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How can I Help my Child to Sleep Through the Night?

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  • Written By: O. Wallace
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 27 November 2016
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One of the biggest milestones a child will reach is when he or she finally sleeps through the night. While some children naturally fall asleep and stay asleep easily with little resistance, others do not go gently and fight kicking and screaming the whole way. There is no single right way to get a child to sleep through the night — all parents should take into account their child’s personality and temperament when taking advice on sleep.

A child is considered to be sleeping through the night when he or she sleeps at least six hours in a row. As a child ages, sleep requirements change. A newborn, for example, sleeps 16 to 20 hours per day, with the longest nighttime stretch averaging around four to five hours. At three months old, 90% of babies sleep an average of about six to eight hours at night.

At six months, most parents can breathe a sigh of relief, because it is at this age that a baby no longer needs to wake up for a nighttime feeding. No matter which sleep expert you choose to follow, they all agree that a good, consistent nighttime routine is essential to get your child to sleep through the night. After dinner, it is good to start preparing for bedtime with a cool-down or quiet-time routine, such as a bath and comfy pajamas, followed by reading. If your child is younger, you may want to substitute rocking and listening to quiet music.

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The foundation of getting your child to sleep through the night and stay asleep begins early. There are many schools of thought on the subject, and the important point is that parents adhere only to what they are comfortable with. Of all the theories, there are two main ways to get your child to sleep all night. The first is called parent soothing, which means that a parent helps the baby or child get to sleep by rocking, nursing, feeding or singing lullabies. While this makes the baby feel safe and secure and builds parent-baby trust, the potential drawback is that the child will only fall asleep with help from the parent and won’t fall back asleep after waking in the night.

Dr. William Sears, who is a huge advocate of “attachment parenting” and parent soothing, believes that parents should be realistic about what to expect from their children regarding sleep. Parents should be flexible and should not expect their children to fit into a “perfect sleeper” mold. Sears believes that parents should only do what they feel comfortable with, and determine what makes their baby feel most comfortable as well. He is also an advocate of co-sleeping, in which the baby sleeps either in bed with the parents or in the room with them.

The second way to get your child to sleep through the night is called self soothing, which means that a child is put to bed awake and trained to soothe himself to sleep on his own. While this may make a child more independent and help a parent avoid spending a lot of time soothing a baby to sleep every night, some parents believe that it tears down trust between the baby and parent and that parents become less responsive to their baby’s cries. One famous self-soothing expert is Dr. Richard Ferber. His technique, the “Ferber Method,” as outlined in his book, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems, has been debated in parenting and medical circles for years. His approach to getting your child to sleep is a progressive one.

The Ferber method involves putting the baby to bed awake. Soothe her for a short amount of time, and then leave the room. If the baby cries, go back to soothe her, but don’t pick her up. Slowly increase the duration of time between visits. In about a week, the baby should fall asleep on her own and stay asleep through the night. For some parents, the crying is too much to bear, and for some children, this method simply doesn’t work.

According to Dr. Harvey Karp, by addressing the five “S’s” of sleep, your baby should go to sleep easily. A happy, well-soothed baby will most likely fall asleep and stay that way through the night. The five S’s include swaddling, side-sleeping, shushing, swinging and sucking.

All the experts agree that in order to get your child to sleep, there are several needs that must be attended to. The child should be comfortably dressed in a warm bed. The room should be cool, dark and humidified. White noise is especially helpful, in addition to a full tummy and a clean diaper. If night waking continues to be a problem, consult your pediatrician to determine whether there is a medical cause.

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anon162908
Post 6

I was wondering how to get my daughter to sleep at night. She is five years old. She does not have a nap or red dyes in her diet and she still won't sleep. She's up and awake all the time. She sleeps about three hours a night and is up for the rest of the day. She does not watch t.v. before bed or eat or drink.

It takes her about two hours to fall asleep and then she sleeps three hours. Can someone please help me? I need some sleep. The teacher says that she is a smart child.

anon161935
Post 5

My two year old daughter used to sleep fine since she was eight weeks old. No problems until I had another baby. Now she won't sleep through the night. She wakes in the night screaming her head off for no reason and she won't go back to sleep unless i get into bed with her or she gets in with me.

I don't know what else to try to get her to sleep through the night. please help me with some ideas.

anon129852
Post 4

how does bath time help a child go to sleep?

anon118252
Post 3

I've come to the conclusion that we all have very different babies, and you need to do what is right for your relationship with your baby. If crying it out works for you and its not distressing to your child/relationship, then great.

Letting my 15 mo. old cry in her room does nothing for anybody and it doesn't make her go to sleep. If anything, she will work herself into such a tizzy that she will throw up!

It is worth our while to hold her to sleep. We have a bedtime routine that is very consistent, (bath, Pj's, book, bottle), and then we hold her. Most of the time, she is asleep within 10 min. while we are watching

tv (with her in my arms -- or anybody's arms).

I love that time of cuddling and she is not particular about who it is as we have rotated enough (me, husband, grandparents, etc). Some nights are more frustrating than others, but nothing anywhere near as frustrating as listening to my baby cry for me, standing in her crib, getting no rest, and no peace.

I read on a website, that no teenager needs to be rocked to sleep, so don't worry about holding your baby, and showing them that you love them.

Alchemy
Post 2

I believe that self-soothing is a completely acceptable way for getting your baby to sleep through the night. Any parent that is in-tune with their child will be able to differentiate their cries. Babies have a different cry for scared, hurt, angry, emotionally upset, and sick.

My daughter is 18 months and she sleeps on her own. I always put her to bed awake. I believe the most important part of getting her to sleep is consistency. Her bath is at a certain time, and her bedtime is consistent throughout the week.

She knows when she is tired, and often lets us know when she is ready for bed. She will say bed and walk to the stairs at about 8:00 every night. She has been doing this since about 13 months, and trust me, she has no trust issues with us.

submariner
Post 1

I am wondering how to get my baby to sleep through the night. She is about a year old, and she cries like crazy every time we leave her in her room by herself. We cannot put her in her bed until she is already asleep, and that means we have to be extra quiet downstairs while she falls asleep.

A friend told me that I should let the baby cry herself to sleep a couple times and she will fall asleep fine. He said if the baby doesn’t fall asleep within 15 minutes than get her, soothe her, and try again. I tried this but my mother in law freaked out (poor me!). Someone please help…Football season starts soon, and the games aren’t the same when they are muted.

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