As a new parent, you may be desperate to know when your baby will sleep through the night. It can be challenging in those first few weeks when your baby is getting adjusted to being outside of the womb and your household is getting adjusted to having a newborn.
It can also be really frustrating to be sleep deprived and feel like, no matter what, your baby just won't go to sleep. In fact, it can even be dangerous to be very tired and have a child that won't sleep, increasing the risk for abuse and accidents.
Continue reading to learn more about why your baby may be crying, and how you can expect them to better regulate themselves over the next few months.
Why your child cries at night
As adults, often times we try to schedule our lives down to the very minute. However, babies are often on a very erratic schedule. They are used to being a dark, quiet, aqueous environment, and now they are out in the world. It is quite a big adjustment for them, and they will take time to acclimate to their new space.
Also, babies have very small stomachs. Many times, they are waking up because they are hungry. Their metabolism works very fast as they are in one of the fasting growing periods of their lives.
It is unsure when babies will officially sleep through the night. There is no one size fits all rule for all babies, but here is some general information on when to expect babies' sleep patterns to change.
What sleeping through the night means
Sleeping through the night for your child is 6-9 hours of sleep. It is not necessarily uninterrupted sleep, because they may still require a feed throughout the night. However, if they are able to fall back asleep, quickly, after eating, then they are sleeping through the night.
Ages 0-3 Months
The first three months are also nicknamed the "Fourth Trimester". This is because your baby is spending this time adjusting to life outside of the womb. They are confused with their nights and days, and their stomachs are so tiny, they get hungry very quickly. This requires then to eat every 2-3 hours.
In fact, even if you don't want to, you may need to wake your baby every 2-3 hours if they are sleeping to eat. If they are not trying to eat on their own, you must encourage them to do so, so they can return to their birth weight.
There is also a difference between bottle fed and breastfed babies. Bottle fed babies only have to eat every 2-3 hours, but breastfed babies may need to be fed more often. This is because breastmilk tends to be digested quicker. You also will need to pump 8-12 times a day for the first couple of weeks to help your milk supply really come in.
Newborns often sleep 16 hours, with this number gradually falling by an hour over the first three months. Their total daytime sleep hours will also drop from 8 to about 4-5 hours.
Ages 3-6 months
When your baby turns 3 months, they may begin to sleep longer. This is due to the fact that they require less nighttime feedings, will have decreased startle reflex, and will improve at self-soothing.
Your baby's eating requirements may increase from every 2-3 to 4-5 hours. The startle, or moro reflex, is a primitive reflex that can jerk your baby awake and cause them to wake up. And self-soothing is their ability to be put down while their drowsy, but still awake, so they learn to put themselves to sleep. They may start to really improve at this around 4 months of age.
Their total sleep will drop to about 14 hours a day by the time they are 5 months old, and their daytime sleep will remain stable around 4-5.
Ages 6-9 Months
When your child hits the half-year mark, they will be even better at self-soothing at night. This is when it's more appropriate to let them try and get themselves back to sleep rather than going and getting them. You may be able to begin sleep training around this age, and sticking to a more stringent nap schedule. Also, the number of naps may reduce to about 2 a day. They also can even sleep up to 11 hours throughout the night.
When they cry at night, avoid picking them up, but check to make sure they are safe, warm, and not in any significant distress.
Another thing you may experience at this age is separation anxiety, where it is difficult for them to sleep on their own. Ask your pediatrician for tips to overcome this so they can learn to fall asleep on their own.
Ages 9-12 months
This is the age where you should have a set sleeping schedule for your child. Naps should be during the day when the sun is out, and you should have a bedtime routine. This routine can include dinner, bath, reading a book, all before it's time to go to bed. It is important that you are as consistent as possible with this bedtime. This will help your child's body really adjust the best.
Your child should be sleeping for long periods of time at this point. However, they could still be experiencing some of the separation anxiety that they developed in their last developmental stage. It is going to be hard to fight the urge top pick them up out of their crib. But it is essential to leave them be.
They will sleep for about 14 hours, and may only sleep for a total of 3 hours during the day.
Tips for the whole family
Remember, at the beginning of a baby's life, they must eat often. In fact, it can be dangerous for them to sleep too long. Therefore, remember to wake them up and feed them on a frequent schedule.
Begin putting your baby in the crib when they are drowsy so they learn how to put themselves to sleep. They may cry a bit, but they should go to sleep not long after that.
Keep a consistent sleep schedule that you pair with a bedtime routine. This could be incorporated into your sleep schedule as well. Doing these early and frequently will help prepare your baby for bed and get them conditioned.
Make sure your baby's sleep environment is safe and ideal. They should be placed on their backs, with nothing in their cribs except for a tight fitting sheet. Their room should be cool, but not too cold, black, and quiet.
Most importantly, stay consistent with these tips as best as you can. Babies like routine and they help them better adjust.
If you are having sleep problems, or are unsure of how to get your baby to sleep better, please click the orange button below to take a free online sleep test and talk with one of our sleep health experts.