A good age for baby to begin to sleep through the night is around 5 or 6 months. After the growth spurt that occurs at that age.
A few tips to having this happen are making sure that the baby and their environment are ready for sleep.
Some things to consider:
1. Timing your last feeding for the night as close to 11pm as possible.
2. Only giving reassurance between 2am and 5am and no bottle.
3. Limited time spent with baby when going in to reassure them.
4. A quiet firm demeanour when reassuring them.
5. A pacifier.
Late Final Feeding
The idea behind a late feeding is that it will help baby bridge the time until morning. If you give a feeding at 9 pm you can expect a hungry baby by 2am. Moving the last feeding as late as possible is a good way to stretch the next feeding time to a more “morning”ish time. I think 5:30 or 6 am is a reasonable time to get up, although very early still. And you will find this gets later with time.
The first time that you sleep from 11pm until 5:30am you will wake up wondering what happened! Startled even, that it is morning and you didn’t have to get up with your baby.
What To Do When Baby Wakes Up
Of course, they expect you to feed them. In the past you always have. Why would you not do so today? Because they don’t need to be fed in the middle of the night. They can use the other 18 hours in the day for getting sustenance!
Some people will offer the baby a bottle with a few ounces of water for the first couple of nights. (If you baby drinks water, you can try this.) I didn’t do it, I just had my kids go “cold turkey.” So, when they cried in the middle of the night, those first few nights when I was weaning them of their mid-night feeding, I would just go in and tuck them in like it was bedtime and say. ”It’s time for sleep. Night night.” And then walk out of the room.
I would wait outside the bedroom door, allow them a few minutes to settle, and if they didn’t I would go back in and lay them down and tuck them in and say “it’s time for sleep.” I would repeat this several times until the child realized that I meant business and wasn’t going to get them up or feed them. I think the most times I ever did this was 11. (And it took 45 minutes, but they went back to sleep.)
Keep it Short and to the Point
Going into the child’s room should not be a big production. Be quiet, be firm, be brief and make eye contact only while speaking to the child about going to sleep. Say things like “no crying” and “it’s time for sleep” and “lie down now.” And then avert your eyes and leave the room directly so they can’t see you any more. Continue reassuring them without offering food until they fall back asleep or at least stop wailing.
Don’t give in! The worst thing you can do is cave in. If after 30 minutes of telling the child that they should go to sleep you offer them a bottle because it’s worn you down: prepare yourself for a real battle the next night, because they now have experience with being told to go to sleep and then actually being fed. This confuses them, and leads them to believe that they just need to be more determined the next time.
Offer a Pacifier
If you can’t console your child and want to give them something to stop their crying you can try a pacifier. This did work for both of my children, I only ever gave them at bedtime, and I used one of those very short clip on straps so they could find it easily if it fell out of their mouth. But pacifiers can come with a whole slew of problems and then it was just one more thing to wean later. If you do opt for a pacifier, just pop it back into their mouth as you tuck them in and tell them it’s time for sleep.
The most important thing about teaching your child to sleep through the night is being consistent. It can be very hard when it’s approaching an hour and you’re still not able to get back to sleep that first night. But after 3 or 4 days you’ll find that you have succeeded and you’ll be blessed with a mirthful 5-6 hours of straight sleep which feels like nothing you’ve ever experienced in your life. Better than the best spa day ever.
With better quality sleep you’ll find yourself prepared to be a better parent throughout the day.