One of the most common questions new parents have is “When will my baby sleep through the night?” Fortunately for overtired parents, most full-term healthy babies can sleep through the night sooner than the parents think. With a little effort and lots of patience, you can have your newborn baby sleeping through the night within weeks.
Although most full-term healthy babies should be sleeping through the night by 5 months of age, according to Cortney Gibson, newborn care specialist, sleep trainer and owner of Gibson Newborn Services, many full-term healthy babies can sleep six to eight hours per night by 6 weeks of age and 10 to 12 hours per night by 12 weeks of age with the proper sleep training.
If your baby isn’t sleeping through the night, there are things you can do to help prolong his sleep. Babies who are swaddled tend to sleep longer than babies who are not. Swaddling is important because babies are born with a startle reflex. When they are startled, they throw their arms and legs away from their body. A snug swaddle prevents the baby from waking himself up with sudden body movements. A sound machine that plays white noise can also prolong sleep. White noise can be calming to babies as it reminds them of the sounds that they heard in the womb. Sound machines also drown out other noises that can disrupt a baby’s sleep.
From birth until about 2 months of age, most babies wake up twice for feedings during the night. By three months of age, most babies only wake up once and by four months of age, most babies do not require a middle-of-the-night feeding. To eliminate middle-of-the-night feedings earlier than four months, you may wish to “dream feed” your baby before you head to bed for the night. Since most babies will take the breast or bottle when they’re asleep, you can dream feed your baby, without fully wakening him. If your baby had his last feeding before bed at 7 and you feed him at 10 before you head to bed, it’s possible you could secure six to eight hours of solid sleep for yourself.
The Ferber Sleep-Training Method
Sleep training can help your baby maximize nighttime sleep. One popular method of sleep training is the Ferber method. For babies 4 months of age or older, this method can be an effective tool for helping your baby sleep through the night as most babies respond to the method within five days. The Ferber method consists of establishing a solid, loving bedtime routine with your baby and putting him to sleep in his crib when he is drowsy but still awake. If he cries, wait three minutes and go in and soothe him by patting his tummy or rubbing his head but do not pick him up. Leave after a few minutes. If he cries, go back in and soothe him again and repeat until he falls asleep. Each night, increase the amount of time you wait before going into soothe him.
Parents play a powerful role in determining when their babies will sleep through the night. Some parents cherish rocking their babies to sleep, but this can prevent a baby from sleeping through the night. When a baby falls asleep one way and wakes up in a different place, he may be frightened and have trouble falling back to sleep. Many parents also pick up their baby the moment he cries, rather than giving him any time to fall back to sleep on his own. This can be problematic. Like adults, babies have sleep cycles and will often wake briefly during their sleep. Giving your baby an opportunity to fall back to sleep on his own can boost self-soothing skills, which help your baby learn to fall back to sleep on his own.