back asleep. However, many babies continue to have trouble sleeping through the night. Sleep problems in infants that affect their behavior during the day include:


Sleep Regression

Sleep regression occurs after your baby seems like they've gotten their sleeping schedule down, only for them to swiftly shift and begin showing sleeping problems again. Sleep regression can affect your baby's sleeping schedule in a number of ways. It may cause your newborn to begin waking up more often during the night or you may have trouble getting them down in the first place.

Sleep regression is typically temporary and will only last a few days or weeks before things even out again. It’s perfectly normal around 4, 6, 8, and even 12 months of age. Continue to stick to your child's sleep schedule and bedtime routine. Sleep regression is often temporary, but when you change up their schedules it can become confusing. You should also allow your child to sleep more during the day to make up for any lost sleep at night.


Changing Routines

If you're allowing your baby to take more naps during the day, keep a schedule and a regular naptime routine. This routine, as well as their sleeping routine at night, needs to be kept consistent. Sleep training your child also helps them get back on track. Sleep training may sound like a scary thing, but it's actually quite common. Sleep training teaches your baby how to put themselves back to sleep when they wake up during the night instead of depending on you.

If sleep training isn't effective at first, stick with it. Sleep training doesn't work overnight; it takes time for your child to adjust and get used to sleeping through the night all by themselves. Sleep training helps your baby gain autonomy with their schedules and can reduce any dependency-related sleeping problems.


Early Risers

While being an early riser isn't necessarily bad, it can cause you and your partner to begin suffering from sleep deprivation again. If your baby is waking up at the crack of dawn and not returning back to sleep, consider adjusting their nap schedule, trying different bedtimes, or working to decrease stimulation in your baby's room when the sun comes up—i.e., blackout curtains and sound-proof technology.


Every baby is different. Some find enjoyment in being rocked, while others might not close their eyes until you go for a late-night car ride. While these techniques are great for quick fixes, be wary that they lead to dependency issues and worsened sleep problems. Stick to the basics and focus on what you can do to help solve common sleep problems in newborns and infants.

How to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night

If you think that your baby is experiencing any of the above sleeping problems, address those first. This will help you regulate your baby’s sleep schedule and encourage independence throughout the night. The best ways to help your baby sleep through the night are to make sure that they understand when it’s day vs. night, keep them adequately fed, pay attention to signs for illness or discomfort, and avoid any excessive evening stimulation. You can slowly begin to wean night feedings as your baby grows and begin helping them learn how to self-soothe. Remember to be patient and over time, you’ll be rewarded with longer, more restful sleep for the whole family.

For new mothers experiencing sleep disruption due to ongoing feedings, a breast pump can help. When you supplement your nursing sessions with breast pumping, you’ll create a milk supply that your partner or caregiver can use to feed your baby while you get some rest. Consider switching off between feedings during the first few months of your newborn’s life so that you and your partner are able to stay rested and be prepared for whatever comes next. Byram Healthcare has a wide selection of breast pumps to help support new or expecting mothers on their journey into parenthood. To receive a free, insurance covered breast pump, all you have to do is get started with our easy, three-step ordering process today.