When Do Babies Sleep Through the Night?

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The lack of sleep is one of the hardest parts of parenting, right? You know it’s coming, but there’s not much you can do to prepare. The phrase “sleep like a baby” is very misleading, since babies don’t do much sleeping! They need to be fed, changed, and sometimes, just need to be rocked at all hours of the night. It can be difficult for parents to adjust to sleeping in 2-3 stretches, especially if they have jobs or other children to attend to during the day. The number one question on most parents’ tired minds is: When do babies sleep through the night? Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. But we have some information that may help!

To understand why your baby isn’t sleeping through the night yet, it helps to know some of the reasons for their constant waking.

Before your new little one can start sleeping through the night, they need to hit some pretty important developmental milestones. For example, very young babies still have a strong startle reflex, where their arms or legs jerk in response to triggers like loud noise, movement, or even a bad dream. The jerking of their limbs can wake them, and babies don’t yet have the ability to self-soothe (another big milestone!).

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Also, babies wake several times during the night because they’re hungry and need to be fed! When babies start to eat more at each feeding, they won’t need to be fed as often, which means decreased feedings overnight. But in the beginning, their stomachs are pretty tiny, and they require formula or breast milk every 2-3 hours or more.

So when do babies sleep through the night?

A lot of these changes and developments will occur around 4-6 months of age. Most babies will start sleeping for longer stretches around this time, which is good news! But still, sleeping through the night (for 8-hour stretches, for example) usually doesn’t start happening until 6 months old or later.

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At around 6 months of age, you can safely start to eliminate nighttime feedings, which will definitely help with the sleep! Keep in kind, this might be delayed for breastfed babies, since they tend to metabolize breast milk faster and may still need more frequent feedings.

Something to keep in mind: a baby’s sleep patterns will change constantly during the first year or so.

Even if your 6-month-old has started sleeping through the night, that doesn’t mean it’s going to keep. There are so many developmental changes in the first year that can effect a baby’s sleep. Teething, for example, can wreak havoc on sleep, for babies and parents. Also, when babies start rolling over, sitting up, or pulling up to standing, these new “tricks” can really impact their sleep. Instead of just self-soothing back to sleep like they’ve been doing, they may want to stand up and have a look around!

Every parent wants to know: when do babies sleep through the night? And it’s the one question no one can really answer definitively! Just remember: they WILL eventually sleep through the night. Until then, thank goodness for coffee.

(Image: iStock / FamVeld)