A question that all parents ask is “when will my baby start sleeping through the night?” Unfortunately, the answer is going to be different for each baby. There are, however, some guidelines that you can use to determine when most babies sleep through the night and what you can do to make this a positive journey for you and your baby. A lot is going to depend on the age of your baby. Newborns need to wake up at least once during the night so that they can nurse or bottle feed. The older your baby is the more likely she is to sleep through at least most of the night.
What Does “Sleeping Through the Night” Really Mean?
Pediatricians and other baby experts dread the question from parents about when their baby will be sleeping through the night so they can finally get a good night’s sleep. Even experts disagree on what the right answer is. Some doctors define sleeping through the night as five hours without waking up while others define it as 8 to 12 hours. Most doctors don’t consider sleep issues to be something to be concerned about. Otherwise, all babies would have some type of sleep issue since their sleep patterns change many times throughout their development.
Sleep Patterns of Babies
If you have a newborn baby, three hours is about the longest you should expect her to sleep before she wakes up to nurse or bottle feed. Newborn babies need to wake often since they need a lot of nutrition in these first few weeks. Your two to three-month-old can sleep for about five or six hours at a time. Some babies may start to skip their feeding at 2am while others need a feeding or two throughout the night. By the time your baby is four months old she’ll be able to sleep for about seven or eight hours without waking up. The main reason for this is that she’s reached a weight of about 11 pounds by now and she’s capable of missing a nighttime feeding without any problem. She might, however, still demand a nighttime feeding. If your five or six-month-old is still waking up at night for a feeding you can safely assume that she’s not waking up because she’s hungry. She’s now just in the habit of waking up for a feeding and to spend a little time with mom or dad.
Cutting out Nighttime Feedings
By the time your baby is six months old you can start to cut out her nighttime feedings. Your goal here is to get her to sleep through the night without waking and wanting some milk. At first, she might resist your efforts. After all, by six months the both of you have established quite a nice little nighttime routine of waking up for a feeding. Start by shortening her nighttime feedings and interacting with her a little less. Let her know that if she wakes up during the night that feedings are going to be short and to the point. Keep decreasing the amount of time you nurse or bottle feed during the night. Over two weeks you should start to notice that she’s sleeping longer without waking up.
Skip the Diaper Changing
Once you get serious about wanting your baby to sleep through the night you might want to skip the nighttime diaper changing. Unless that diaper is a complete mess, it won’t hurt your baby to wait until the morning before her diaper is changed. The reason you want to stop changing diapers during the night is because it’s much too stimulating and your sleepy baby will usually turn into a wide awake baby who thinks that it’s okay to be up during the night. If you have to do any diaper changing try to keep the lights as dim as possible and be quick about the cleanup. Your goal here is to do whatever you can to let your baby know that nighttime is for sleeping and not for socializing.
A Sleeping Arrangement That Works for You
It’s important that you and your partner find a sleeping arrangement that is going to work best for your family. Some families choose to have their baby sleep in a crib or bassinet while other families decide that co-sleeping in the same bed with their baby is going to work best for them. Still other families, have their baby sleep in a cot that is attached to their bed. What matters is that you’re comfortable with your sleeping arrangement. Your baby is going to start sleeping through the night sooner the more relaxed you all are. Be patient when it comes to having your baby sleep through the night. All babies are different. Also, remember that just because your baby is sleeping well this week doesn’t mean that she will be doing the same next week. There’s always something going on with your baby’s development that can interfere with the routine that you’ve just established.