When you are in the throws of having a baby wake up in the night, it feels like an eternity since you last slept well.
The rest of the world looks back at the last month and wonders where the time has gone while you look back and feel like the last month has taken as long as the previous decade to pass.
There are some simple things you can do to help your baby at least sleep for longer stretches at night while you wait to hit the glorious time of baby sleeping through the night.
Here are some top tips:
Do a Dreamfeed
The idea is you feed baby one last time before you head off to bed, which then leaves baby not needing another feeding for a longer portion of your night sleep.
For your baby, the dreamfeed is a night feeding. Bedtime will have happened around 7-8 PM.
So your baby is down for the night. You do not work to wake your baby up. You do not play with or interact with your baby. Your goal is simply to feed.
You do want the feeding to be a full feeding, but not one where baby is fully rousing out of that nice night slumber.
You can read my Dreamfeed FAQs post to get all of your dreamfeed questions answered.
The dreamfeed is a fabulous way to get baby sleeping longer stretches at night. It isn’t always easy. It doesn’t click quickly for every baby.
There are even some babies who do not respond to it well at all.
For me, it often took a lot of work to get it established, but I was willing to put in that effort in order to get my baby sleeping for my night sleep.
The dreamfeed is a great tool, but cannot be used forever. Read my post When to Stop the Dreamfeed to know how long you can go with it.
Cluster feeding is another great way to get baby sleeping longer stretches at night.
Cluster feeding is grouping your evening feedings together to kind of “tank up” your baby in preparation for going a longer stretch at night without food. Cluster feeding is for a few feedings in the evening.
For example, you might feed at 6 PM, 8 PM, and 10 PM. You might even do 4, 6, 8, and 10.
Cluster feeding is a great way to work in an extra feeding into your baby’s day so fewer feedings will be needed at night.
Just like the dreamfeed, not all babies respond well to cluster feeding.
Many will not do both, but will only do one or the other. If you have to choose, the dreamfeed is preferable to cluster feeding, but cluster feeding is better than nothing if your baby won’t dreamfeed.
See my post on cluster feeding to learn more about how this can help your baby sleep longer stretches at night.
Follow an Eat/Wake/Sleep Cycle
A daily routine where your baby eats, then has playtime, then sleeps is a super solid way to get baby sleeping better not only at night but in the day for naps as well.
This is the basic foundation for so many popular parenting theories out there, including Babywise and the Baby Whisperer.
Starting with your first feed of the daytime, you feed baby, try for some time awake, and then put baby down awake for nap or bedtime.
You repeat this for all of your daytime feedings. Once you hit bedtime around 7-8 PM, you no longer go for this pattern for feedings.
The dreamfeed is not an eat, wake, sleep cycle. It is just an eat, sleep cycle. You want to keep night sleep sleepy and not interactive.
Sleep Train Your Baby
A key step in getting your baby to sleep well at night is to sleep train your baby.
Your baby needs to know how to put himself back to sleep once he wakes up.
The baby sleep cycle flows in such a manner that the baby will shift sleep cycles about every 45 minutes. At that transition point,
If your baby is able to self-soothe, those transitions will happen with baby slipping into the next sleep cycle unless baby really needs something.
If baby is not able to self-soothe, you never know what baby will do. If baby rouses enough, baby will need your help to get back to sleep.
So if you want longer stretches at night, you need baby to be able to self-soothe. Sleep training can be simple and gentle. Read my method for gentle sleep training that is no- cry here.
Wait 10-15 Minutes at Night
When your baby wakes in the night, it is wise to wait 10-15 minutes to get baby up and feed baby unless you know it is time to get baby for a feeding.
If it is not quite time, wait about 10-15 minutes to see if baby resettles herself.
Babies are noisy at night. You might find that baby is actually asleep and noisily transitioning when you rush into the room.
That is why waiting a bit is so helpful–baby might not actually even be awake.
As you wait and baby goes back to sleep, your baby will wake less in the night over time.
Only wait if you think baby might not need to be fed at the time. If you have a three week old who hasn’t eaten for five hours, go feed baby. Do not wait.
Get Help from Your Spouse
If none of these are getting you the stretch of sleep you need yet, enlist the help of your spouse.
Pump some milk before you go to bed so your spouse can get up one time with the baby to get you a longer stretch of night sleep.
This will help you immensely and will help you have more patience as you wait for your baby to get longer stretches at night herself.
These tips will help you get baby sleeping longer stretches at night so you can get longer stretches yourself. You might use just one trick or you might use all six. Here is to longer sleep stretches at night!
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Val blogs over at Chronicles of a Babywise Mom and is a mother of four and THE Babywise PRO. Check out her blog for all things sleep training.