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Helping your baby learn the skill of how to sleep

Like anything your child learns, sleep, and learning how to fall asleep and sleep through the night takes time and will occur at different times for different babies and their families. It is not always dependant on their age or weight. Every baby is different, and some babies will sleep through the night at eight weeks, some will sleep through the night at nine months and then others will not sleep through the night until three years old.

How long it can take your little one to sleep through the night can also depend on how we as parents guild them. Now I want to stress that if whatever you are doing is working for you, keep doing it. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Please never compare yourself or your baby to your friends or anyone else, for that matter. But if the constant nightly waking and broken sleep are not only affecting you but also affecting the mood and appetite of your little one, then it might be time to do something about it.

There are many guides and recommendations to assist or sway you one way or another on how you should or should not night wean your baby. None of these are tailored to you or your baby unless you have implemented or sought assistance in implementing a tailormade settling plan for your little one. If your baby is waking excessively overnight, deciding to night wean or “sleep train” your baby can be an emotional one, filled with guilt and uncertainty, especially if this has been a part of your routine for a long time.

Is my baby ready? Are they getting enough calories during the day? Am I doing this because I’m selfish?

Let’s help you understand what’s happening during your baby’s sleep a little more. During sleep, your babies brain process’ and consolidate information that they have learnt the previous day. Sleep also helps their body grow, rest and repair after a big day. By three months of age, most parents see their baby’s start to sleep some longer blocks of sleep overnight. This is their baby’s natural Circadian Rhythm starting to develop and mature. With some guidance and practice, babies will continue to stretch these blocks out longer over the next few months. As they begin to explore solids and mature, they will often start to sleep 6-10 hours overnight. Most 6 months olds should be able to sleep through 6-10 hours a night without needing to feed, but most of the parents I meet tell me that at around four months, their baby’s sleep started to deteriorate and continued to do so over the next few months until they decided to seek some assistance.


A baby’s Circadian Rhythm matures at four months, and they start to transition into more consistent REM and NON-REM sleep cycles. How this looks – Typically, they will start the night in a REM sleep cycle then drop quickly into a longer Deep NON-REM sleep cycle; they then cycle into a short REM sleep cycle around 3- 4 hours in then repeat this 2 hours later and again 2 hours later, towards the early part of the morning their NON REM sleep cycles become shorter, and they have more frequent REM sleep cycles until they finally wake to start their day. If your baby has learnt the skill of how to self settle in their cot, they will transition through these cycles seamlessly unless they have a need to be met. I.e. they are hungry, cold etc. But if your baby has fallen asleep on the breast or in your arms, for example, then they will stir through the REM sleep cycle and be aware that their environment has changed (most babies are unaware of this before four months), so they will then wake and seek out the same comfort that put them to sleep in the first place to put them back to sleep.

So mum will typically go in and feed them back to sleep. This behaviour only reinforces to your child that they can only transition through REM sleep cycles on the breast so your baby starts to wake at every REM sleep cycle only to be placed back where they went to sleep in the first place. They are not waking for hunger; they are waking because their environment changes. Imagine if you fell asleep in your bed and woke up on the deck. Now imagine if this kept happening every night. How would you feel? Would you start to fight sleep, and would you wake more often seeking the comfort of your bed? I know, right. It’s the same for babies. You see, babies need cuddles, love, nurturing; they need to know that mummy is there for them and that she will move mountains for them, but they also need sleep. They need to learn how to sleep just as they need to learn everything else. Teaching your baby how to sleep is not selfish. It is your part of your role as a parent.

Implementing positive sleep associations helps your baby to understand when sleep is approaching. By creating a solid wind-down bedtime routine with your baby you are teaching them that sleep is coming.

Having a consistent bedtime routine for both daytime naps and night-time sleeps is an essential factor for a baby successfully learning how to sleep.

A step by step, consistent routine helps babies understand when it’s sleep time.

It also helps promote positive sleep associations and can trigger melatonin production in the evening. (melatonin is the body’s natural sleep hormone that is produced in the evening and in the dark)

Starting a bedtime routine from very early on help sleep and settling skills develop naturally and positively.

It’s important to create a bedtime routine that works for your family, and that has the same sequence of steps each time to help your baby learn the process to of winding down before sleep


  • NAPPY CHANGE – I recommend that you change your nappy every time before a nap, night-time sleep or after feeding overnight time. Even if your baby doesn’t need a nappy change, I will generally pretend to change it for them so that this helps to get the start of the bedtime routine.
  • SLEEPING BAG OR SWADDLE SUIT-Lullababy SOS recommends that you use your sleeping bag or swaddle suit for both daytime and night-time sleeps again. This helps trigger to your little that they’re going to bed a sleeping bag is a long-term positive sleep association. Babies under four months of age have a very strong Moro reflex, and as a general rule, they feel comforted by being swaddled for all sleeps. Swaddling replicates the feeling of the tight, confined place of being in the womb. Very young babies also have little to no control over their limbs, and as they get tired, the sporadic movements of their limbs can cause them to become more irritable and can wake them during sleep. Between three and five months, I recommend transitioning into a sleeping bag. Using a sleeping bag or swaddle for each sleep sends strong cues to your baby that they’re going to sleep not into another play area. Another reason for using sleeping bags and swaddles is that babies cannot keep blankets on or control their temperature until around 2.5 years. This is another reason that I recommend using sleeping bags throughout the seasons so that you don’t struggle to get them into heavier weight sleeping bag in the cooler months.
  • OFFER A CUDDLY OR COMFORTER– Having a cuddly or a comforter that your baby associates with sleep helps them know that it’s sleep time. Lullababy SOS recommends that you choose a comforter that is age-appropriate, safe, breathable (natural fibres such as bamboo and cotton), washable and replaceable. To help form a positive relationship with this comforter, use it often and during awake times, keeping it close to you during feeds and cuddles. Once the connection has been formed with this comforter by using it often and keeping it close when feeding and comforting, it can be transitioned to only bedtimes. Remove all items from you cot that are not conducive to sleep. Any extra bedding toys mobiles should be removed from the cot before sleep.
  • DARKEN ROOM– Darkness helps produce melatonin. Early on, babies have no circadian rhythm to help develop this circadian rhythm, we need to create an environment conducive to sleep. At the beginning of all naps and night sleeps, we should make the environment darker to help promote melatonin production. By around three months of age, you should notice that your baby is sleeping for a more extended block at the beginning of the night as this is when melatonin production is the strongest overnight it decreases and early in the morning, it is at its lowest point. Parents will be surprised at how overstimulated babies can get with even the smallest amount of light. For babies who are very sensitive to light or in environments like Queensland, where it is getting light from 4 am in summer, I recommend using block out blinds to block out as much light coming into the room as possible.

When all the above steps are implemented and repeated from an early age, this routine will be enough to naturally prepare your baby for sleep for both daytime and night-time settles. If they are finding it difficult to bring on sleep unsupported I recommend gently assisting them with a soothing touch, pat, jiggle or a soothing voice to help them fall asleep in their cot. Over time this routine will become reassuring and soothing enough to help them drift off to sleep. Again the more often you show them that their cot is a safe space for them to be in, the easier this will become and the less you will need to assist them through this process.

Following the above steps ensures that your baby will separate feeding and sleep associations and will learn the skill of sleep and sleeping through the night when they are developmentally ready.

For more help or for a tailored sleep plan for your little one get in touch Book an introductory call HERE. X

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