Your world has suddenly turned pink. You are ecstatic after the birth of your tiny baby girl. You arrive home, starry-eyed, in a cloud of pink balloons and teddy bears. But you soon realize that this little pink bundle is not going to just flutter her sweet eyelashes at you and doze off. You are going to have to learn how to get the baby to stop fighting sleep.
Many new moms tend to obsess over their babies’ sleep patterns. If you focus too much on how much sleep your baby is getting, it can quickly become a major cause of stress for you. Often, we think the baby is not getting enough sleep when she is actually quite okay with her hours spent in the land of nod.
How Many Hours Should A Baby Spend Sleeping?
Babies need different amounts of sleep, according to their age. As your baby grows, she will gradually need less and less sleep.
A newborn should sleep for between 15-18 hours in a 24-hour cycle. Most newborns need to feed every 3-4 hours, and will sleep for most of the time between feeds. This is not a hard-and-fast rule, only a very broad guideline. Don’t beat yourself up if your baby wakes for a feed after only two hours. Every baby is different and will sleep and feed according to her individual needs.
By 4 months, your baby will start to need less sleep and will have longer periods of wakefulness between feeds. From 4-6 months, the baby should need from 12-16 hours sleep out of 24. She will probably start going for slightly longer stretches at night, with 2-3 daytime naps of 2-2 ½ hours each.
A 7-month-old baby also needs to sleep for 12-16 hours out of 24, but she should manage an 8-10 hour stretch at night, with a morning and afternoon nap of about 2 hours each.
From a year old, your baby should be able to sleep through for 10-12 hours, with one long daytime nap, of between 2-3 hours.
These guides are very general, and there are many factors that can affect or change the number of hours your baby needs to sleep. If you are struggling to get your baby to sleep, we have a few useful tips to help you.
How To Get A Baby To Stop Fighting Sleep
The most important element in your baby’s sleep pattern is consistency. If you establish a good routine early on and stick to it without wavering, your baby will be less likely to fight sleep.
You will soon learn to interpret your baby’s signs that she is ready to sleep. When she starts moaning, appears drowsy, and her eyes start to droop, it is time to stop whatever she is doing and put her to sleep. Avoid letting her become overtired. This will make her unable to fall asleep and she will become more and more distressed.
Many newborns love the feeling of being swaddled snugly. It makes them feel secure and can help them to fall asleep more easily.
As the baby gets older, she will eventually become too big for swaddling. At this stage, you can transition to a sleepsuit or special baby sleeping bag. There are many different styles on the market. Find one that you like that has rise-per-size availability, and put your baby in it every time you put her to sleep.
Baby will soon learn to associate the sleeping bag with sleep and will start to ‘wind down’ when she is snugly zipped up in it. The beauty of this is that you can continue with this practice well into the toddler stage, encouraging good long-term sleep habits.
The Bedtime Routine
The key to success with sleep time is consistency. As soon as you vary from your normal routine, your baby will feel insecure and won’t know what to do. For a newborn, try giving a diaper change, feed, and short cuddle before putting her down. She will quickly get used to the idea of going to sleep with this routine. Doing bath time before sleep also helps to establish a good pattern of introducing the idea that it is nearly time to go to sleep.
For babies who are already eating solids, we recommend dinner, followed by a bath, milk feed, a short cuddle with a story, and then put the baby down. It is not a good idea to put her down with a bottle, even if she is able to hold it herself. This quickly becomes a habit that is very difficult to break. Once a baby has teeth, it is very bad for the teeth.
Try to avoid too much stimulation just before bedtime. Screens and noisy toys can over-stimulate your baby. Electronic toys that play music and beeping sounds will wake up certain receptors in her brain, and she will not be able to ‘wind down’ and switch off.
If your baby is crying frantically and you cannot pacify her, you need to rule out other possible problems.
If your baby is very distressed and you cannot get her to sleep, it is worth going to the doctor to rule out any medical issues. Ear infections, for example, are very common, and the pressure in the ears can cause intense pain when the baby is lying down.
Check her hands and feet very carefully. Sometimes a fine strand of thread from her clothes or socks, or even occasionally one of your hairs, can become tightly wound around a tiny finger or toe. It will cause extreme discomfort and can cut off circulation. Unfortunately, this is a little-known problem that is not often mentioned, so many people don’t think of it, but it is a common and potentially very dangerous problem that is often seen in hospital emergency rooms.
Other factors, too, play a role in how to get a baby to stop fighting sleep.
The Sleeping Environment
Where your baby sleeps has an influence on how well and how easily your baby goes to sleep. Consider the following factors:
Whether it is in her own room or in a shared room (either shared with you or a sibling), in his crib or in your bed, it will be easier to get a baby to stop fighting sleep if the room is quiet and peaceful.
If you have a noisy household with lots of comings and goings, and older children who are awake and busy, it may be difficult to keep things quiet. It is great if you can get your baby used to sleep through all the normal household noise, but if she fights sleep in these circumstances, there are things you can use to help.
- White noise machine – there are many different models of white noise machines on the market. These provide gentle background noise, much like the noise you hear on an airplane, that blocks out other noise. It can be very soothing for a restless baby.
- White noise apps – there are numerous sleep apps available for download on your devices, that enable you to play different types of background white noise.
- Soft music – playing soft music in the background can help to shut out other noise that might disturb the baby. It will not only calm her, but certain studies have even shown that babies who frequently listen to classical music have a greater likelihood of developing a higher IQ as they grow up.
All of the above is useful and can be beneficial, but I am also a great believer in the good, old-fashioned lullaby. Nothing is more soothing to a fractious baby than the gentle sound of her mother’s or father’s voice softly singing to her. It offers the comfort of knowing that Mummy or Daddy is close by, and will help to get a baby to stop fighting sleep.
Is the room too warm/cold for a baby? As a general rule, if it feels too warm or cold for you, it will be too warm or cold for her. Remember, though, that if you are up and down and very active at the time, you may feel warmer than a baby who is lying in her crib. Ideally, the room temperature should be between 68°-72° Fahrenheit.
Your baby should be dressed in comfortable clothing that is not too warm. If she feels too hot she will not sleep well. Try to find sleepwear that is made of natural fabrics, such as cotton. This will prevent overheating and uncomfortable sweating.
Avoid covering the baby with blankets or duvets. If the room temperature is comfortable and she is suitably clothed, they are not necessary and are a safety hazard. SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, has sometimes been associated with blankets and other coverings.
When your baby resists going to sleep and cries for hours at a time, it can be draining for the exhausted parents. But if you follow our suggestions and stick to your routine, you should soon learn how to get a baby to stop fighting sleep.