When Do Babies Sleep Through The Night – & Tips

As a new parent, sleep is a luxury. And you may be feeling more like a Dementor in the fledgling stages of your baby’s life than a functioning member of society.

In the first months of parenting, sleep deprivation is inevitable. As inevitable as taxes. Why? It’s a result of your baby waking up at all hours of the night, mostly to feed, and you tending to their needs.

According to researchers at Stanford, this’ll happen around every two hours for the first three months.

You may have exhausted all efforts to get baby to sleep longer, so that you can get in some much needed shut eye, even before coming across this article.

Does the white noise machine, Mozart playing calmly in the nursery and night drives around the neighborhood sound familiar?

The National Sleep Foundation found that a healthy adult should be getting up to nine hours of sleep every night, but a recent survey conducted by Owlet confirmed that parents to newborns and infants (six months or younger) are lucky to get three hours of nonstop sleep, many nights only squeezing in a solid hour!

That’s less sleep time than a worthy Netflix binge.

But, don’t panic! This apocalyptic style of sleepless living won’t last forever, because it ends when baby begins to sleep through the night; meaning baby having an eight to twelve-hour date with the Zzz’s, without being interrupted by a night feeding session.

Sounds like a slice of heaven, right?

Baby will eventually sleep through the night but, no pun intended, it won’t happen overnight. Training baby to sleep is a gradual process that takes a bit of time.

Now, onto the question you’re dying to know the answer to …

When Will My Baby Start Sleeping Through The Night?

It’s soothing to the soul to know that experts report that most babies are sleeping through the night by the time they’re 6 months old. The keyword here is “most”, not all.

Truth be told, apart from the overall health of your baby, it depends heavily on you and your dedication to teaching them to sleep through the night – a sleeping boot camp of sorts commonly referred to as sleep training.

Begging the second question at the tip of your tongue…

When Can I Start This “Sleep Training” Stratagem?!

There’s a 99.9% (let’s be honest, its 100%) chance you’re quite anxious to start sleep training, but it’s equally wise to have realistic expectations, as most pediatricians recommend beginning until baby is 3 to 4 months.

This is because there are biological milestones that are met around this time that give the “green light”.

Here are three developmental milestones that pediatricians look for when giving the sleep training stamp of approval.

1) Buddha Belly

Think of your baby’s stomach as a reservoir. In the beginning, it’s tiny and gets depleted within 1 to 2 hours – that’s why you’re there with boob or bottle handy just as often.

Throughout the first three months, the reservoir (stomach) stretches little by little and subsequently can hold more fuel for longer periods of time, curbing hunger for several consecutive hours.

And if you schedule things properly, that long chunk of time happens at night.

Pediatricians measure this development by weight gain, number of ounces baby is having per feed and how often they are feeding.

2) Regulated Brain Power

Your baby’s brain has better grasp of sleep cycles as they mature.

Researchers at the University of California found that in the first couple weeks of life, babies sleep equally during the day and night.

By the time they’re four months old, they are usually sleeping twice as much as night as they are during the day.

3) Increased Physical Coordination

Before 4 months, your baby’s coordination can be likened to, well, Jello. Practically non-existent.

Then one day, out of nowhere, they wrap their tiny hand around your finger and it melts your heart.

It isn’t a coincidence that this heartwarming moment usually happens by 4 months.

By this time, babies should be physically coordinated enough to put a pacifier (bobo, tete or dummy – whichever word you use to describe it) in their mouth or seek comfort in a blanket or teddy bear, or your finger – all instrumental self-soothing skills in sleep training.

Bear in mind that your role is not to literally teach your baby how to sleep, that part is instinctual, wired into their biological make-up.

What baby should be learning from you, though, is when and how long they should sleep. Think of it this way, getting baby to graduate with a diploma from sleep training school depends on:

  • Your dedication to the sleep-training process (I know… it’s been mentioned but consistency in this adventure cannot be stressed enough)
  • Overall health (for example: babies with sleep apnea are not expected to sleep through the night as soon as babies without sleep apnea). Get the “ok” from your pediatrician before starting sleep training.
  • Whether your baby is formula fed or breastfed
  • Whether or not your baby is a self-soothing champion or rookie
  • Their pre-bedtime rituals
  • Their bedtime routine

Real Talk: Sleep is Uber Important for Your Baby’s Developing Brain

1+1 = 2, right? Everyone older than 5 knows that. Now, take that simple equation and put this twist on it…

Baby + Sleeping = Brain Actively Developing.

