When will my baby sleep through the night?
Parents with a newborn baby at home may feel like a good night’s rest is now something of a myth. While it is true that your current sleeping schedule may be out of whack, this won’t be the case forever. With a lot of patience and a few sleep training techniques, parents see that sooner or later, their babies sleep through the night and adopt a predictable sleeping routine.
Newborn babies wake up and go to sleep at all hours of the day and night. As their bodies and minds are constantly growing, these little babies need their sleep now more than ever. However, enforcing a new sleep schedule may take a considerable amount of effort.
Most babies sleep through the night only once they’ve reached a certain stage in their development. The baby’s weight, age, environment, temperament, and the family’s routine all affect the quality, quantity, and schedule of sleep a baby experiences.
A Baby’s Timeline to Sleeping Through the Night
Babies start sleeping through the night after they’ve experienced a few key milestones in their cognitive and physical development.
- Decreased Moro or startle reflex. This startle reflex is the culprit that causes a baby to jerk itself awake in response to triggers like a temperature change, loud noise, sudden movement, or a bad dream. Babies with a strong Moro reflex likely wake up with their arms flailing. This reflex tends to decrease or disappear around the four-month mark, which helps babies sleep through the night.
- Increased weight gain and feeding.
- Decreased feeding throughout the night.
- Decreased feedings at night.
- Increased ability in self-soothing (by sucking on hands, fingers, or pacifiers).
When Babies Sleep Through the Night
Doctors expect that babies sleep through the night around the time they are four- and six-months-old. Sleeping for a period longer than eight hours will generally occur after six months.
Parents can help babies sleep through the night by eliminating nighttime feedings around the time the baby is six-months-old. However, this timeline may be delayed for mothers that breastfeed, as babies can metabolize their mom’s breastmilk faster and may require feedings more frequently.
What Does “Sleeping Through the Night” Mean?
Sleeping through the night may mean different things for parents and babies. Babies sleep through the night when they reach an uninterrupted period of three to eight hours a night. A newborn that sleeps a three-hour stretch is just starting to sleep through the night at this time.
When a newborn reaches four or five months old, they likely won’t need to have a midnight meal. However, it is the parent’s job to curtail this midnight feeding as most babies will want the comfort of this nightly meal.
The age of your newborn will also affect the duration of their sleep:
- Newborns typically sleep restfully for three hours each night.
- At four months, babies often sleep seven or eight hours every night. If your baby is around 11 pounds, they no longer need to have nighttime feedings.
- By the time babies are between five and six months, these babies sleep through the night for eight hours without any feedings in between. Though they are capable of sleeping without feeding, they also may wake up crying for a snack before the day begins.
With this timeline in mind, parents must realize that babies start sleeping through the night generally around the six-month mark. Parents will likely need to get used to napping whenever they find the time to during the first few months with their newborn.
Tips to Help Babies Sleep Through The Night
Parents anxiously waiting for their babies to start sleeping through the night must realize that they don’t get there on their own. The more intentional parents are about setting their child up for successful sleeping habits, the sooner their babies start sleeping through the night.
Wake Baby Before You Go to Sleep
Before you’re ready to go to sleep, go ahead and wake up your newborn for one last late night feeding. Even if your baby is sleepy, taking a few minutes to feed them now may give you a couple of extra hours of uninterrupted sleep. However, keep in mind that this tip may backfire and cause the baby to wake up more often.
Alternatively, try to give the baby a bigger feeding during their last meal before bed. Babies often nod off before they finish feeding. If this is the case, try waking your child and make sure they finish getting their fill before turning in for the night. Guaranteeing your baby has eaten enough will help to keep baby from waking you up in the night out of hunger.
Stretch Out Baby’s Feedings
Newborns often need to be fed in two – three hour intervals. However, when they reach the three – four month mark, the parent needs to start stretching out the time between their feedings. At night, parents should gradually stretch out the feeding intervals by adding 30 minutes between meals every other night. By stretching out these feedings, parents will be able to help their babies sleep through the night.
Shorten Your Baby’s Nighttime Feeding
Babies start sleeping through the night when they have shorter nighttime feedings. Start weaning your baby by putting less formula or breastmilk in their bottle during the nighttime wakings. By decreasing this amount of milk or time of nursing throughout the week, your baby will soon be able to give up this nighttime feeding completely.
Don’t Rush in When Your Baby Cries
If your baby is used to you coming in and feeding them as soon as they start crying, try to give them a few minutes before coming in to feed them. Your baby should be able to entertain themselves or doze off, effectively skipping this midnight feeding.
While the goal is for them to self-soothe, you may need to go in to gently caress your baby if they are protesting loudly. However, the sooner your baby learns that their nightly waking won’t lead to instant feedings, the likelier they will sleep restfully through the night.
Start Sleep Training Your Baby
If parents believe that their child has reached the point when babies start sleeping through the night, they can begin following some best practices of sleep training. Babies should be put down at the proper bedtime. Depending on your child’s age, this is typically 7 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. if they are under the age of one. Babies that are up later are more likely to become overtired, which will mean they take a long amount of time to fall asleep and wake up during the night.
Establish a Bedtime Routine
Additionally implementing routines is a must during this stage of sleep training. While this routine needn’t be extremely strict, there needs to be a regular and constant routine that both you and your baby follow each night. Babies start sleeping through the night when they are provided the consistency that allows them to feel secure and safe. Parents should try to keep this same consistency every night so their baby knows what to expect at bedtime.
If Baby Won’t Sleep Through the Night
Despite all your best attempts, you may find that your baby doesn’t sleep through the night. Some babies simply need more time to adjust to this new life of sleeping for six or eight uninterrupted hours.
Babies start sleeping through the night when they’re ready, so parents should take that into account regardless of how long it takes for their child to begin sleeping through the night. Oftentimes, children that are underweight need frequent feedings. If this is the case for your baby, it’s likely that they will need more time with nightly feedings.
Not all babies sleep through the night at six months. Parents must realize that what works for one baby might not work in their situation. If your baby needs nighttime feedings, regular naps, and comfort in the night, that’s perfectly fine.
Exhausted parents won’t be tired forever. Babies start sleeping through the night when they are the right age, weight, and when they have adopted a working sleeping schedule. Keep this guide in mind when trying to help your babies sleep through the night.