Whilst some may drop their night feeds sooner, it is quite normal for babies to still need an overnight feed up until 7-8 months of age. For children who have already started on solids, it is also important to ensure that their diet contains the right kind of food groups to support a full night of sleep.
If your little one has a ‘sleep association’ that involves you - for example, always being rocked, fed or held to sleep - then they may be struggling to link their sleep cycles together overnight. This can mean wake-ups every 2-4 hours overnight, with your child needing your help to get back to sleep each time.
Check out my Helpful vs Unhelpful Sleep Associations blog for more about sleep associations.
Many people assume that the more tired their child is, the better they will sleep overnight. In fact the opposite is true. - if your child is overtired, they are much more likely to experience frequent overnight wake-ups. Overtired babies will normally wake very frequently overnight - often every two hours or less - and also tend to wake up very early in the morning to start their day (normally pre-6am).
Ensuring that your child is getting the right amount of daytime sleep at the right times of day, combined with an age-appropriate bedtime, can help to avoid overtiredness.
Just as overtiredness can cause overnight problems, the opposite is also true. If your child is getting too much daytime sleep, they may simply not be tired enough to sleep well all night. Depending on your child’s age, reducing the length of their naps or even eliminating a nap can help to shift some of your child’s sleep from day to night.
Many people don’t realise that it is completely normal for their child to be waking up overnight. Just like us, our little ones will drift between sleep cycles, stirring as they reach the end of each one (every 2-4 hours).
As adults we may pull our blanket up, roll over, and fall asleep again, barely rousing. Similarly, your child may roll around their cot, make some noise or even start to cry as they are trying to soothe and resettle themselves into their next sleep cycle.
As parents, of course our first instinct is to help our children, but unfortunately if we always intervene, then our little ones simply don’t get the opportunity to learn how to sleep through the night. If we always rush straight in at the slightest peep, we can actually interrupt their efforts to resettle between sleep cycles and, in fact, our presence can sometimes cause our little ones to fully wake up, meaning it takes even longer for them to go back to sleep.
Next time your child wakes up overnight, instead of rushing in, try to give them some space to see whether they can resettle themselves. Given the opportunity, your child may surprise you and go back to sleep on their own without needing your help.
If everything else is in place, then sometimes it can be as simple as tweaking your child’s sleep environment. Making sure that your child isn’t too hot or too cold and that their room isn’t too bright or too noisy are all important aspects to consider.