Parents fantasize about sleeping more than three or four hours at a time. More than likely, you are partial sleep deprived and wonder when do babies sleep through the night. You wish your precious baby would just stay asleep. Sleeping through the evening is the one milestone that all parents hope and dream would happen sooner rather than later.
What The Doctors Say
Everyone wants their baby to sleep through the night, but that doesn’t mean your child is developmentally ready for that to happen. Every child is unique, and the age when they finally stay asleep for the entire night. It is important to remember that the definition of sleeping through the night is five continuous hours without feeding. Sleeping 10 to 12 hours straight isn’t always an attainable goal until at a later age.
Most babies are physically ready to sleep through the night by six months old, but it will vary from child to child. Some of your friends may have a 3-month-old infant that can sleep six to eight hours straight. That is a blessing, but it isn’t necessarily the norm.
You might also have a friend with a baby that doesn’t hit this milestone until they are 12 months old, or older! Two of my three kids woke up one time a night until they hit 18 months old. Every child is unique, so never feel as if something is wrong with your child. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 70 percent of infants will sleep through the night by the time they reach nine months old!
5 Myths About Sleeping Through the Night
Well-meaning friends and family may make comments and pose questions about your child’s sleep patterns. As we mentioned before, many don’t realize that five straight hours fits the definition. But, they want to know if your baby is sleeping eight to ten hours. Tell them to buzz off, especially if your child does sleep five hours straight since he is fulfilling the definition! Five versus ten hours is a large difference after all!
1. Every baby can and should sleep through the night at four months old
This myth is enough to make you feel like something is wrong with your child! Some pediatricians may even encourage this myth. There are some favorite baby books, like On Becoming Babywise, that claim 16 weeks is the standard for this milestone.
If this is the standard age, many babies must have missed that memo when they left the womb. It is far from true. Yes, some babies will reach this precious stage at 16 weeks, but it is not possible for every child to do so. Some kids need a night feeding up to 12 months old, even though most are ready by eight or nine months to wean from them.
Every child is individual – it is crucial to remember this!
Blanket statements about when a child should do something doesn’t account for different factors. There are babies with developmental delays, different feeding needs, and their temperaments. I had a very difficult, needy baby that would never fit into any of these blanket statements. So, don’t listen to these myths. Some babies can and will sleep through the night by four months, but YOUR baby is unique.
2. “Give that baby some solid foods or cereal in their bottle to make them sleep.”
You are sure to encounter these friends and family that tell you that “filling up” your baby more will result in a better night sleep. The older women tend to hold onto this myth, and it was a medical fact at one point. Some mothers started their children on solids around six to eight weeks old!
Luckily, the medical recommendations have changed, and we now understand the proper time to introduce solids to a baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting solids between four and six months old. Waiting until six months of age can lead to illnesses, food allergies, iron deficiencies, and obesity. Around this period, your child will hit a variety of milestones such as:
- Holding his head up
- Sitting upright
- Observes the world around him
- Can move food around in his mouth
- Is hungry after a full bottle or nursing session
Your pediatrician would never recommend using solids as a method to convince your baby to sleep longer. Babies don’t sleep through the night until they are developmentally ready to do so. Forcing him to do something he isn’t ready for isn’t a good idea. Your baby may still require a few nighttime feedings.
Evidence doesn’t approve of this myth. Most studies suggest that starting solids before four months of age can lead to poor sleeping patterns. If you give your baby solids before four months of age, you could reduce their sleep by a half an hour.
Babies that are six months old typically need one or two nighttime feedings. Four-month-olds may require two to three feedings each night. Sometimes, all you need is time, and your baby will sleep longer. Solids and cereal don’t equal more sleep.
3. Keeping your baby awake during the night means they will sleep through the evening
Sometimes, I wonder if the people who believe this ever actually had any children. All you can do is nod your head and roll your eyes, and never follow this terrible advice.
Admittedly, on the surface, the information seems like a great idea. Adults typically sleep better if they are exhausted. If you spend all day working outside, you will probably sleep great that evening. Keeping your baby awake all night has the opposite effect. Instead of sleeping longer, your child will probably have a horrible night of sleep!
An overtired baby doesn’t sleep better; he will sleep worse. Your child will get fussier and crankier throughout the day. At some point, they will break down, and at some point, they will be a screaming, crying mess. It will be tough to soothe and get to sleep. A well-rested baby will fall asleep much easier, and they sleep much longer than an overtired infant.
