The universal problem that new parents have in common is, why won’t this little one sleep at night? Most parents, especially mothers, suffer from sleep deprivation because they used to rest through the night, but the new member of the family keeps waking up at this time, many times demanding attention.
Honestly, you will have to adapt to this new sleeping pattern for a few months, but you’ll be back to sleeping the entire night in a short time.
But when will this happen you ask? When do babies start sleeping through the night? Read through to learn when and what you can do to make them sleep deeply without disturbing you.
What Is Sleeping Through the Night?
Sleeping through the night is a rather vague statement because the number of hours might vary depending on the person and age.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it means the ability of infants to sleep for at least six hours uninterrupted. They might wake up for short intervals but soothe themselves back to sleep without being fed. The vital point here is that they don’t wake the sleeping parent.
Expected Age Group Sleeping Patterns
Age plays a crucial role in determining sleeping patterns. For instance, healthy infants need 12 to 17 hours of sleep, while toddlers and preschoolers can do with 11 to 14 and 10 to 13 hours, respectively.
Within the infant category, you can expect different sleeping patterns based on age as well. This category includes newborns (birth to 3 months), 3 to 6-month-old babies, and 6 to 12-month-old infants.
Healthy newborns should sleep for about 14 to 17 hours daily, but this cannot happen continuously. Since they are fresh out the womb, they need a frequent feeding schedule that matches the constant flow of nutrients they got from their mom before birth.
Additionally, their stomachs are tiny and can only accommodate a small amount of milk at a time. As such, newborns will wake up at least every one to three hours through the day and night hungry.
Mothers usually produce colostrum, a highly concentrated and nourishing form of milk in this period to provide as many nutrients as possible in small quantities. Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, you must be ready to sacrifice some sleep during this age.
Most parents find this stage the hardest because sleeping for short intervals of about two hours is not as satisfactory as getting 6 to 8 hours of continuous rest.
It would help to take naps throughout the day to synchronize your sleeping pattern with that of your baby. At least, you will get enough rest and keep your energy levels up to wake up and breastfeed or bottle-feed several times the following night.
3 To 6 Months
The short sleeping periods will not last forever. From around two months of age, homeostatic pressure develops as the baby adapts to the new environment. It minimizes nighttime awakenings, so he will not need many night feedings.
Additionally, sleep requirements at this age are usually lower compared to the first few weeks. Your baby will need about 14 to 15 hours of sleep every day, split into four or five dozing periods.
If you do the math, your baby will sleep continuously for about three or four hours, which gives you more time to lie down. Some might even sleep for six or more hours, spending almost twice the amount of time laying down at night.
Still not here yet? Be patient. Sleeping patterns develop at different paces, so there’s no need to worry.
6 To 12 Months
The 6 to 12-month period is the last stage of being an infant and is when you will spot significant changes in the sleeping schedule. Your baby might not wake up hungry for stretches of up to 12 hours, so you will have enough time to rest.
On top of that, they develop more muscles during this period, enabling them to crawl, roll in bed, pick up things, or do other small activities. Eventually, these movements make them tired, leading to long and deep periods of sleep at night.
However, there are some instances when you might still get interrupted.
Babies grow at a quick pace during this stage, and so does their stomach. Thus, you might notice an increase in feeding frequency or longer breastfeeding sessions to fill up the tummy.
The cluster feeding combined with teething pain and other kinds of discomfort might cause your baby to wake up at night.
When Do Babies Start Sleeping Through the Night?
To answer your question, most babies begin sleeping through the night at around six months of age. By the time you hold their first birthday party, your kid could be resting for about 15 hours daily, a majority of them being at night. The ratio might be 10 to 12 hours at night to a few one- or two-hour naps during the day. Pretty good, right?
However, these are typical sleeping patterns based on a majority of infants. Each baby is different, so these age schedules might not apply accurately in your situation.
The time you put your baby to sleep also matters. For instance, if you do the final breastfeeding or bottle-feeding at around six pm, then soothe him to sleep, add 10 hours to this, and you will have a crying, hungry, and fully rested baby waking you up at 4 am. While your baby will have slept through the night, you won’t.
Therefore, the best practice is to engage your young one in some activity, such as playing with toys, then put him to rest at around 8pm or 9pm at the latest.
Don’t keep him up too late because he might become overtired, take longer to fall asleep, wake up earlier than usual in the morning, or wake up frequently at night.
Growth and Development Milestones Before Sleeping Through the Night
If your baby’s sleeping schedule does not align with the typical patterns, there are a few developmental milestones you can look out for as indicators of more sleeping hours at night ahead. They include:
Reduced Startling/Moro Reflex
As the senses become more effective, babies begin to take in more of the new environment, and certain things might cause startle reflexes. Loud noises from the doorbell, sudden movements, temperature changes, etc., will most likely wake him up.
After some time, babies get used to what they sense, and this reduces startling. When this happens, it will lead to more peaceful nights with uninterrupted sleep. Usually, this reduction occurs at around the age of four months.
Weight gain results from increased feeding, and this is common for growing infants. After around 4 to 6 months, the stomach expands to hold more milk in one feeding session.
The increased consumption means they can hold more food to extract energy from for longer periods. As such, they can have enough calories to push through the entire night without waking you.
Reduced Night Feedings
Following up on the weight gain milestone above, the increased breastfeeding or bottle-feeding during the day eventually reduces night feedings to a point where babies can sleep for more than six hours non-stop before getting hungry.
If your baby begins sucking on her hands or fingers, it is a good sign. Such an action enables them to self-soothe back to sleep in case they wake up at night. A pacifier would come in handy during this stage.
What Can Make Babies Start Sleeping Through the Night?
