How To Get Baby To Sleep Longer Stretches At Night

There’s a lot no one teaches you when you become a mom, like how to get the baby to sleep longer stretches at night. Most of us make a lot of trial and error before we find what works. When I had my baby, she didn’t sleep through the night for the first three months, and neither did I. 

She would start sleeping at 1 am and keep waking up every 45 minutes. I didn’t know how to make a newborn sleep longer, so I was tired, sleep-deprived, and easily irritated. But, with time, I got the hang of it and would like to share some tips that worked for me.  

So keep reading to get the baby to sleep longer stretches at night.

How Long Should Babies Sleep? 

How Long Should Babies Sleep

Children require different hours of sleep depending on how old they are. Understanding this concept will guide you on how to get your baby to sleep longer at night.

Newborns: According to the National Sleep Foundation, newborns (0 to 2 months old) need between 14 to 17 hours of sleep each day. Since babies need to feed frequently, they cannot sleep for 14 hours at once. Instead, these hours are broken down into shorter durations. 

Newborns sleep the longest because that’s what they’re used to from being in the womb, and so it takes them a while to adjust when they are out. Sometimes, the baby wakes up every 2 hours at night to feed, but other times it is because they don’t know whether it’s day or night.

Don’t worry if your baby has days and nights mixed up. After a while, they’ll know the difference between the two. However, it is a good idea to create a schedule to ensure they get enough feeding and adequate sleep both during the day and at night.

Infants: Still going by the recommendation from the National Sleep Foundation, infants (0 months to 1 year) should sleep for between 12 to 15 hours daily. 

As babies grow older, they need fewer daytime naps and sleep more during the night. That’s why their total sleep hours decrease with time.

Toddlers: 11 to 14 hours of sleep is adequate for toddlers (1 to 3-year-olds). When babies hit one year, they may have two daytime naps, but over time, they tend to sleep only once a day and then the rest of the hours at night. 

Preschoolers: These children (aged 3 to 5) need 10 to 13 hours of sleep daily. When your child gets to this age, you may notice that they may not nap regularly during the day because they can function well with shorter hours of sleep. 

School-going children: Children between the ages of 6 and 13 need about 9 to 11 hours of daily sleep. The younger they are, the more rest they require. For example, a 6-year-old child will tend to sleep more than a 12-year-old. 

Depending on how old your child is, you can see the amount of sleep they require to function correctly.

Tips On How To Get Baby To Sleep Longer Stretches At Night

Tips On How To Get Baby To Sleep Longer Stretches At Night

There are so many benefits of quality sleep for children. For example, it puts them in a better mood, increases their memory function, protects them from cardiovascular disease, and helps them grow. On that note, let’s look at some tips on how to get a baby to sleep longer stretches at night. 

Create a bedtime routine

A study conducted on over 10,000 children showed that having a bedtime routine helps children to fall asleep faster, sleep longer and wake up fewer times during the night.  

The purpose of a good bedtime routine is to soothe and calm your baby to allow them to sleep well and for long. It programs their mind to know what comes next and with time, they’ll stop resisting so much.

The main thing you should remember when creating this routine is to incorporate activities that will soothe the baby and help them wind down.

What worked for me was bathing my baby in warm water, then breastfeeding and cuddling her while singing lullabies. 

There are so many things you can do depending on your baby’s age. For example, you can bathe them, help them brush their teeth, get them in bed (whether that’s a crib or bassinet), read them a storybook, switch off the lights or dim them then give them a kiss and tell them good night. If you’re struggling to choose between a crib or bassinet, this article will guide you. 

Since you know your child better, you can go with what works for you. It’s also okay to do some trial and error until you get the best routine for both of you. Then stick with that routine for some time. 

Feed the baby close to bedtime

If you have a newborn, he or she will need to feed more times compared to a toddler. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends feeding a newborn after every 2 to 3 hours. This is because when babies are born, they have very tiny stomachs which cannot hold a lot of milk. Therefore, they get full fast and feel hungry again a few hours later.

If your baby feeds way too early, they’ll sleep and wake up when you’ve just laid your head to get some sleep. Feeding the baby close to bedtime is the secret to getting newborns to sleep longer stretches because they’ll be full for another 3 hours and even allow you to sleep. For this to be effective, ensure the baby is awake while they are feeding because if they’re dozing off then they won’t feed as much.

If your baby sleeps before you then you can also wake them up just before you sleep for another feeding. This will give you more time to sleep before the next feeding time. 

As your baby grows older, you can start weaning them off night feedings by reducing the frequency. They will then be able to sleep even longer. 

