Sleepless nights are a harsh reality for new parents. Between those 2 a.m. feedings and 5 a.m. diaper changes, you probably feel as though you are experiencing sleep deprivation. You might also be wondering if your baby is actually getting enough sleep. You will absolutely wonder when do babies sleep through the night?
Ask a group of parents this, and you will likely get some diverse results. Most parents have experienced struggles with getting their infants to sleep for even a few hours at a time. As a newborn, your baby will probably sleep a lot, but things change as they grow into an older infant, then – gasp – into a toddler.
You were probably used to getting about 7-9 hours of sleep per night before having your first baby. Now, you might be lucky to get 4-5 hours straight. When will things return to “normal” for you and normalize for your baby?
This might not happen until your baby is between 6 and 9 months old, but trust me, your child's sleep patterns will smooth out as they get older. With some effort and a little bit of expert guidance from those who have been through it before, you can and will get through this rough patch.
When are babies developmentally ready to sleep through the night?
There is a huge difference between when a baby does sleep through the night and when a baby is able to do so. Sure, newborns sleep a lot, but they do so in shorter intervals. This stage requires a ton of patience on the part of any new parent. When you have one newborn, it is extremely difficult to adapt to your baby's sleep schedule. When you have twins or multiples, it is an even wilder ride since twins and multiples do not always sync up their sleep patterns. In fact, it is quite common for them to not be in sync with one another for sleeping, changing, and feeding times.
The first three months of your baby's life – which doctors sometimes call the fourth trimester – is a time for erratic sleep patterns. It is important to start introducing good sleeping habits during this time, but don't expect any hard and fast results. This time is all about soothing your baby, bonding with them as you help integrate them into the world outside the womb. You're responding to their needs at this time, not training them on how to sleep.
The Fifth Trimester
Once your baby gets over that three-month hurdle, they will start to display a more concise sleep schedule. Your baby will continue to reach milestones into the 3-6 month span of their life. While each baby is different (yes, even twins), they will meet some developmental milestones at around this time that leads to a smoother sleep schedule.
When should I expect my baby to sleep through the night?
The National Sleep Foundation says that, by 9 months old, about 70-80% of babies will be able to sleep through the night. From ages 4-6 months, babies shift to sleeping more at night than during the day. The number of naps they take throughout the day will decrease, but, of course, every baby is a bit different. There are some methods you can employ during this crucial time-frame to help your baby cultivate healthy sleep habits.
What can keep a baby from sleeping through the night?
Many parents find themselves experiencing a lot of sleepless nights with babies who frequently wake up. One question they often ask is “Why?” Why is the baby constantly waking up? There are a few core reasons why a baby might not be sleeping through the night, and these aren't things that a lot of first-time parents know about.
Sleep regression seemingly comes out of the blue. A baby might start waking up a lot at night, refusing to nap throughout the day, or fighting off sleep for no obvious reason. This happens around 4 months, 6-8 months, 10 months, and 12 months and can last for about 1-4 weeks when it happens.
Illnesses or Growth Spurts
When a baby is experiencing a growth spurt, they will struggle to sleep as normal over the course of a few days. However, if your baby is sick, you will notice some erratic sleep habits and fussiness. In this case, you should call your pediatrician.
Struggling to Independently Fall Asleep
Babies who struggle to fall back to sleep on their own will need their caregivers there to sooth them, lulling them back to sleep. You can help them make sleep associations, which are the things that help them fall back to sleep. A comforting swaddle, for example, can help babies feel soothed back to sleep.
Changing the Feeding/Changing Schedule
Both breastfed and bottle-fed babies experience changes in feeding schedules. Signs that breastfed and bottle-fed babies sleep worse at night is when you stop feeding them right before putting them down, and this is something they had gotten used to. That could have been one of their sleep associations, and the change is throwing them off. Over-feeding your baby before bed can also cause a baby to struggle to get to sleep, whether they are breastfed or bottle-fed. You might need to be more strategic with your feeding and changing schedule.
An Environment That Doesn't Promote Sound Sleep
Environments play a big role in how well babies sleep. Having a good sound machine can help lull a baby to sleep, as can shades or black-out curtains. Street lights or the sunrise could disturb your baby's sleep, as could the room being too hot or cold.
Your baby will start meeting a series of milestones. When your baby starts reaching these milestones, you can expect their sleep habits to smooth out and for them to start sleeping more at night. These milestones are:
1. The Moro reflex slowing or stopping: This startle reflex is one all babies are born with and is normally overcome by 4-5 months old. Before this, swaddling can help with the startle reflex.
2. Healthy weight gain: Nocturnal feedings are signs that your baby needs nutrients to grow. This is important for establishing a healthy weight at a normal growth rate.
3. Nocturnal feedings decrease: When your baby starts eating more during the day, they'll slow down the nighttime feedings. Your baby will start self-soothing more during the day, then at night.
4. Baby is learning to self-sooth: The 3-4 month period is a good time to develop napping and bedtime routines. By the time a baby is 5-6 months old, they can have a more cohesive and predictable nighttime sleep pattern.
Don't give up and pay attention to the signs your baby is giving you. With some persistence and by making a few changes, your baby will start sleeping through the night. And, when they do, you will get to as well.