Since every baby is unique, it makes sense to develop a routine to help your young one sleep through the night, not just waiting for the 6-month age milestone. You can:
- Expose your baby to light and noise during the day so that night feels peaceful
- Reduce the number of activities as bedtime approaches
- Dim lights and keep noise to the minimum just before bedtime
- Breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby shortly before bedtime
- Spend some quiet time together either cuddling, walking, or rocking before bedtime
- Lay the baby to sleep before he goes deep into sleep (teaches him to do it alone)
- Use night lights to keep the room dark if the baby wakes up to feed
- Keep the room quiet
- Don’t entertain your baby during feeding times at night (make it low key)
- If changing their diaper, do it quickly and calmly
- After feeding and burping, put your baby back to his bassinet/crib for him to get used to sleeping on his own
Sticking to such habits will assist in keeping babies asleep for at least six hours at night. If you are unsure of when your child wants to sleep, look for these signs:
- Eye rubbing
- Pulling ears
- Sucking fingers
- Closing fists
- Fluttering eyelids
- Jerky arm/ leg movements
- Demanding attention
Once you spot any of these in the evening, begin implementing the sleeping routine. Over time, this might improve the sleeping pattern, even much earlier than expected.
How To Help Babies Sleep Longer?
In addition to the routine, two strategies have proven effective through demonstrations to help infants sleep continuously through the night. These are:
Bedtime fading involves pushing bedtime earlier by 15 minutes each night. The idea is to align your baby’s internal clock with the sleeping time that works for you.
But first, you need to know what time your child experiences the psychological urge to fall asleep, then use this as the temporary sleeping time. Try to make him sleep earlier by 15 minutes each night and continue making these adjustments only if he falls asleep.
Once you get to the required bedtime and everything works out well, mission accomplished.
If your baby tends to fall asleep too early, you can try this strategy in reverse. Instead of pushing the bedtime earlier, move it later by 15 minutes each night.
Those who oppose graduated extinction describe it as a cry-it-out nightmare, but it isn’t quite that way. The strategy involves waiting for long and longer gaps before responding to a crying baby at night.
Initially, you can begin by waiting for two minutes, then extend it to four the next night, six the following night, and so on. The idea is to give your baby more time to self-soothe and probably go back to sleep.
Even though there is sufficient evidence to support these two strategies, remember to consult your pediatrician as they might not work on your baby.
What Keeps Babies From Sleeping Through the Night?
Sometimes, the difficulty in sleeping continuously at night is as a result of the following factors:
After a few months, infants grow very close to their parents and become fearful when they are away from them. Thus, if they wake up in the middle of the night and find themselves all alone in the crib, they might start crying.
Picking your baby up for cuddling or rocking at such a time to let him know you are still there is one way to comfort him and calm the situation.
However, this is not always ideal. Granted, it will bring the two of you closer, but it might lead to never-ending separation anxiety.
As he grows older, don’t pick him from the crib. Instead, talk and soothe him back to sleep while in there. In the end, he will understand that the parents are close by and will be less fearful.
Hunger is one of the most common causes of interrupted sleep at night. Keep interactions to a minimum when feeding so that your baby falls back asleep quickly after filling up.
Sharing the Bed
When sleeping, snoring or movements can startle your child, causing him not to sleep. Additionally, bed-sharing is very risky because you, your blankets, and pillows raise the chances of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) occurring due to suffocation.
Infants are super sensitive to their surrounding environments, and changes can cause reflexes that wake them up. For instance, if you turn on the lights, make a noise, or adjust the thermostat, you will most likely interrupt their sleep. Try to keep the bedroom dark, quiet, and at a constant temperature.
When To Visit the Pediatrician If Your Baby Is Not Sleeping Through the Night?
If you are worried about your child’s sleeping patterns, or if things don’t improve after hitting the one-year age milestone, talk to your pediatrician to determine the cause of the problem.
Remember, babies are sensitive to changes in the environment. If you travel regularly, this might be the problem. Share all information with the expert for quick and accurate diagnosis.
You should also consult the doctor if your child exhibits any of the following:
It is common for newborns to have noisy breathing when sleeping because their nasal passages are small. A little bit of mucus or dryness can produce some noise that sounds like snoring.
However, as they grow older, the airways expand, and the snoring stops. If it continues, the labored breathing plus carbon dioxide build-up in the partially blocked pathways can wake them up. The result will be sleep deprivation, which can affect health negatively.
Has Difficulty Breathing
Difficulty breathing or breathlessness can result from infections in the chest or pneumonia. The situation is uncomfortable and will interfere with the sleeping patterns. Like snoring, it will most likely cause sleep deprivation, which would, in turn, cause other issues like poor weight gain, night terrors, etc.
Is Super Fussy
Fussiness is usually a sign of a sleepy baby, but extreme fussiness is a reason to worry. Whether it occurs at bedtime or after feeding, this issue might indicate the child has gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does a newborn sleep at night?
In total, newborns can sleep up to 17 hours daily, but not in one go. They rest lightly for about two-hour intervals day and night.
How long does a 3-month-old baby sleep at night?
3-month-old babies can sleep for up to 15 hours a day in about three to four-hour shifts day and night.
When will my baby start sleeping through the night?
Usually, it takes around six months for a baby to have a sleeping schedule that includes over six hours of nighttime resting. However, this is the typical pattern, and infants are different. For the majority, it will happen on time. But for some, it may come earlier or later than six months.
So, when do babies start sleeping through the night?
An infant sleeping through the night is an important milestone, especially to the parents. It means having a peaceful, uninterrupted night and an end to sleep deprivation.
However, this might take some time because your baby must grow into a stage of staying asleep for several hours first, which occurs at around month six to a year.
So, hang in there. The first few months will be rough, but it gets easier further down the road, and the experience will come in handy if you plan to have more kids in the future.