Allow your baby to self-soothe

When your baby is restless or wakes up at night and maybe starts crying, your first instinct as a mom is to rush to their rescue, pick them up and start rocking and/or playing with them. It’s been hours before you know it, and neither you nor the baby has gotten much sleep. I know because I’ve been there. However, you are not helping them by doing this.

Allowing your baby to self-soothe might be the most difficult thing for you to do but it is a solution to how to get your baby to sleep longer stretches at night. This doesn’t mean you completely ignore their cries. 

If they wake up because they’re hungry (for newborns), you can feed them and then put them back on their bed to sleep. You can put your hand on the baby’s chest to help them calm down and get out of the room (if they are sleeping in a separate room) or lie on your bed (if you are sleeping in the same room) without engaging them. This will send a message that it’s sleep time as opposed to when you start playing with them then they think it’s playtime. 

When you put them down when they’re dozing off and leave them, they’ll fall asleep on their own and they can then do this whenever they wake up at night. If you get up and engage them every time they wake up (for toddlers and older kids because they’re not waking up to feed), they’ll rely on you to help them go back to sleep. They’ll even wake up and come to your room to cuddle with you or take you to their room so you can soothe them back to sleep. The end result of all these activities is that your baby won’t sleep longer stretches at night.

If your baby is sleeping in another room, you can connect a baby monitor and watch them from your bedroom. If they’re not a newborn who needs to feed, they’ll wake up then drift off to sleep again and your heart will be at peace knowing they are okay. If you disrupt this process, you’ll have another dilemma of how to get the baby to sleep later. 

How to get a baby to sleep longer at night doesn’t mean the child won’t wake up. It means if they do, they can put themselves back to sleep. 

Put your child to sleep at an earlier time

The right time for a baby to sleep is when they’re tired but not too tired to a point where they become fussy and irritated. 

Having looked at how long babies should sleep in the previous section, you understand that babies require varying hours of sleep, depending on their age. However, in general, 7 to 9 pm is a good time for babies between 4 months onward to sleep. After 9 pm, they may be too exhausted and fussy, and getting them to bed can become a tiring task. 

Additionally, studies show that babies who are too tired sleep for short intervals and wake up more times than relaxed babies. So you see, letting them sleep early is a solution for how to get baby to sleep longer at night. 

To make this transition easier, you can start your evening routine earlier. For example, if you have been bathing your baby at 9 pm, you can now do it at 7 or 7:30 pm so they can be asleep by 8:30 pm.

Use your baby’s wake windows to optimize sleep

The wake window refers to the period your baby is awake before they fall asleep again. They can be eating, running around, playing, bathing, having their diapers changed, and so on, depending on their age. 

Making good use of your baby’s wake windows is the answer to how to get the baby to sleep longer at night because they get to sleep when they are tired enough but not too tired. You can do this in different ways. For example, check for cues that your baby is tired (such as if they’re yawning or dozing off) and put them to sleep instead of waiting too long, and then they become cranky, start crying or kicking and screaming because they are overly tired. When they sleep at the right time, they’ll sleep longer and soundly.

Avoid putting the baby down for a nap when it’s too close to their bedtime. What will happen in this case is that they won’t be tired enough by the time they need to sleep. Therefore, they won’t sleep easily and will wake up sooner than they should. 

When you learn your baby’s wake window, try not to let them be awake past those hours. Let’s say your baby stays awake for 90 minutes (this is typically for babies between 0 to 2 weeks), then don’t let them be awake for 2 hours because they’ll be overtired by then. 

In general, the wake window of 3-4 months old babies is between 75 to 120 minutes and this period increases the older a child gets. For example, a 4 to 24 month-old baby will probably be awake for 5 to 6 hours in between naps. The best way to learn your child’s wake-up window is by studying them. 

Create a suitable sleeping environment

It is easier for a child to fall asleep when the environment encourages that. For example, a child in a dim-lit room with dark curtains that block out light, the right room temperature, and maybe some white sounds (to obstruct outside noise) will sleep faster and longer than a baby in a room with bright lights and loud noise. 

This is especially important for newborns because it will help them differentiate between daytime and nighttime since they have day and night mixed up. 

Final Thoughts

How to get a baby to sleep longer stretches at night is something a lot of moms struggle with. It may seem like you will never have a good night’s sleep again when your bundle of joy arrives but it doesn’t have to be like that. By employing the tips discussed here, you will be able to get your baby to sleep longer at night. Be patient as you go through this journey because it may take time especially if the baby is already used to not sleeping throughout the night. You could also use these practical tips for first-time moms to make your motherhood journey smoother. I wish you all the best mommy hero.