Most new parents eagerly await the time when their baby will sleep through the night. But when can parents realistically expect their little one to sleep a full 8-12 hours? The answer depends on several factors.
What is Considered Sleeping Through the Night?
Sleeping through the night means your baby goes to bed at a set bedtime and does not wake until morning. For infants, a full night’s sleep is considered 6-8 hours. Newborns initially sleep 14-17 hours per day, often in 2-4 hour increments. By 6 months, babies need roughly 15 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, achieved by napping and nighttime sleep. Most 6 month olds can achieve a 6-8 hour stretch at night.
By 12 months, babies can consistently sleep 11-12 hours at night without feedings. However, sleep regressions and disruptions can still occur. Sleeping through the night doesn’t necessarily mean 12 uninterrupted hours of sleep. But it does generally mean your baby only wakes once or twice for feedings or comfort before returning to sleep.
What Age Can Babies Start Sleeping Longer Stretches?
Here is a general timeline for when babies can begin sleeping longer at night:
– Sleeps 14-17 hours per day
– Wakes every 2-4 hours to feed
– Sleeps in stretches of 2-4 hours
– Sleeps 14-15 hours per day
– May give a 5 hour stretch at night
– Still wakes multiple times to feed
– Sleeps 13-15 hours per day
– Can go 6-8 hours without feeding
– May sleep 10-12 hours some nights
– Sleeps 12-15 hours per day
– Only wakes 1-2 times per night
– Consistently sleeps 11-12 hours per night
So while every baby is different, most infants can regularly sleep through the night by 6 months of age. However, regressions and night wakings may still occur. Most babies don’t consistently sleep 12 hours straight until closer to a year old.
Factors That Influence When Babies Sleep Through the Night
When your baby starts sleeping longer stretches depends on several key factors:
Formula fed babies may sleep slightly longer than breastfed babies in the first few months. Formula is digested slower so babies feel full longer. However, by 6 months old, there is little difference.
Babies who are fed more frequently at night take longer to drop those feedings and sleep through. Limiting feeding to set times trains your baby’s body to not expect food overnight.
Babies who only fall asleep while feeding or being rocked have a harder time learning to self-settle in the night. Establishing positive sleep associations like a lovey or sound machine helps.
Having a consistent naptime and bedtime routine helps reinforce the difference between day and night. This aids sleep consolidation.
Techniques like cry it out or graduated extinction can help babies learn to fall back asleep independently after night wakings.
Major leaps and growth spurts disrupt sleep. Teething, rolling over, crawling, and other milestones can cause temporary regressions.
Ear infections, reflux, allergies, etc. can all interfere with sleep. Once treated, sleep generally improves.
Babies with easy-going temperaments may take to sleep routines quicker than spirited babies who resist schedule changes.
So while age is a factor, other influences like environment, feeding, and baby’s individual nature also play a key role.
Tips to Help Baby Sleep Through the Night
To encourage longer nighttime sleep, try these tips:
Establish a calming bedtime routine:
A predictable series of activities like bath, book, song, etc. helps cue your baby it’s time to sleep.
Put baby to bed drowsy but awake:
This allows your baby to learn to fall asleep independently, an important self-soothing skill.
Limit night feedings:
Gradually stretch the time between feedings to reduce night wakings.
Allow “cry it out” periods:
Letting your baby fuss for short intervals teaches them to self-settle.
Make daytime playtime stimulating:
Ensuring enough activity and sunlight during the day helps baby sleep better at night.
Keep sleep/wake times consistent:
Maintaining a schedule helps regulate baby’s circadian rhythm.
Create a restful sleep environment:
A cool, dark, quiet space without distractions promotes quality slumber.
With a little patience and consistency, you can help guide your baby to start sleeping through the night. But remember that regressions are normal and every baby develops on their own schedule. If needed, consult your pediatrician for additional support.
While many parents desperately await a full night’s sleep, expectations should be tempered by baby’s age and stage. Most infants start sleeping 6-8 hour stretches around 4-6 months old, with night wakings gradually decreasing over the first year. Establishing healthy sleep habits like a soothing bedtime routine, limiting night feedings, and allowing some self-settling can encourage longer sleep. But each baby is unique so try not to compare yours to averages or milestones. With time, consistency, and understanding of your baby’s needs, you’ll both be sleeping soundly through the night.