Your baby sleeping equates to their brain actively developing. Sleep constructs your baby’s brain. Literally, from the ground up.

While your baby is sleeping, millions of neurons between the left and right hemisphere of the brain are connecting and a strong connection between the two hemispheres is a fundamental element to baby’s future learning potential and how sharp their memory will be – amongst other things you wouldn’t automatically assume to be related, such as heart health.

The “first step” of baby sleeping through the night is for you to realize the aboslute necessity of it through the lens of infantile development.

No matter your baby’s sleep personality (some babies are more hardheaded than others), sleeping through the night is the daily elixir baby needs for their growing brain.

That and milk of course. And when it comes to sleep training, breast and bottle are far from equals.

Breast vs Boob, Let’s Talk the Sleep #FACTS

Okay Mommy’s. Get closer to your screens.

If you’re breastfeeding, congratulations! The benefits of such are plastered all over the media and parenting books. Seriously, it’s the best source of nourishment for your baby.

However, the breastfeeding journey should come with a disclosure that reads: CAUTION – Your baby is likely to sleep through the night later than formula fed ones…

The verdict is that formula fed babies, on average, sleep through the night sooner than those that are breastfed.

A study done in the UK explored the sleeping patterns of babies from 300 families and found that 9 out of 10 babies sleeping through the night by only 3 months old were formula fed, with only 1 out of 10 breastfed babies were sleeping through the night at the same age.

By six months old, another study of several thousand babies confirmed that breastfed ones woke up nearly 70% more throughout the night than formula fed ones.

However, the explanation as to why breastfed babies get up more often throughout the night isn’t as straightforward as you may think.

WHY, then?!

The answer is simple and complicated. The simple part is that infant formula digests slower than breastmilk. Therefore, formula-fed babies have fuller bellies for longer, and less of a need to wake up multiple times in the middle of the night – well, to eat.

The complicated part delves much deeper than a breast vs bottle debate, though.

It turns out that what the breastfeeding mother does when baby wakes throughout the night makes a heck of a difference in breastfed baby sleep patterns.

Breastfed babies continually nursed back to sleep once fed were the majority of the babies that woke up more throughout the night than formula fed ones!

Results of this study suggest that breastfed babies do not wake up more often (and sleep through the night) later only because they are breastfed, but because they are typically soothed back to sleep after waking up.

And when you understand the role self-soothing plays when baby learns to sleep through the night, this makes perfect sense.

A baby being nursed to sleep every single time they wake up to breastfeed hinders the chance of their self-soothing skills to blossom or develop at all.

So, if you’re breastfeeding, keep these two things in mind while sleep training:

  1. Every pediatrician on the planet will agree that you’re giving your baby the best form of nourishment that’s out there. Pat yourself on the back!
  2. Your baby may not sleep through the night as soon as you might’ve liked.

It’s wise to keep your expectations of sleep training parallel to how often you’re breastfeeding and your methods of nursing baby back to sleep, because when it comes to baby learning to sleep through the night, breastfeeding is a double-edged sword.

Practice Makes Perfect: The Path to Your Baby Becoming a Self-Soothing Champion

Have you ever witnessed a toddler have a temper tantrum worthy of an Oscar? It isn’t enjoyable, and it’s one of those things you’ll have to be dealing with more regularly if you don’t allow your baby the opportunity to self-soothe.

Who your infant becomes as a child and who your child becomes as an adult has a lot to do with the early development of this skill – or lack thereof. Even the amount of sleep your baby gets in their entire lifetime depends on this skill.

If you want your baby to be a sleep training All-Star, then it’s a darn good idea to teach them to self-soothe. And it’s more of a skill that you allow than one you teach, because baby has everything they need for this skill in their make-up, they just need a chance to use it.

It can be hard to “let go” of the idea of your baby sleeping on your chest or needing you throughout the night, but sleep training is healthy for them, your family and your marriage/relationship.

For the Love of Sex…

If you’re on this baby expedition with your husband or partner, by the third month of sleep deprivation, your relationship is probably looking like its own season of American Horror Story when it once felt like something Nicholas Sparks would be proud of.

