getting baby to sleep through the night

When Will my​ Baby Sleep Through the Night?

It is the holy grail of parenting questions. The one you are asking yourself when you are awake for what seems like the 17thtime at night. The question you are thinking to yourself, when the 5th person today asks you if baby is sleeping through the night yet and you are trying to refrain from jumping down their throat. 

Trying to answer the question of ‘when will my baby sleep through the night?’ can make you feel like you are losing your mind and your sanity. 

I’m guessing you are here looking for that answer. Looking for that beacon of hope that this sleep-deprived-mombie-state will be coming to an end soon. 

I’ve been in your shoes. Hopelessly searching for the answer and some sleep. Heck, I’m practically in your shoes again now with my new baby! (There’s less of the ‘hopeless searching’ aspect this time. AND I will help you move past this hopelessness and onto answers too!)

The answer isn’t cut and dry

Unfortunately, this is a tough question to answer with a quick, concise response.

I know you want to hear that your baby will absolutely sleep through the night at six-months-old or that you are only 6 nights away from uninterrupted sleep. I wish I had a magic wand and could make these answers an absolute for you and every other sleep-deprived, stressed-out-about-sleep parent out there. 

When your baby can (physically and developmentally) sleep through the night varies based on a few factors. Then when your baby will sleep through the night also varies based on many other factors. These factors include your baby’s health, weight and weight gain, your family, your preferences, sleep environment, and the list goes on and on.

Let’s break down some of these factors so you can start to see the light at the end of your sleepless tunnel.

newborn baby

First, the issue of when CAN baby sleep through the night

Health and Weight

If your baby isn’t growing and gaining weight at a healthy pace, sleeping through the night isn’t the priority. But I know as parents, you already know this.

There are many people who say there is a magical weight when babies can and do start sleeping through the night. This is also why many people think starting baby on solid foods will get them sleeping blissfully all night long. Unfortunately, there are more factors involved than just the number on the scale. 

The number on the scale does play a factor because it can tell us when baby is big enough to have the energy and fat stores to be able to go long stretches in between feedings. Things like how often baby is eating during the day, how much baby is eating during the day, and how they are measuring on their growth curve (you’ll want to chat with your pediatrician about this) all factor in as well. 

Making sure this item is under control is important so that you can feel confident your baby can handle longer stretches in between feeds. 

Baby’s Health

If baby is having other health concerns or is sick, even with a common cold, their ability to sleep through the night may likely be impacted. Baby may need comfort, some help with or remedies for their symptoms, extra hydration to help fight off the cold, or other things to stay or get healthy. If you are in the throes of sickness or health challenges, this is probably not going to be when baby starts sleeping through the night. 

Baby’s Development

Newborns are not developmentally ready to sleep through the night. Around 3 to 4 months babies’ circadian rhythms become developed. This helps regulate their sleep-wake cycle, which leads to more sleep at night and allows for more consolidated sleep as opposed to just sleeping, seemingly, randomly around the clock.

baby sleeping through the night

Now, the issue of when WILL baby sleep through the night

Sleep Cycles AKA None of us ACTUALLY sleep through the whole night

Don’t worry, this does not mean you will never get back to nights when you feel like you slept all night and wake up feeling refreshed!

We all sleep in sleep cycles which take us from light sleep to deep sleep and back again over and over throughout the night. However, moving between these sleep cycles, often results in brief wake ups. Basically, these wake ups are a protection mechanism that is part of how our bodies work. 

Even though you may feel like you could go to sleep and sleep straight for 8 hours (doesn’t that sound delicious!), you really don’t. You will have some brief awakenings that are often so brief that you don’t even realize they happened. 

Your baby has those brief awakenings too. So, when we say ‘sleep through the night’, we don’t mean that we stop baby from having those brief awakenings. Because ultimately, we can’t, that’s how our bodies work. What we mean is helping them handle those awakenings just like we do as adults, so they are so brief that babies won’t even realize they were awake.

Skills

Helping your baby handle those brief awakenings just like we do requires that they learn some skills. Specifically independent sleep skills. While the actual being asleep part of sleep is very natural and something that cannot be learned, the falling asleep part of sleep is very different.

Think about yourself (maybe your pre-baby self when, you know, your schedule and routine was dictated by yourself instead of a tiny human). When you are getting ready to go to sleep for the night, you probably go through the same basic steps or routine pretty much every time. These steps are what your brain and body know to associate with the transition to sleep coming soon. You are priming your body and brain with routine to go to sleep easily. 

Think about the last steps of your routine, when you are in bed, shortly before sleep comes. These steps likely don’t involve anyone else doing something for you or to you. They are things you do independently from others. Such as relaxing in a certain position and then rolling into your favorite sleep position as you become drowsy. Because you do this all on your own, when you wake up briefly between sleep cycles during the night, you can get back to sleep on your own because you fell asleep on your own to start. 

Your Baby’s Sleep Routine

Now think about bedtime for your baby. If you are rocking, nursing, patting, bouncing, walking your baby to sleep and then setting them down, you are controlling what their brain and body associates with going to sleep. And what that thing that their brain and body associates with going to sleep is an action that involves you. 

