Newborns and young infants have sporadic sleep cycles, and parents should not expect them to sleep through most or all of the night until they are at least a few months old. Having realistic expectations about your baby’s sleep habits will spare you a lot of frustration.
When will my baby sleep through the night?
Ninety-percent of babies will sleep through the night (defined as sic to eight hours without waking) by the time they are 3-month-old. This usually happens when a baby reaches 12 or 13 pounds of body weight, so a very large baby might hit this milestone sooner, whereas a preemie may take longer. (Shelov, 1998) “Through the night” might mean 7:00 pm to 7:00 am for one baby, and 10:00 to 6:00 for another, depending on their internal clock. But by 4 months, most should be able to go 8 hours without being fed.
That said, there are a number of things parents can do as their baby grows to help this pattern along and ensure they sleep longer through the night:
Tips to help your baby sleep through the night
- Add white noise. Utilize a gentle fan to provide background noise, which will help keep your baby sleeping through the night. Not only does it provide a soothing backdrop, but the use of a fan has been found to decrease the risk of SIDS, since it improves air circulation in the room.
- Don’t immediately rescue your baby if they become restless after a short time sleeping. Often times, they may go back to sleep on their own, but if you jump in too soon, they never get that chance. If your baby fusses for much more than a few minutes or starts wailing, however, you should offer comfort and attention.
- Nurse your baby every 1 1/2 hours or so during the day. If your baby is napping, try not to let him sleep longer than 2 or 3 hours at a time during the day, especially during the late afternoon. This should help him sleep for longer stretches during the night.
- If breastfeeding, feed your baby for 5 minutes on one breast before switching to the other, especially during P.M. feedings. It will stimulate both breasts and ensure your baby gets plenty of rich hindmilk, helping them sleep.
More tips to help your baby sleep through the night
- Holding and having lots of physical contact during the day may help your baby sleep better at night.
- Swaddle your baby before laying him down at night. The close hugging feeling helps them sleep better.
- Have him sleep next to your bed.
- Try some of the baby sleep training techniques contained in the next section.
- If your baby isn’t sleeping most of the night by 3 months, give her some encouragement by keeping her awake longer in the afternoon and early evening. Sit her in common areas with the rest of the family so she’s not tempted to drift off for micro-naps, and play with her as much as possible. Use the same strategy that works for older kids: Keep them stimulated and active, so that your little one’s exhausted when nighttime rolls around.
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