The only universal rule is this: when they are tired enough, they will sleep.
Beyond that, there are things that you can do to help, but depending on your child, the circumstances, the situation etc. sometimes there is just nothing you can do. That is okay.
The good news is that eventually, you will find a routine you can live with – babies do eventually sleep through the night (even if they are toddlers by the time they are doing it!) and eventually you will too. 😊
There are a lot of blogs and books out there that promise to get you and your baby happily sleeping at night once again. They advocate all sort of different things co-sleeping, cry-it-out, routines etc. all of it works for some parents. None of it works for every parent. No two parents or the kids that those parents have will be exactly the same, so some things will work for you that won’t work for your friends and the same for them.
So here is what I will suggest – if it works, great! If it doesn’t, try something else. The “guidelines” I would give universally are very few:
- Don’t compare your child with anyone else’s. They are unique. Each child (even siblings!) is going to do things a little differently. If your sister-in-law’s kids slept through the night at 4 weeks and yours is pushing a year (or two) and still not sleeping well, remember the kids are very different and you can’t expect (and wouldn’t want) them to be the same. It isn’t a referendum on your parenting. Just don’t go there.
- Experiment with different ideas. Throw out what doesn’t work and keep what does. Some kids simply sleep earlier on than others. Keep trying and tweaking. Eventually something will work.
- Go with what you and your child are comfortable with. If you aren’t comfortable letting your child cry for a bit, then don’t do it. It’s okay not to. There are many different ways to reach the same goal.
My Own Experience
J slept through pretty early on, but that got messed up by moving and teething. Then waking up got to be a habit that we slowly had to wean him off again.
We learned from that that around 5-6 months they start forming habits and it is easy to get dependent on something. In our case, he was waking up around 2am hungry. He would absolutely howl until given something. Did he need it? No. But because of the situation (one bedroom apartment, stressful job situation) we felt it was better to just let it go temporarily than try and break it then.
So be prepared for setbacks even if you get them there early on. Roll with it 😊
Do I recommend the same response? Not really. It was an awful year and a half or so of waking up at night, and towards the end, ignoring the warnings and giving him a freaking bottle of milk to just get the kid to go back to sleep. But we got through it. Eventually – and we really don’t even remember when – he just stopped doing it and started sleeping through the night again. Before that he would sleep through for a week at a time and then wake up 3-4 times a night the next. There was no rhyme or reason to it.
However, we moved twice in that first year and a half. He got all his teeth. We switched jobs. I took time out from mine and went on a fruitless search for another. We moved to and learned two new cities. We traveled a lot. We moved from Japan to the US.
Somehow, somewhere between dragging the kid up Machu Picchu (when he definitely was not sleeping through the he night) and doing a walking tour of the old section of Quebec City (when he was reliably), he managed to sleep through the night regularly.
Considering everything that was going on then, I chalk that up as a victory.
My point is this – sometime, at some point, they do all sleep eventually. I had friends swear by systems like Babywise, but none of those worked for us with our son. We might fare differently with our daughter. Especially if the circumstances stay relatively stable.
J just wasn’t a routine baby (and still isn’t as a toddler). Routines I’m sure are lovely for those who make them work, and N seems more routine. But we still can’t figure out J at three. We aim to have him in bed at 8:30 every night. Sometimes he goes to sleep right away (last night). However, even when things are going great you may still have a night or two like we had the night before last when we had to confiscate his nightlight because he was using it as a lantern to wander around the playroom at midnight – this after returning him to bed for literally hours. (He said he wasn’t sleepy). Why? I have no idea. 😜
So find what works for you. And know it gets easier.