Help! When Do Babies Sleep Through The Night?

babies night wakings Nov 08, 2020
Baby sleeping through the night

When my mother was pregnant with me, my well-meaning father asked her if she wanted to start setting an alarm at night so she could get used to being up with the baby. I am told she quickly responded "no!". 

If you are like most new parents, you love so much about parenthood: the cuddles, the smiles, the milestones. There are also parts you don't love: the stinky diapers, the spit up, and the nightly calls for milk or comfort.

When Do Babies Start Sleeping Through The Night?

If you are wondering when babies start sleeping through the night and when you can expect to get more sleep, I have good news and I have bad news.

The good news: your baby won't need you at night for forever. The bad news: there is not a set time that babies start sleeping through the night. Many babies start sleeping through the night between 6-12 months, but some will start as early as 2-3 months and others not until 18+ months.

Before you look at that last number and panic, let's break things down. 

First, there is one fun fact you need to know. Technically, no one sleeps through the night. Between sleep cycles, we all wake ever so slightly.  Most of us are just so good at going back to sleep that we don't even fully wake or remember these brief interludes.

Why is this important? Because there are two primary reasons that babies wake during the night. One is to eat and the other is for help to fall back asleep. These in between sleep cycle wakings come into play with that second reason babies wake: help falling back to sleep. We'll get there in just a minute. 

Babies Wake At Night To Eat 

Babies are able to start sleeping through the night when they are metabolically ready to go without feeding for a 10-12 hour period of time, the typical length of night time sleep for babies.

Parents often see their baby start to sleep for longer stretches around the time their baby hits 12 lbs or 5.5 kg.  Around 6 months of age, many babies stop waking for night time feeds. Others, drop all night feedings on their own before 6 months, while still others are not ready to drop their last feeding until around 12 months. 

Babies Wake At Night For Help Falling Back To Sleep

Yes, you read that right! Some babies wake at night because they need help falling back to sleep.

That seems backwards at first, but make sense when you look at the details. Remember those in between sleep cycle wakings? If a baby does not know how to fall asleep on his or her own, the baby will typically wake fully during those between sleep cycle wakings and need help returning to sleep.

Imagine falling asleep on your cozy bed and waking up on the kitchen floor. You wouldn't just roll over and go back to sleep, right? No, you would wake completely and most likely get up and walk back to your bed.

The way your baby falls asleep at bedtime is how he or she will want to return to sleep between sleep cycles. The crib seems strange if the last thing he or she remember is being nursed, rocked, or bounced. 

If your baby does not fall asleep independently at bedtime, your baby thinks that putting him or her to sleep is your job. So, in between sleep cycles your baby will need you to do your job and put him or her back to sleep. 

Instead of settling back to sleep and into a new sleep cycle, your baby will fully wake and call for your help getting back to sleep.

So, When Can You Expect Your Baby To Sleep Through The Night?

The short answer: it all depends. No two babies are alike, so don't feel bad if your baby doesn't sleep through the night as early as another baby you know. There is a wide range of normal for babies to start sleeping through the night.

In addition to being ready developmentally, meaning they no longer need nourishment at night and knowing how to self-soothe and fall asleep independently, there are a few other factors that affect whether or not your baby will sleep through the night.

 The first 1-2 years of a baby's life are full of potentially sleep-disrupting events. Teething, physical milestones like rolling or walking, cognitive milestones like babbling, separation anxiety, and illness will all pop up at varying times. 

All have the potential to wake your baby up at night, and some babies are more sensitive to these speed bumps in the sleep road than others. 

Wrap Up:

If you are a numbers person, like me, here are some averages for what you can expect when: 

0-2 Months: Waking every 2-3 hours to feed

3-6 Months: Sleeping 4-8+ hour stretches

6-12 Months: Sleeping 6-12 hour stretches

Keep in mind that these are averages. That means don't panic if your baby isn't sleeping as long as the chart indicates is typical.

If your baby's longest stretch of night time sleep is shorter than you would like, here are some troubleshooting starting points:

1. Make sure your goal is realistic and age-appropriate

2. Make sure baby's sleep schedule is age-appropriate and your baby isn't overtired. Overtired babies tend to wake more at night than rested babies.

3. Does your baby know how to self-sooth and fall asleep independently?

4. Is your baby teething or working on any developmental skills? 

The answer to those questions will give you a good starting place as you consider why your baby is not sleeping through the night and what you can do to improve his or her sleep. 

Remember, no matter how long it takes your baby to start sleeping through the night, it will happen! You won't need to move to college with your 18 year old so you can rock him or her to sleep. One day, you will sleep again! 

 

Are you ready to make sleep a thing at your house, but feel stuck or unsure how? Working with parents 1-1 to take the stress out of baby and toddler sleep is my joy.

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