Sleepless nights can be down to your baby’s individual sleep style. Understanding how & when your baby prefers to sleep can be a game-changer
When it comes to sleep, no two babies are the same, so there’s no point in comparing yours with anyone else’s. By the time your baby’s reached the six-month mark, though, you are probably hoping the broken nights are behind you. But don’t despair if they are still not sleeping through. We’ve identified five typical baby sleepers (or rather, non-sleepers!), and our sleep expert recommends how best to deal with each of them. Blissful slumber, here we come…
While other babies seem to be sleeping through, yours is still up for fun at 3am. Every night. It’s worth remembering that babies aged five-nine months need on average 14 hours’ sleep per 24 hours, so if your night-waking baby is sleeping too much in the day, you may need to cut back on naps. And there’s another reason that babies wake in the early hours. They may be used to sleeping when in motion – while out and about – so that when they are stationary, they wake up. "Try spending a week at home to get your baby used to napping in the cot," recommends Boots Parenting Club sleep expert Jo Tantum.
Babies who are light sleepers can sometimes be so exhausted that they can’t go into longer sleep cycles, with every little noise waking them. "My best tip is to download a simple app that plays wave sounds to help calm them," says Jo. Total blackout blinds may also help soothe them. Alternatively, try recreating the soothing womb environment with other ‘white noise’ – turn on a fan, put the cot near the dishwasher, run the vacuum or tune a radio to static for constant, low-level sound. These steady sounds will also mask sudden loud noises that might disturb your baby’s sleep.
Your bundle of joy missed the memo that morning = 7am, not 5am. If your baby regularly wakes at the crack of dawn, consider what signals you are giving; if you are chatting and changing nappies, your baby will think it’s morning. "Stick to a routine of 7pm–7am and settle baby back to sleep until at least then," says Jo. It’s also worth getting the practicalities right. Put up a blackout blind or lined curtains to prevent their body clock getting confused and swap to extra absorbent nappies for overnight dryness, to help them get a long night’s slumber.
It can be so easy to slip into the habit of bringing a wakeful baby into bed with you, but the Department of Health advises against it on safety grounds. And you won’t get much quality sleep either alongside those akimbo arms and thrashing legs. Try giving your baby a relaxing bath, followed by cuddles before bed and make sure their cot is cosy and welcoming. "When babies wake up, try making soothing noises so they feel comforted by your presence and enjoy going back to sleep. Be consistent, and after seven to 10 days you should see an improvement," says Jo.
The 'little and often’ sleeper is unpredictable, making it impossible to get anything done (who needs dinner, anyway?). Thirty to 45 minutes is a natural sleep cycle for babies, but the catnapper baby enters a light sleep phase and calls out, so you get them up. The solution is to wait five minutes to give them the opportunity to soothe themselves back to sleep, says Jo. "If you try this sleep-training technique for around five to seven days for all naps, your baby will start sleeping through the light sleep phase."