During the first year of your baby’s life, she’ll undergo a tremendous amount of growth and development—both physically and mentally. Watching her evolve from a tiny newborn into an active toddler with a unique personality is one of the greatest joys of being a new parent.
During the first year, we can thank all of their growth and development for changing the reasons why your baby won’t sleep. As such, your strategy for getting her back to sleep (or preventing her from waking up in the first place) will need to evolve as well.
Let’s take a look at some of the common sleep struggles babies have during their first year, and some solutions that have worked for other parents.
Newborn to 4 months old
During this age range, your brand-new bundle of joy may sleep for short periods of time and wake often throughout the night. While waking to eat overnight as often as every 2-3 hours is typical, even at this tender young age, there are things you can do that will help your newborn sleep for longer stretches, and set them up for success as they grow older.
“Make sure your baby’s sleep environment is conducive to sleep,” says infant sleep expert Natalie Willes. “Newborns love white noise, so make sure you use it consistently, especially overnight. Darkness will also promote longer periods of sleep. The more consistent you are with these two elements, the more baby’s body will know it’s time for sleep whenever she encounters them. It’s also helpful to be consistent about baby sleeping in a completely empty crib or bassinet as much as possible.”
If you find yourself dealing with a fussy baby during the first 2 or 3 weeks of her life, you can try swaddling her. For some newborn babies, swaddling is very soothing because it reminds them of being in the womb. It can even be a trigger for sleep. A lesser-known tip is that sometimes babies act like they hate being swaddled, only to finally calm once they’re completely wrapped up. Don’t give up on swaddling too quickly—you may find it to be the best tool in your toolkit for getting your newborn to sleep.
It’s also OK to introduce her to a newborn pacifier to help her drift off. Make sure to choose a pacifier that is shaped and sized for newborns, preferably with an orthodontic nipple that will mimic mom’s breastfeeding nipple. We have a wide range of orthodontic pacifiers available, including glow-in-the-dark options that make it easier to find if it falls out of your baby’s mouth in the pitch black of night.
4 to 7 months old
At this age, your kiddo may still be waking up in the middle of the night to feed. That’s perfectly normal, and once she’s had her fill, she’ll likely doze off on her own. The trouble may be if your baby is using eating as a way of getting back to sleep, so make sure to check in with your pediatrician to know how many feeds your baby truly requires in a 12-hour overnight period. If you’re having trouble getting yourself back to sleep after the 3am feed, we have some helpful advice for that, too.
It’s also important to ensure your little one isn’t getting too much sleep during the day. If your little one is napping more than 3.5 hours a day across all their naps, that may be inhibiting their ability to fall back to sleep overnight.
8 to 9 months old
You’ll find that your little one is reaching a lot of milestones in her physical and mental development around this age. She’ll start to sit up, roll over, crawl, and maybe even stand—all of which may be preventing her from sleeping through the night as she spends her time practicing her skills instead of sleeping. Spending time during the day helping her practice these new skills may result in her losing interest in trying them when she’s supposed to be sleeping.
“This age range may also be the time to reevaluate your baby’s schedule and her ability to fall asleep on her own,” says Natalie. “If your baby doesn’t know how to fall asleep on her own for naps and bedtime, she may not know how to put herself back to sleep when she wakes overnight. Learning to fall asleep on one’s own is called ‘sleep training,’ and while the process may seem daunting, there are many resources available online to help.”
10 to 12 months old
By now, most babies are old enough to sleep through the night without a feeding. If baby is still having trouble sleeping, it’s likely that your intervention will be required to help her overcome her night wakings.
As baby grows, she’ll also require less sleep within a 24-hour period. If your little one is still on the same daytime nap schedule from when she was younger and she’s waking up at night, it may be time to make adjustments. Try moving her afternoon nap a little earlier or make it shorter.
At this age, your baby may also be feeling some separation anxiety from you when she wakes up, preventing her from falling back asleep. To help with this, try leaving her bedroom door open so she can hear you and be reassured by your closeness.
While every stage during your baby’s first year may bring with it different reasons for night wakings, hopefully we’ve helped shed some light on what these reasons could be, and what you can do to help solve them.