You finally get to hold your precious baby in your arms, your own little miracle and even if it’s your second, third, or sixth, there is nothing ever like it in the entire world. You spend the first few weeks bonding, but suddenly the exhaustion starts to take a toll and you wonder when you will ever get to sleep, truly sleep, for the whole night again. For most new, and even veteran parents, the holy grail of getting life back to “normal” is getting to “sleep through the night” again. So, today, we will talk about when it is realistic to expect your baby to sleep through the night, and how to help your little one get there.
Of course, your neighbor is happy to report that her baby was sleeping through the night at 6 weeks old, while your newborn still wakes up several times. It is true, some newborns may sleep through the night at a very young age, but this is definitely not typical for this age, so don’t despair if your newborn isn’t doing long stretches yet.
Newborns have small tummies, so at 2-3 months, whether your baby is breastfed or formula-fed, 2-3 night feedings are still considered age-appropriate. In addition, newborns sleep longer during the day, 4-6 hours depending on age, so their nighttime sleep is not as long as an older baby’s. In fact, for a newborn, “sleeping through the night” actually means sleeping 5-6 hours without waking to feed.
“Only 5-6 hours!” you may be thinking. But, if you are waking every 2-3 hours, a 5-6 hour stretch can feel almost magical. If you have a newborn, how do you help her get to that magical 5-hour stretch? One very important thing to keep in mind is that with newborns, everything is connected. So, when their feeding and napping schedule is in sync, this promotes better nighttime sleep.
To maximize your newborn’s sleep at night and get the magical 5-hour stretch, the 3 main things to remember are:
1. Keep your newborn’s awake time very short. Many can only do 60 to 90 minutes before needing to sleep again.
2. Maximize daytime feedings – The goal is to try to get about 75% of your baby’s calories in feedings during the day.
3. Avoid “day-night confusion” – This happens when your baby sleeps more during the day than at night. Although it is very common with newborns in the first few weeks, it should resolve by around 6 weeks. If your little one is sleeping very long stretches during the day, you may need to wake her periodically (ideally naps should be no longer than 2 hours) and expose her to sunlight (not direct) during the day, to encourage her body to sleep longer stretches at night. For additional tips on how to help your newborn get his best sleep, check our must-have e-book Essential Keys to Your Newborn’s Sleep
We generally consider young babies as those between the ages of 4-8 months old. At this age, although many will still need night feedings, we start to see more babies be able to sleep through the night, which at this point we would consider the full 10-12 hours per night.
If your baby is 4-5 months old, it is likely they will still need to feed during the night, so at this age, we continue to encourage the magical 5-hour stretch. Starting around 6 months, if your baby is formula-fed, most should be able to make it through the full night without feeding, and if your baby is breastfed, you can begin to aim for just 1 to 2 feedings during the night. So how do you encourage your little one to “sleep through the night” as a young baby?
1. Optimize your baby’s schedule – Although babies begin to stay up longer during the day, it is still important to avoid overtiredness, so watch your baby’s sleepy cues and don’t let them go much past the 2-3 hour mark before sleeping.
2. Continue to maximize daytime feedings – Babies are growing A TON at this age, so continue to make sure your little one is receiving most of his needed calories during the day to avoid frequent waking due to hunger.
3. Consider sleep coaching – Many babies will wake during the night due to sleep associations rather than hunger, so ensuring your baby can fall asleep and back to sleep independently becomes the key to maximizing nighttime sleep.
We typically consider older babies as those between the ages of 9-12 months, and this is the age that most babies truly begin sleeping through the night for the full 11-12 hours most parents dream of. Your little one has grown so much by this point – they might be on the move, trying lots of different foods, learning new things every day! Very exciting stuff 🙂
If your baby is formula-fed they should no longer need night feedings at this age, which is great news! If your baby is breastfed, although a few may still need a feeding until a year old, many will be able to make it through the full 11-12 hours, so we recommend at least attempting to night-wean. Here are the top tips for helping your older baby sleep through the night.
1. Schedule, schedule, schedule – I know I must sound like a broken record by now, but this is really important, parents. And it can be a balance, but we want to continue to avoid overtiredness while giving baby enough awake time between naps. At this age, we start to see 3-4 hours before naps and bedtime.
2. Feedings – Again, babies this age are still going through a very rapid rate of development, and active babies are hungry babies 🙂 At this age it may be necessary to add a daytime feeding or two to keep up with their needs, especially if they’ve recently become more active.
3. Sleep Coaching – If you haven’t begun sleep coaching your baby and they are still struggling with sleep associations, this is a great time to start! If you had been coaching but may have lost your way due to a regression or illness, this is the time to get back on track. Regressions will happen such as the 8-month sleep regression, but consistency will help get you and your baby back to consolidated night sleep again. For more on toddler sleep training, click here.
Sleeping through the night may seem like a distant dream, but it doesn’t have to be! If you are dreaming of a full night’s sleep, and don’t know how to get there, we are here to help. Our team of expert, compassionate sleep consultants is ready and waiting to work with you on your child’s sleep. Connect with a consultant today, and she will create a Personalized Sleep Plan® that’s unique to your child and accounts for factors like your kiddo’s temperament and your parenting goals.
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