So, when baby has brief wake ups at night, they become full blown (likely complete with screaming, crying, and major upset) wake ups because that thing that baby’s brain and body associate with getting to sleep (aka you and your actions) isn’t there anymore. Baby is tired, they want to go to sleep, but they feel lost and unable to without the thing they have come to know is what happens to them before sleep. Understandably, this makes them upset and cranky.

Helping baby learn strategies they can do independently turns those brief-turned-full-blown-wake-ups back into those brief wake ups that no one remembers because when they happen baby employs the same independent strategies they used at bedtime and are able to drift peacefully back into sleep land. 

Learning the skills to sleep well

This piece of the puzzle is fairly complex. Every baby and child is different so what works for one baby to help them learn, might not help your neighbor’s baby or your next baby. Everyone has different learning styles, and so helping baby learn this big skill is best done with a plan that you as parents are comfortable staying consistent with and that is designed with your child’s temperament and personality in mind. 

The bottom line is baby is going to have to practice this skill, and doing it on their own. Similar to swimming or riding a bike, you can’t hold on to them forever if you want them to learn how to do it on their own. 

(If the thought of defining a plan and then staying consistent with it on your own to allow baby to practice the skill you want to help them learn is overwhelming, there is help! You don’t have to do it alone!)

One more thing to keep in mind

Sleep Environment

A sleep environment conducive to good sleep is an important aspect of helping baby’s (and everyone else’s) body be able to easily fall asleep and stay asleep. Darkness is one of the most important aspects in our sleep environment.

Having the room DARK allows our bodies to know that it is time to release melatonin, which is the hormone that helps us fall asleep and stay asleep. You want to avoid electronics in the sleep environment as well because the light emitted from electronic devices has a severe negative impact on the melatonin production that helps so much with sleep.

For more aspects and recommendations to creating a sleep environment that will help baby sleep well, check this out

sleeping infant through crib at night

So back to the main question: When will my baby sleep through the night?

Your Family’s Preferences

This is where some of your preferences come in. If you are here, I’m guessing you want your baby to start sleeping through the night. This can allow you both get the sleep you need to thrive. You will also be able to feel confident you are giving your baby the attention and care she needs during the day without the sleep deprived fog clouding everything you do.

Some mommas really love and enjoy the rocking to sleep or nursing to sleep phase, even if it does happen multiple times a night. If so, awesome! Just know that your baby will likely take longer to sleep through the night since they aren’t practicing the skills that help them accomplish this feat more quickly.

Whether it is 6 months, 10 months, 12 weeks or any other time, when you are ready to help your child learn the skills to fall asleep using their own independent strategies is the most likely time that your child will begin to sleep through the night. 

Because it is a learning process and everyone has different learning styles, some babies may need more help or a bigger push in the learning process than others. Some seem to learn the skills without much help or push from their parents. If you’ve got one of these babies, woohoo! If not (and I would say the majority of babies fall into this category), they just need some help practicing so that their brains and bodies begin to rely on their own independent actions and strategies as what they associate and rely on to fall asleep. 

I’m ready to help baby sleep through the night, now what?

Sit down with your partner or other caregivers and make a plan. You want to make a plan that helps baby increasing do the falling asleep part of sleep on their own. It is best to make this plan in advance. Those game time ‘this-is-the-5th-wake-up-tonight-let’s-do-x-y-and-z’ plans often just confuse baby even more. 

Make sure everyone feels comfortable with the plan and sticking with it. Consistency is what your baby needs to really learn these new skills. They need the chance to practice. They also need to know what to expect, so changing the plan or deviating from it just confuses them more because they don’t know if they should be practicing or just waiting for someone to swoop in and save them from the challenging process of learning something new. 

Real talk: This stuff is hard

Know that it might be pretty hard, difficult or really, really hard. It depends on your baby because change and learning new things are hard no matter what the change is or what the skill you are learning is. Everyone has their own reaction to change and learning new things. 

If you are worried you won’t be able to stay consistent (because this can be even harder when you are sleep-deprived) or you just have no idea where to start but you know you are ready to start, there is help! Schedule your free sleep evaluation call with me and we will walk through how together we will customize a plan to your baby and specific situation to get you all sleeping better as quickly and stress-free as possible. 

Sleep is possible, and you and your baby deserve it!

Cheers to healthy, happy sleep,

Bonnie

1 thought on “When Will my​ Baby Sleep Through the Night?”

  1. This was us 18 months ago, so I hear where you are coming from!! During the day, our ‘nap’ routine basically became: soothe for 30+ minutes (swaddling, rocking, running the water, white noise, dark room, sling, walks, lullabies – you name it), he’d finally fall asleep, he’d sleep in my arms (he wouldn’t sleep in his bed at all) for 10-30 minutes, then he’d wake up screaming, and we’d go through it all again. I knew he was exhausted. No joy. After two months of things getting worse and worse (and Baby getting crabbier and crabbier), we all finally decided to give sleep training a try.

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