Understanding Baby Sleep Patterns: When Do Babies Start Sleeping Through The Night?
After nine long months, you have finally welcomed your newborn home. You are happy about…
After nine long months, you have finally welcomed your newborn home. You are happy about this new journey with your little one. But as this journey continues, you realize how exhausted you are from caring for your little one. You have got a lot to do during the day (and at night!) and are barely getting any sleep. This may make you wonder why your baby is not sleeping well because it’s known that quality sleep is so important for the growth and development of babies. Don’t you worry! Your baby’s sleep needs are getting fulfilled. It’s just that there are many breaks in between, during which they wake up to feed their hungry tummies and fulfill their nutritional needs.
If that’s the case, you would probably be eager to know when babies start sleeping through the night so you, too, can enjoy a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. To provide you with details and guidance on this crucial developmental milestone (which every new parent is eagerly waiting for!), we have curated this write-up where we will explore baby sleep patterns and the golden time when your baby will begin sleeping through the night.
What to Expect: Newborn Sleep Patterns
Although technically we have only three trimesters during the pregnancy period, the next three months post-birth are casually called the “fourth trimester”
During these three months, your baby gets used to living outside the womb. They may not even like it in the beginning! As your baby continues to adapt to the massive change in their surroundings, they will have difficulty getting into a routine. Your baby may sleep and wake up erratically.
Most babies from 0–3 months sleep 15–16 hours daily. Now that’s a lot of sleep! Still, as parents, you’ll struggle to find time to sleep because your baby will only be sleeping for 1.5–3 hours at a time. After which, they will wake up for a feeding.
Due to these short sleep cycles, babies often wake up at night and need help being put back to sleep after being fed.
How well your newborn sleep, like the duration of sleep and the frequency of awakenings, is dependent on whether your baby is breastfed or bottle-fed, their need for diaper changes, the surrounding temperature, their need to snuggle, etc. Mommies who breastfeed their babies can expect a 1.5–3-hour sleep cycle, whereas bottle-fed babies may sleep a little longer, say, 2–3 hours before the next feed.
Transitioning Into Infancy: Changes in Sleep Habits
Don’t worry about your newborn’s irregular sleep patterns. While they may not have a set sleep schedule because their bodies do not follow the circadian rhythms and lack melatonin production, you will soon notice changes in their sleeping patterns. Newborn sleep pattern depends on their age and stage of development. As your baby grows older, their sleep requirements change, and they progress towards a more systematic sleep schedule. Here are the average sleep times for newborns till age one.
The above table clearly shows how the sleep requirements of babies vary as they grow older. Their nighttime sleep hours gradually increase, and daytime naps go down.
You can also notice how the frequency of nighttime feedings decreases from 2–5 feedings at night to just 0–1 feeding when the baby is close to one year old. Therefore, when your baby’s need to feed at night disappears, they are more likely to sleep throughout the night.
Factors Affecting Sleep in Babies
As a sleep-deprived parent, it is a huge relief to see your newborn finally ditch sleeping sporadically and develop a somewhat systematic sleep schedule. But nurturing a baby comes with a lot of surprises!
You may find your baby suddenly giving up their routine, and you may feel you’re back to square one. But don’t get disheartened. Certain factors do affect a baby’s sleep from time to time. It’s usually a phase, and your baby may soon return to their routine. Things that alter a baby’s sleeping pattern include
A change in your baby’s sleep pattern can make you go bonkers, as getting them back to their old routine will need a lot of your time and energy. Therefore, it always helps to have a few strategies that you can implement at the right time to bring more consistency to your baby’s daily routine. There’s more on this later in this blog post.
Developmental Milestones and Sleep Regression
Seeing your baby learn new skills and reach age-appropriate developmental milestones is so exciting. Seeing them do things they have never done before is rewarding for parents. From the newborn stage to the one-year-old mark, a baby achieves several physical and cognitive developmental milestones.
Physical milestones involve rolling over, sitting up, crawling, standing with and without support, and walking. Cognitive developments include increased awareness, sleep cycle changes, fears, and separation anxiety.
Babies are great learners and love practicing skills until they master them. And this is why we see sleep regression in babies when they’re about to hit any milestone. The excitement of practicing the skill can sometimes even wake them up at night, making it difficult to get back to sleep.
The ages when you may find your baby’s sleep schedule getting off track are –
4 months: This is when a baby transitions from newborn sleep to the adult sleep cycle.
8 months: This period of regression is mainly due to the massive physical and cognitive growth, such as sitting up, crawling, etc.
12 months: Some babies may want to give up their second nap around this time.
18 months: Teething and fear of separation may cause this period of sleep regression.
24 months: Kids this age are more aware of their surroundings. Nightmares, fear of shadows, and other challenges like potty training can affect their sleep negatively.