When a child reaches the point of overtired, it means that their body is so physically fatigued that their stress response system is activated. Their stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, are on the rise, making it even harder for them to relax. It is a terrible cycle. As your baby gets sleepier, the harder it is for your child to fall asleep, making the sleepiness even harder.
Science proves to us that letting your baby sleep less during the day won’t help them sleep at night. Instead, it will lead to a child that fights going to sleep, and they will sleep for a shorter amount of time. Make sure that your baby is getting the proper amount of sleep recommended to avoid this situation.
4. Breastfeeding causes your baby not to sleep through the night
This myth is quite frustrating, and it can make you question whether or not you want to continue breastfeeding. There are so many breastfeeding myths it can so frustrating for new mothers! You want to spend all of your time dispelling all of them, but that would take too long.
The myth comes from some truth. Breastfed babies will eat more, on average, more than formula-fed infants. The formula takes longer to digest, making the time between feedings longer. Breast milk digests easier and quicker. You will have to breastfeed your baby more often because they get hunger faster than formula-fed infants. This reason is why the myth is hard to disprove – people know that breastfeeding babies eat more often, so it means that they sleep yes, right?
Wrong! Sleeping issues happen in breastfeeding AND formula-fed babies. Just because your baby nurses, it doesn’t automatically indicate they aren’t ever going to sleep through the night. Most nursing mothers will wean their baby around eight to nine months, which is about the time that most babies will start sleeping longer stretches.
If you are breastfeeding, don’t despair. Your baby does need to eat more often, but that doesn’t mean your child will never sleep through the night. He will reach this milestone as soon as he is ready. It is about whether or not they are ready, not because you are breastfeeding.
5. Waking up at night is a sign that something is wrong with your baby
Sometimes, people act as if something is wrong with your child if they wake up at night. Night waking and the absence of sleeping through the evening doesn’t indicate that something is wrong with your child. In fact, it is a healthy cognitive and emotional need. Many children need their parents close by, especially if they haven’t reached that level of development yet.
It is easy to feel like something is wrong because your friend’s baby sleeps through the night at three months old, and your child won’t at seven months old. The comparison isn’t right for you or your child. As I said before, every baby is different! There is absolutely nothing wrong with your child if they don’t sleep through the night yet!
Some parents, who aren’t always well-meaning, will tell you crazy stories. Their babies slept through the evening, 12 hours straight, from birth. Besides the fact that this is very unhealthy for children, it is more than likely a lie. Even if they do, it is so rare, so don’t think something is wrong with your child because they don’t fit impossible standards!
Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep
So, we have covered that all babies won’t hit this milestone at the same time. Every baby is an individual. Some are physically able to around four months of age, but some babies need at least one night feedings up to 12 months old!
However, there are ways to help your baby sleep better. These are complicated methods. Give them a try! You might have some success.
- Routines Are Crucial: You more than likely have heard it a thousand times, but there is so much truth to this tip. Having a set routine is an excellent way to get your child to sleep longer. First, start off with a bedtime routine. Pick three or four things that you want to do each night, in order. This process helps your child wind down after a long day. They know sleep is coming.
- Get Your Baby Outside: When you get your child outside, they are more likely to sleep better. Someone has probably told you to give your baby some fresh air. Some cultures, such as Norwegians, sleep outside for naps! It is not uncommon for parents to leave their children in a stroller for their afternoon sleep. For those who don’t live in these cultures, it seems insane, but it works for so many! You don’t have to leave your baby outside for them to sleep well. Take them for an afternoon stroll instead!
- Lay Him down before He is Overtired: We already talked about how an overtired baby is bad news. You need to watch for the signs of sleepiness and start whatever process you have for bedtime. If your child is agitated and cranky, he needs to sleep now, or it will only get worse! Here are some signs!
- Rubbing eyes
- Glazed eyes
- Only wants held
- Flailing around
Sleeping through the night is a milestone that most parents hope will come soon. Some babies can around four months old, but that is not a standard age. Remember, it can happen anywhere between three months all the way up over a year old! There is a broad range of normal. If your baby is sleeping well and wakes up a few times, they may not be developmentally ready to sleep that long!
Don’t listen to some of those crazy myths. Filling your baby up won’t make them sleep longer! There is nothing wrong with your child if he doesn’t sleep through the night by 12 weeks old. You are doing great, and he will reach this milestone sooner than you realize!