When do babies sleep through the night? Every new parent wants to know the answer to this question. You would think that since newborns need up to 17 hours of sleep a day, that the answer would be immediately. Though that's not the case, these tips can help you understand what impacts your baby's sleep and how you can help them sleep them through the night.
When Will My Baby Sleep Through the Night?
Most parents have to wait an average of six months to see consistent periods of sleep. But what exactly the time frame is that experts classify as 'sleeping through the night' might not line up exactly with what you're expecting. And there are also lots of reasons that a baby might struggle with this seemingly simple task. Once you recognize these things, you can start taking steps to help your baby sleep longer at night.
What Does 'Sleeping Through the Night' Really Mean?
When a sleep deprived parent hears the phrase 'sleeping through the night,' eight hours might automatically come to mind. Unfortunately for new parents, your version of sleeping through the night and your baby's version are quite different.
Experts consider as little as six hours 'sleeping through the night' for an infant. This typically occurs around six months of age, but for the lucky few, it can happen as early as four months.
Babies Can Sleep Through the Night After These Milestones
Thought you might want your sweet baby to get longer stretches of sleep as soon as possible, there are a few developmental milestones that need to happen first.
- Disappearance of the Moro Reflex: This is an involuntary protective motor response that is triggered by jarring movements, loud noises, bright lights, and the sensation of falling. It normally fades away by your baby's third or fourth month of life.
- Feeding Windows Can Safely Be Extended: Experts advise parents to feed their babies formula or breastmilk four to six times per day between the ages of four and six months. This means that parents who properly time out their feedings can start stretching sleep windows. Just remember that not all babies will take to theses feeding schedules in this time frame.
- Ample Weight Gain: Babies need to reach a minimum of ten pounds before experts consider it safe for them to sleep through the night. Unfortunately, the best way to make this happen is to have those frequent feedings during the overnight hours.
- It's important to note that the bigger the baby, the more likely they will get to sleep for longer stretches. Thus, while some babies will start sleeping better at ten pounds, most parents will start seeing longer stretches when their babies slide into the 11 to 14 pound range.
- Ability to Self-Soothe: Once your baby has figured out how to calm themselves and get back to sleep on their own, they're more likely to sleep for longer stretches. This usually occurs around their half birthday.
How to Get Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night
While some milestones just take time to reach, there are some easy ways that parents can help their baby, and themselves, get a bit more shut-eye! Here are some simple solutions you can try to help your baby sleep for longer stretches at night.
Get on a Consistent Feeding Schedule
One of the main reasons that your baby is waking up frequently during the night is that they're hungry! If you prioritize feedings during the day, it can allow for longer stretches of slumber at night. Thus, conduct a sleep feed right before you go to sleep. This can push the time of your baby's next feeding and give you a little extra shut eye.
However, it's important for parents to remember that while you can stretch times between feedings, health experts recommend to not fully eliminate nighttime feedings until their baby is at least six months of age.
|Baby Age||Number of Hours Between Feedings|
|0-3 months||2-3 hours|
|6+ months||4-5 hours|
Following these recommended feeding time frames is the best way to make sure babies get the proper nutrition they need throughout the day. Parents should also keep in mind that their specific method of feeding will impact these time frames.
Overnight feedings can cease at six months if your baby is formula fed. Breastfeeding parents can expect night feedings to continue until their baby's first birthday. Why such a stark difference? Breastmilk moves through the body faster, whereas formula takes a little longer to digest, allowing for those longer sleep windows.
If you want to focus on feedings during the day, offer more formula or breastmilk during these time frames. Then, in the overnight hours, still give them a feeding, but offer less food. After a few nights, they'll likely start taking more milk during the day.
Avoid Triggering Their Moro Reflex
While some babies startle themselves for no apparent reason, there are ways to help diminish these frustrating moments.
- Put your baby in their sleeping space feet first and lay their head down last. This prevents them from feeling as if they are falling.
- If you have a bigger baby, skip the bassinet and go straight to a crib or playpen. This prevents them from hitting their extremities on the sides of the sleeping space when they jerk, which can cause them to wake up more.