To avoid sleep regression, parents should help their babies learn self-soothing and foster positive sleep associations so they can go back to sleep independently when they wake up. Sleep associations, i.e., the things a baby needs to fall asleep, like a favorite comforter, a lovely, dark room, white noise, or thumb sucking, are often helpful. Once your baby learns to settle independently, you both will sleep better at night.
Signs of Readiness: When do Babies Start Sleeping Through the Night
Now let’s talk about the most awaited question – “When do babies start sleeping through the night?” Well, the answer is not very straightforward. Some lucky parents find their babies sleeping through the night as soon as they’re four months old, while others struggle until the baby is 12 months old. On average, babies start sleeping through the night when they’re around 6 months old.
Only around two-thirds of babies sleep for a good 6–8 hours by the time they are 6 months old as they have reached a few crucial milestones and display signs of readiness to be able to sleep through the night –
4–6 months is also the time when parents may begin sleep training. It is an apt time to start because babies this age can learn to self-soothe and may not require nighttime feedings. With appropriate sleep training, you can set a good sleep schedule and instill good sleeping habits in your baby.
Encouraging Healthy Sleep Habits in Babies: Tips for Parents
Caring for your baby will surely leave you feeling exhausted. To get a good night’s sleep (as soon as possible) in the future, it is best to encourage your baby to develop good sleeping habits right from the start. The time when your baby starts sleeping will bring you closer to the time when you and your baby will sleep comfortably and peacefully without any fuss. How do you do it? Let’s see.
1. Create a calming atmosphere during bedtime. Low lights, no noise, and talk softly to let your baby know it’s bedtime.
2. Follow a bedtime routine so your baby knows it’s time to sleep. It could be a bath, followed by putting on pajamas, playing soft music, nursing, and then putting them in the crib.
3. Put your baby to bed when they’re sleepy and not when they have fallen asleep.
4. Try swaddling (if less than 4 months old), it makes the baby start sleeping since most of them enjoy it.
5. Don’t check on your baby too often. Give them a few minutes to settle before you go ahead and comfort them.
6. You may give a pacifier if it helps your baby self-soothe.
7. Put your baby to bed before they’re overtired because overtired babies are fussier and take longer to fall asleep.
8. Try to learn and understand the 40-second sleeping hack and give it a try by putting it into practice.
Seeking Professional Guidance: When to Consult a Pediatrician
It is not uncommon for newborns and older babies to wake up at night and spend some time before falling back asleep. However, if your baby’s sleep pattern and habits are bothering you, go ahead and have a chat with your child’s pediatrician. They will probably say there’s nothing to worry about, but it’s always better to discuss if you have any concerns.
Five scenarios when talking to your child’s pediatrician must be on your to-do list
- Depending on age, your baby is not getting the sleep they should.
- You have tried everything with no success
- Your baby’s sleep issues are taking a toll on your health
- Your baby seems sick, depriving them of sleep
- You notice extended pauses while your baby is breathing during sleep
Like adults, even babies can have sleep-related disorders which may stop them from sleeping properly. That’s why, just like you pay attention to your baby’s feeding habits, take note of their sleeping habits too. If you find anything unusual, don’t wait to call the pediatrician’s clinic.
A baby brings loads of joy to the family and many sleepless nights! Parents often think about when their baby will start sleeping through the night. While there is no definitive answer, you may expect it to happen between 4–6 months after birth.
But remember! Every baby is unique, achieving milestones at different times. You may hear your friend’s baby start sleeping all night long, as early as four months, while you have been waiting for it for close to nine months! Moments like these will test your patience. But be patient and consistent as you navigate your baby’s sleep journey. Focus on creating healthy sleep habits so you and your little one can sleep better soon.
Babies usually start sleeping through the night when they are around six months old. Of course, there are variations, with some sleeping well as early as 4 months of age while others still struggling to sleep at 12 months old.
There are several reasons why babies wake up at night. Some of them are –
1. The baby is hungry and/ or needs a diaper change.
2. They are in an uncomfortable sleeping position.
3. The surrounding temperature is either too hot or too cold.
4. The baby needs to snuggle.
5. The room is not dark enough to fall asleep.
If we find an average, most babies sleep for 6–8 hours at a stretch when they’re close to 6 months old.
A few quick tips to encourage your baby to sleep through the night are –
1. Create a bedtime routine
2. Feed them before putting them to bed
3. Set the thermostat to a comfortable temperature
4. Try swaddling
5. Offer a pacifier
Sure! Here’s what you can do to manage sleep deprivation and exhaustion –
1. Go to bed early.
2. Get sleep whenever you can.
3. Ask for help when you need it.
4. Get a relaxing bath before bed.
5. Take turns caring for the baby, especially during nighttime.
6. Create a soothing sleep environment to help you fall asleep quickly.