• Martha Lewis

How do you know when you need help with your baby's sleep?

Being a new parent is soooo hard. Besides the lack of sleep, it's easy to question if your baby is acting normally or not. Your baby grows and changes so quickly. So how do you know if they're going through a phase that will correct itself or if you need to address something right away?

When my son was waking up every 1 or 2 hours all night long when he was 12 weeks old, I had a feeling something was off. Many of my friends with new babies said their babies slept a long stretch in the beginning of the night. Up to 7 hours! Even my co-sleeping friend's baby wasn't waking up all night long like mine was.

But then I would ask other people who told me that co-sleeping babies tend to wake up often. And they pretty much said that it's how it goes and that I should figure out how to deal with it.

Accepting many more months of sleep deprivation wasn't an option for me. I was miserable! I had to go back to work. I wanted my husband back in bed with me. I wanted to feel good during the day again and not spend every day exhausted and frustrated and only thinking about sleep.

I also felt like my son was frustrated. Sometimes he didn't want to be nursed back to sleep. He still cried. Now I know that he wasn't hungry. He just wanted to go to sleep but he didn't know how without my help.

I recently talked to a writer for Teton Family Magazine who was interviewing me for an article. She has 2 girls of her own who didn't sleep well. She told me that she didn't know what was normal for baby's sleep and she didn't know who to ask. She asked me how do moms know when they need help with their baby's sleep. So that's what I want to write about today.

How do you know when you need help with your baby's sleep?

1. Your baby hasn't starting extending their first leg of sleep by 8 weeks.

Newborn's sleep is very random and inconsistent. They need to wake up every few hours to eat. So the first few weeks with a new baby are going to be exhausting. There's really no way around it.

But the first leg of your baby's sleep should start to consolidate around 6-8 weeks. They should start sleeping 4 or 5 or even 7 hours straight after you put them to bed for the night. And then it's normal for babies to wake up every couple of hours after that first stretch until morning.

So if your baby wakes up an hour after you put him down for bed. Or every hour or two all night long, it's time to get help.

2. Your 6 month-old (or older) baby wakes up during the night.

Every pediatrician I've talked to agrees that almost all babies can sleep through the night without a feed by the time they're 6 months old. Most babies I work with between 4 and 6 months old will drop their night feeds on their own once they learn how to sleep independently.

Keeping a night feed for your baby as he gets to be 9 months and older can confuse your baby and cause him to wake up even more in the night. And it gets harder to remove night feeds the older your baby gets. So I recommend removing the night feed closer to 6 months.

3. Your baby isn't getting enough sleep.

Your baby needs lost of sleep! Usually a happy, attentive child is well-rested. Overtired babies and children show these signs:

  • a witching hour before bed

  • falls asleep often while driving or in the stroller at non-nap times

  • you have to wake him in the morning

  • fussiness and irritability

If your child fits the criteria above, he probably needs more sleep than he is getting. Try to prioritize naps and put him to bed early for a short time to catch up on sleep. Don't worry that an early bedtime will cause an earlier wake-up time. This rarely happens, especially if he needs more sleep.

All babies need 10-12 hours of sleep at night plus daytime naps as well. Here's how much sleep your baby should be getting every day:

  • 0 – 3 months of age: 16 – 18 hours per day

  • 3 – 6 months of age: about 15 hours per day

  • 6 – 12 months of age: about 14 hours per day

  • 12 months of age and up: 12 – 13 hours per day

Remember, these are averages and some kids need more or less sleep. So your child's behavior matters most. But if your baby sleeps less than the recommendations above, he probably isn't getting enough sleep.

4. You feel exhausted and you aren't getting enough sleep.

Maybe your baby doesn't seem affected by not sleeping. But you know that you're not sleeping enough! If you have a happy baby who wakes up all night long, but you're miserable, it's ok to want a change. As moms, we tend to sacrifice ourselves for our babies. But we can take better care of our babies when we're well-rested.

And your baby will be happier and better able to learn and develop if he's getting the sleep he needs, too!

I hope this helps you know what is normal development for your baby's sleep. But the bottom line is, if you're exhausted and not sleeping, it's time to ask for help. Or at least ask an expert what's normal.

I'm always happy to talk to you about your baby's sleep! You can book a FREE call with me to talk about what's going on and some solutions as well.


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Martha Lewis, MS

Jackson Hole, WY



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