And you both probably look more like actors from the psych ward season than your normal selves …

The truth is, it’s hard to look and feel sexy and attractive and wanted by your partner when you’re surviving on a couple hours of sleep a night and barely have enough energy to put a mediocre cup of coffee together.

Plus, the sound of a crying baby does anything but set “the mood”. Because you’re both overly exhausted, you’re probably far more irritable than the norm and naturally take it out on each other.

Fights ensue, and the cycle of having lots of fights and little to no make-up sex is a dangerous one for any relationship.

Sleep-training can restore the intimacy you had in your relationship before baby arrived. It means that the entire family can sleep all night without having to do it to the cries of a baby and that you can ultimately get the rest your body has been missing.

A win-win scenario. After all, babies that learn how to self-sooth are ones that the saying “sleep like a baby” was meant to describe.

Still not convinced?

Read this woman’s very real and emotional account, “I’m Just Gonna Say It: Sleep Training Saved My Marriage”. And she’s not the only one that has said it.

What Is Self Soothing?

A skill where a baby soothes themselves to sleep or back to sleep, after waking up in the middle of the night, without the help of the person taking care of them.

Some people hear the term “self-soothe” and think that it equates to “letting a baby cry himself to sleep”. This isn’t the case. You’re not abandoning your baby in any way. In fact, you’ll be there to help in every step of the way – until this skill gets stronger and stronger.

Like flying an airplane, takeoff is the hardest part, do your best to practice patience in the beginning.

What Does Self-Soothing Have To Do With Sleep Training?

To be curt, everything.

A baby that’s a pro at self-soothing knows how to fall asleep on their own and has skills at their disposal if they happen to wake up in the middle of the night.

They will try to put a pacifier back in their mouth or latch onto their blanket or teddy bear for comfort on their own rather than to immediately resort to screaming at the top of their lungs for their caretaker to do it for them – before even trying on their own at all.

But like any skill, it’s sharpened by practice. If you run to their beck and call without giving them a chance to work it out by themselves first, then you’re hindering the development of the skill by not giving them the opportunity to practice at it.

How to Teach Your Baby to Self-Soothe

Set the Stage

Create an ambiance that promotes sleep. This may seem obvious but sometimes we get bombarded by the happenings of life and don’t stop to think of the basics.

Here are a few simple ways you can harness the sleep training feng-shui:

1) Dim the lights or set up your baby’s nursery or sleep area {if their crib or bassinet is set up in your room} with a nightlight. You want it to be dim enough to trigger your baby’s brain to cue “it’s time to sleep”, but not pitch black because baby may get spooked. Wouldn’t you?

2) Put on some relaxing white noise, classical music or wave sounds. You know your baby like no one else, utilize what seems to relax them most.

3) To swaddle or not to swaddle? Harvard Health suggests that if baby seems comfortable enough without swaddling, then it’s unnecessary. If your baby has been a fan of swaddling from get go, then it may be something to consider in their sleep training (consult your pediatrician).

Sleepy Not Sleeping

The first rule in sleep training is that baby be sleepy, yet awake when you place them in their crib or bassinet at bedtime.

Baby is not to fall asleep on mommy or daddy or in anyone’s arms and then placed in the crib, this method has a way of backfiring when they wake up and expect to be where they fell asleep.

Put your baby in their crib or basinet when they are sleepy but still awake. Allow them the chance to look around and register where they are. Baby will learn with time that the crib/bassinet is their “safe haven”.

But what if baby doesn’t get sleepy?

If your baby is still not showing signs they are sleepy by 9pm, it’s a good idea to cut out their last nap of the day or to increase levels of engagement and physical activity during the day.

Babies six months old should show you that they are sleepy by 7pm. How? Doing the same things adults do when sleepy; they rub their eyes, yawn, start closing their eyes for longer than a normal blink, and some will even tug on their ears.

Crying It Out

Your baby may put up a good fight when you first begin sleep training. Baby’s greatest weapon? Their lungs.

Speak to your husband/partner and any other adults that live with you (maybe your parents or the in-laws) and make sure you’re all on the same page.

Never underestimate the power of a baby crying, it’s like Chinese water torture and it can mentally and emotionally get to you – if one of you breaks the sleep training regime and runs to the rescue of the crying baby, then you’ll have start from the beginning.

