One of the hardest parts about being a mum is lack of sleep. You are guaranteed to hear advice from your friends, family, pediatrician, and strangers on the street about how to get your baby sleeping through night.
The reality of baby sleep habits however is complicated and depends on many factors, which is how you end up hearing different advice from everyone about what works best for babies. Your baby will sleep to the best of his or her ability when you consider their unique combination of sleep factors.
Factor 1: Growth Speed
Is your baby at the top of the growth charts or barely at the bottom? How big your baby is already and how quickly he is growing makes a difference in their ability to sleep for an extended period of time. Very tiny babies have very tiny tummies that can only hold small amounts of milk. This means you will need to feed a tiny baby more frequently than a larger one and you should not expect to get large chunks of sleep.
Also, if your baby is growing more rapidly than expected, jumping to a higher growth curve, he will need more milk than a baby who is not growing so quickly. A fast-growing baby will wake more frequently.
Factor 2: Developmental Milestones
As your baby approaches a developmental milestone, such as rolling over, crawling, or cruising, she will likely wake more fully numerous times in the night. There are many developments that you may not be able to observe as well though, like improved sight or verbal understanding, which can also stimulate your baby to wake more in the night. When your baby is consumed with determination to master a milestone it is important to allow your baby to practice it as much as possible during waking hours. Her sleep will improve once the skill is mastered to her satisfaction.
Factor 3: Changes in Environment
Babies are soothed by routine and consistency. If something is out of the ordinary or their environment is changed a baby will react. Typically this results in more frequent night waking, as your baby is likely unsettled by these changes. Try to keep your baby’s routine consistent even if the environment has to change, like for travel. You may notice that the first night of travel is less restful than subsequent nights because your baby will begin to adapt to the new surroundings. A baby who is subjected to change is likely to wake more frequently at night.
Factor 4: Physical Discomfort
Physical discomfort can be difficult to determine in a baby because they cannot tell you what is wrong. Teething, reflux, illness, itchiness, or even incorrect room temperature can all result in physical discomfort. An uncomfortable baby will wake very frequently at night and demand attention. If you determine that your baby is uncomfortable, do your best to soothe them and fix whatever is wrong.
Babies simply wake a lot during their first year of life. Although they have the ability to have periods of time when they sleep for long intervals at night, these periods will be interspersed between periods of night waking. Your baby will experience intense growth, developmental changes, teething, illness, and more to cause such night waking.
Do your best to keep your expectations of how your baby should be sleeping within reason considering all that they will encounter this year. If you are certain that your baby is not waking because of any of these factors and instead is waking because they do not know how to fall asleep on their own, then it is time to consider sleep training.