Midnight tantrums; 8 Proven ways to get your newborn to sleep through the night

Updated February 21, 2017

Newborn babies are sleeping machines, and snooze cutely for about 16 hours out of each 24 hours. Unfortunately for their parents, many babies haven't quite managed to grasp the knack of sleeping most when it's dark. While these tiny versions of humans seem to be programmed to wake up during the night to get some milk into their tummies, there are some tricks to keeping the midnight squalls to a minimum.

Day and night

The NHS recommends that a new baby gets used to the difference between day and night, so she knows when people are up and about and when everyone else in the family wants to go to sleep. During the day, Mum and Dad should keep the house bright and reasonably noisy even when the baby is snoozing so she's not all bright-eyed and bushytailed at night. Daytime is also playtime!

Nom, nom, nom

Small babies may drop off in the early evening for a long sleep and then wake up a few hours later crying like banshees because they are hungry. If your baby has this pattern, then a tip from the University of Illinois is to try waking him up an hour or two before you need to go to sleep yourself and see if he is hungry. This may keep his little tummy full for most of the rest of the night.

Prep time

Even if your baby isn't in habit of sleeping all evening, eating before bedtime can help extend the hours your baby sleeps overnight. A rapid nappy change a little bit before bed and a full tummy and you'll have removed some of the excuses that he can use to wake you up out of your lovely deep sleep.

The power of routine

A regular, consistent routine at night also helps the baby associate night-time with sleep. Some softly sung lullabies or a relaxing warm bath before bedtime can help her drop off into the dreamland of whatever babies dream of, possibly filled with tinkly music, people disappearing behind their hands, and soft furry bears whose hard plastic noses have a great mouth-feel.


Nab your baby for bedtime when he's at his sleepiest but has not yet fallen asleep, says the Mayo Clinic. This way he'll be in his crib still awake but not so awake that he'll start grizzling for you to keep him company. This routine will also ensure that he gets used to falling asleep when he is on his own, so if he wakes up during the night he is comfortable dropping back off by himself without screaming for you. Although rocking him to sleep might be tempting, the NHS says that this might encourage him to expect it every bedtime.

The dark side

Darkness and quiet are soothing for any sleepy human, including a baby. The NHS recommends that parents close the curtains, lower their voices and keep other stimulation to a minimum to help the baby drift off to sleep easily. Don't be tempted to change her just in case, as this can make the baby more alert at this quiet time.

Night, night, light

If the little fella insists on waking you up because he's hungry, then stick with the dark, quiet time. Choose a soft night-light when feeding him, as bright light will wake him up more, and it'll be easier for both of you to get back to sleep.

Look but don't touch (if you can resist)

Small babies often wake up during the night without necessarily needing a feed or a change. According to the NHS, this is completely normal and if you feel that she is not upset, ill or hungry, then try not to stroke or cuddle her. This can make her more alert, which reduces the chance of her going back to sleep on her own.

Related: 13 Novel ways daddy can bond with baby

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About the Author

Jillian O'Keeffe has been a freelance writer since 2009. Her work appears in regional Irish newspapers including "The Connacht Tribune" and the "Sentinel." O'Keeffe has a Master of Arts in journalism from the National University of Ireland, Galway and a Bachelor of Science in microbiology from University College Cork.