WARNING: You will hear your baby cry, which is why this way of sleep training is often called the “Cry it Out Method”. However, it’s far from what people think… You will not be putting baby in their crib, slamming the door and letting baby cry for unimaginable lengths of time. That’s ridiculous and counterproductive. The whole purpose of this method is to allow your baby a chance to self-soothe and learn the treasured skill of sleep.

You will be present to comfort them every step of the way in intervals of time that you feel comfortable with.

You can start with 3 minutes intervals and build up to checking in and aiding baby in self-soothing every 5 minutes and then every 10 minutes – so on and so forth – until you reach intervals of 15 to 20 minutes. Tailor the method to what works best for your baby.

Once you put your sleepy baby in their crib/bassinet, allow them at least 3 to 5 minutes to soothe themselves – without intervening. 5 minutes of a baby crying can seem like a lifetime, but give it a chance.

If baby is still screaming at the top of their lungs after 3 to 5 minutes, help them soothe themselves – while they remain in the crib/bassinet. Don’t pick them up!

Stand at the side of their crib/bassinet to let them know you’re there and try to:

  1. Give them their pacifier or put the pacifier in their mouth
  2. Tickle their tummy or back calmly
  3. Sing

Try to help soothe them from the side of their crib/bassinet for no more than the same interval of time you allowed them to self-soothe, and then leave them to practice at it on their own again. Repeat at the intervals you feel comfortable with.

Experts suggest it’s a good idea to commit to this strategy for 7 nights straight. Sleep training can sometimes have a rocky start, but most babies get the gist of things within one week, some as early as the second or third night.

What’s a week compared to years of restful sleep?

The Golden Rule: Routine is King

Placing a sleepy baby in their crib/bassinet and allowing them a chance to self-sooth is not exactly where sleep training begins. It begins before that, with a consistent bedtime routine.

Words for the wise? Create a solid “bedtime routine” and STICK TO IT! Like white on rice.

Routines that your baby can depend on will give him or her a sense of calmness, exactly what you need when teaching them when to sleep.

3 Steps to a Rock-Solid Bedtime Routine

1) Wind Down & Bath Time

Turn the tv’s off and put Instagram notifications on silent. Lessen the hustle and bustle throughout the house.

This phase is like stretching before you go on a run – it’s the prep. You may want to begin this first step with a bath. Here are some helpful #Babyhacks to cue baby bedtime:

  • Play music during baby’s bath
  • Safely add a couple drops of lavender oil into your baby’s bath (it’s an herb that promotes restful sleep)
  • Give baby a one-minute massage with lotion after the bath before putting on their pjs

2) Wisdom Through Reading

After your baby is refreshed and in pajamas, it’s a good idea to bring them to their nursery (or general area where their crib is) and read or sing to them for 15 minutes – all the while having white noise or classical music in the background.

When it comes to reading to baby before bed, there are proven cognitive and developmental benefits.

“Reading time” is the transition between bath time and last feeding session of the day, before placing baby in their crib, sleepy and giving those self-soothing skills a chance to reign.

Keep in mind that with time, all these little steps will serve as triggers to let your baby know that “it’s time for bed” – successful ones at that.

Last Feeding Session

Once you’ve finished reading or singing to baby, it’s time for them to have their last bottle or breastfeeding session of the day.

When baby’s belly is full, and you see evident signs of sleepiness, put baby in their crib sleepy. This is when the gears of the “Cry it Out” method take over.

When Should I Be Concerned?

If your baby’s still not sleeping through the night by 12 months of age, it’s best you talk to your pediatrician about this to get to the bottom of what’s causing the delay.

Wrapping It Up

Sleep is the architect of your baby’s brain.

When baby learns to sleep through the night, the architect is working an uninterrupted twelve hours on their brain.

When you strategize and teach your baby to sleep through the night, you are bestowing them with a priceless gift, one that they can utilize for the rest of their life.

How long should it take for them to learn to sleep through the night? Genes and their personality will have a lot to do with the answer.

Sometimes it takes days and other times it takes longer. You know your baby better than anyone and you don’t have to adhere to the “Cry it Out” method or anyone for that matter if you don’t want to – although if you wish for baby to sleep through the night and they’re ready for it, sleep training stands as an efficient strategy to achieve the end goal.

The bottom line is that sleep isn’t optional, it’s necessary – for you and your baby. Sleep training is a learned skill that benefits everyone in the household.

Baby sleeping through the night means that your dream of catching up on months of much needed sleep is very possible.

It turns out that dreams really do come true after all!

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