How To Help Baby Sleep Through the Night

My clients often ask me how to help baby sleep through the night. As an experienced parent and photographer who is skilled at getting babies to sleep, clients are often in awe that their babies sleep through their photo shoot and want tips to use at home.

Nicole Cassey, owner and founder of Bubbaroo, Australia's first swaddle products shares her tips in this guest blog post.

How To Help Baby Sleep Through the Night

Recent World Health Organization (WHO)  guidelines state that newborn babies 0-3 months should be sleeping 14-17 hours and babies 4-11 months should be sleeping 12-16 hours? The problem is that newborn babies don’t know anything about the WHO guidelines. They don’t even know the difference between day or night! So the question many new parents ask is - how to get baby to sleep through the night?

A newborn baby needs to adjust to life outside the womb. Likewise parents need to adjust to life with a baby - this is the 4th trimester. It helps to understand the 4th Trimester theory. If you can imagine what life was like for your baby inside the womb, especially during the 3rd trimester - the warm, dark, cosy. Baby was constantly fed and rocked by your movements and comforted by the sound of your heartbeat. There's a lot to adjust to outside the womb. Babies cry because they are hungry, cold, or tired - in utero, these things weren't an issue. Our job as parents is to meet our baby’s needs.

Newborn babies are born with a “startle reflex” or “moro reflex” that can wake them. Swaddling or wrapping a newborn can help to settle the startle reflex and re-create the snug feeling and security your baby felt in the womb. Studies have shown that a swaddled baby can sleep longer with fewer awakenings.


Getting baby into a good bedtime routine

One of the best things you can do for your baby and yourself! It's never too early to introduce your baby to a bedtime routine. We recommend starting the routine when your baby is a newborn. It will set up your baby’s sleep routine as they grow older.

Babies and children have absolutely no concept of time. Their world is measured by the order of events. In their little minds, they’re thinking “so what happens next?". Young children like predictability and will be easier to manage and settle when they already know what's coming.

A bedtime routine is like a “countdown” for your baby so they know what to expect after each step. The steps below are designed to be a guide. Each baby and family is different and you should find whatever works for you.

A baby is lying on a cream moon shaped prop for her newborn photo shoot in Perth WA
A baby is lying on his side on a beige blanket during his newborn photo shoot in Perth WA
A baby is lying on a cream moon shaped prop for her newborn photo shoot in Perth, WA

Bedtime Routine for a Newborn Baby 

When baby is a few weeks old you can start to introduce them to the difference between night and day. At night you can keep the lights dimmed and avoid eye contact and speak very quietly. In the daytime the house noise should be kept as normal as possible and the room not completely dark.

Taking a warm bath before bed helps your baby feel sleepy. The drop in core baby temperature after baby gets out of the bath helps relax your little one so they're ready to sleep. You could gently massage your baby just before you pop them into their pyjamas.

After the bath, you could offer a top up milk feed or bottle. The idea is to make sure the baby has a large enough feed to help get them through as much of the night as possible. Talking softly and gently telling your baby that they are going to go to sleep now. Keep everything calm and peaceful. Then swaddle your baby put them in their baby sleeping bag ready for bed.

You can change your baby's clothes in the morning to show him that it is the start of a new day. When baby is awake you can talk, play and have some tummy time. Feeding can also be a time to chat so that baby doesn't nod off in the middle of a feed and want to go back to bed.

Bedtime Routines for older babies

At around 4 months, your baby should be able to recognise night from day and start to establish ‘normal’ sleep cycles. This means it’s time to teach good sleep patterns by putting in place routine nap and bed-times, adhering to a bedtime routine and making sure when they wake during the night, it’s quiet and dark.

As your baby develops, routines and timings may change. With the introduction of solids at 6 months, dinner time also needs to be taken into account. Make sure you start the evening meal early enough so that you stay relaxed and baby is not too tired, otherwise they may be cranky and not feed well. Then bath, top up feed, brush teeth and give your baby an opportunity for the wind down time with a bedtime story in their baby sleeping bag. Be sure to dress your baby for the coldest part of the night. Try to use cues that teach your baby to settle on their own to sleep.

Something like a baby sleeping bag helps cue your baby for bed without it needing to be re-done or given again during the night like a dummy or a comforter.

Baby's sleep cycles

Most parents want to rush to their baby as soon as they make a peep. Take a moment to wait and listen or check the baby video monitor if you have one. Perhaps your baby is in between sleep cycles and just making a little noise, even adults can make noises in their sleep! Give them time to self-settle without you rushing in to wake them fully. Alternatively, your baby may just be waking up and lying peacefully. Of course, if they start to cry you need to go in and check on them.

If you are consistent then your baby will get into the habit of self-settling and will be on the way to becoming an independently capable sleeper for the rest of their life.

Babies go through sleep stages associated with their development. As babies grow they will slowly sleep more at night and have more awake hours during the day. Most babies will still need to be fed through the night for several months and potentially even beyond 12 months. Keep long term sleep habits in your mind. It is hard when you are exhausted but view it as setting up your baby’s sleep habits for the future. And try to remember, it won’t last forever. They grow up so fast!

About the Author

Nicole Cassey, Mum to Jacob and Emily, founder and general dog’s body at Bubbaroo. Nicole was inspired to create Bubbaroo and Australia’s first swaddle after the personal experience she had with her first child, Jacob.

"It is such a steep learning curve", explains Nicole. "Getting to know the baby you created and finding your groove as a parent. You sometimes feel like you need to become a detective to try to interpret your baby's cues, personality, cries and behaviour. This is my passion to help parents on their journey, especially new parents as they transition to parenthood."

Nicole has a passion for sharing knowledge and community, regularly organising and presenting at various expectant parent and sleep workshops. She keeps up to date with the latest evidence-based safe sleep and health research. Bubbaroo collaborates with experts in their field that share similar values and philosophies and have a passion for helping and supporting parents and expectant parents.

Nicole’s attention to detail with the creation of her premium quality baby, toddler and child sleepwear is exceptional. Bubbaroo is not just a mass market brand producing products. Her focus is on helping your baby sleep safely in products that stand the test of time.

Perth newborn photographer - Little Brown Rabbit Photography

Swaddling is an important part of my job as a photographer, and I swaddle almost every baby to help them settle into sleep during the photoshoot. Read more about how to prepare for your baby's newborn photo shoot.