- Keep your baby's sleeping space dark and quiet.
Help Your Baby Learn to Self-Soothe
Your job in the first few months of your baby's life is to be at their beck and call. However, as they start to plump up, it's time to sneak in some simple sleep training tactics. That means not scooping your baby up every time they cry. Instead, give your little one a few minutes to cry it out.
Also, put them down when they are drowsy. If they only know how to get to sleep with your help, then they'll never figure out how to do it on their own.
By letting them figure out how to re-adjust their position and get back to sleep, you make them more self-sufficient. This also allows you to get more sleep in between those regular feedings!
Swaddles and pacifiers are fantastic tools that can help your baby to self-soothe. Just remember that once your baby tries to flip over, swaddle use should cease. If you found this tool to be helpful for keeping your baby asleep, you can switch to a non-weighted sleep sack.
Get Into a Routine
Babies are like Goldilocks; they need just the right amount of sleep. While you won't get them on a sleep schedule for a few months, you need to pay attention to their sleep cues. This can ensure that they get the rest they need and that they go to sleep faster. You also want to make sure that they're not napping too late in the evening. This can impede their ability to get back to sleep at bedtime and stay asleep throughout the night.
How do you time out naps to make sure bedtime routines go smoothly? Let's say you want your 4-month-old baby asleep by 9PM. They need to be awake for 2-3 hours before their bedtime. Therefore, you will want to schedule their last 45 minute nap of the day around 5:15PM.
In other words, getting into a routine early can help set you up for future success and ensure that your little one's sleep windows shift into time frames that better match your schedule.
Start Tummy Time Immediately
If you sit on your butt all day and don't use up any energy, it's likely that you will struggle to get to sleep. In contrast, if you go for a long jog or swim some laps in the pool, it will be easier for you to drift off into dreamland. The same goes for your baby! Tummy time is a spectacular workout for babies that not only helps them reach developmental milestones sooner, but it also gets them sleepy.
Why Babies Stop Sleeping Through the Night
Six months might go by and your baby will finally be sleeping through the night, only to regress back to their old ways. Some of the top reasons your baby might have stopped sleeping through the night include:
- Teething pain
- Growth Spurts
- Separation Anxiety (when moved out of mom and dad's room)
- Environmental Factors (noise / light)
- Changes in Routine (like travel or holiday activities)
While most of these are perfectly normal sleep disruptions, illnesses can also bring big changes in sleep with few to no visible symptoms. This is especially true of ear infections.
Two easy ways to tell if this type of illness is to blame is a sudden tugging of the ears and a change in temperament when you lay them down on their back. Ear infections are painful and when in a horizontal position, this discomfort becomes amplified. If you notice these signs, take your infant to their pediatrician for a checkup.
New Skills Can Also Cause Less Sleep
Developmental milestones can also bring about sleep regressions. Yes, that's right! As your baby is about to show off a new skill, they might sleep less. This is also normal. While these periods of less sleep are exhausting, they will usually only last a few weeks and then your baby will get back to their regular sleeping habits.
Get the Most Out of Your Baby's Sleep Windows
As your baby gets better at sleeping through the night, try your best to align your sleep window with theirs. This can ensure that everyone gets ample rest. While you may be thinking, "I don't go to bed until 11PM - that's pretty late for a baby!" the time they go to bed doesn't matter unless they have to be awake at a certain time. Thus, until they enter daycare or start school, prioritize everyone's sleep!
Remember Every Baby Is Different
Remember that the answer to the question 'when do babies sleep through the night?' is relative. Every baby is different. If your little one doesn't rest for the full six hours right at six months, know that you are not alone. The National Sleep Foundation states that "70-80 percent will do so by nine months of age." While it's hard, be patient. If they are still not sleeping through the night by their first birthday, talk to their pediatrician about potential causes.
For the parents desperately looking for some advice on how to get their baby to sleep through the night before their six-month mark, try out some of these helpful tips on how to get your baby to sleep without being held. Your sweet little one will find their rhythm before you know it!