One of the biggest adjustments to becoming a new parent is the lack of sleep, so it’s no wonder that getting baby to sleep through the night is a milestone most new parents can’t wait to achieve.
And while being bleary-eyed comes with the new parent territory, there are strategies that can make sleep-filled nights (for babies and parents) a reality sooner than you might think.
When Do Babies Sleep Through the Night?
It’s the question that’s on every new mom and dad’s mind: when will my baby sleep through the night? While that answer differs for most babies, if good sleep habits are practiced early on, some may sleep through the night as young as two months, though others take longer to start getting consistent zzz’s.
“Typically most babies are able sleep through the night by six months,” says Lisa Lewis, MD, a pediatrician at Kid Care Pediatrics.
Sleep Patterns by Age
The nighttime may seem like a blur to new parents who are constantly up and down for feedings but there are some general sleep patterns you can expect to see, depending on the age of your baby.
- Newborn – “Newborns do not sleep through the night,” says Dr. Lewis. “They will wake up to feed every two to four hours.”
- 1-month-old – “At 1 month, your baby may sleep longer through the night, such as 4-6 hours, but typically wake up to feed every three to four hours at night,” says Lewis.
- 2 to 3 months – “Some two to three-month-olds sleep through the night,” says Lewis. “Each baby at this age has different needs. Some babies who are having growth spurts or who didn't gain weight as well the first two months will continue to wake up frequently to feed.”
- 4 to 6 months – “The majority of babies at this age will sleep through the night, provided they are not on a feeding schedule that keeps them from doing so,” says Lewis. If your baby is not sleeping eight hours through at this age, discuss strategies with your doctor.
How parents approach sleep will have a profound affect on whether a baby goes down easily – or constantly wakes and fusses.
“The most important thing is to give your baby love and skin to skin contact but also make sure the baby is not constantly falling asleep on your heartbeat or being held until they fall asleep,” advises Tricia Jean Gold, MD, a pediatrician at Tribeca Pediatrics. Dr. Gold says that when babies are held or rocked or bounced for hours, it prevents them from learning how to fall asleep on their own. “If the baby is transferred to the crib only after they fall asleep, they don’t learn how to do it themselves,” she says. “Parents should transfer their baby when drowsy, not passed out, so this way they learn how to put themselves to sleep without so much attention.”
Try not to pick baby up in the night unless he awakens needing to be fed. Lewis says to keep night feedings short if necessary. She advises against using music to put baby to sleep as he or she may awaken wanting the music to start up again. Instead, try using a white noise machine at a low volume.
What about a baby sleep schedule?
When babies are young, their sleep patterns revolve around feeding so initially it will be difficult to have them adhere to a schedule, says Dr. Gold. Still, parents can do a lot by recognizing sleep patterns and setting up good sleep habits early on.
“Consistent naps and bedtimes are ideal,” says Lewis. “Sometimes parents with more than one child are not able to schedule their baby's sleep easily. This is ok and parents shouldn't stress too much about it, the baby will fall asleep when she gets tired.”
What's stopping my baby from sleeping through the night?
You’ve read every book on sleep, followed everyone’s advice and your baby is still up at 3 am. What gives?
“Many babies wake up because they are picked up frequently throughout the night,” says Lewis. “I tell parents that it's ok to make contact with the baby, but ensure the contact is non-stimulating, such as a gentle hand on the belly.”
Lewis also says that giving the baby enough to eat before bedtime can reduce nighttime awakenings.
“I never advocate for a parent to withhold feeding a hungry baby at night. If the baby is hungry, feed her,” says Lewis. "Do a short feeding, put the baby back to sleep and make sure any contact you make is brief and boring."