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When Should My Baby be Sleeping Throughout the Night?

How Do I Know If My Baby Is Sleeping Through the Night?

A baby’s sleep cycles are different from older children and adults. They vary quite a bit in comparison. Right from the second that they’re born, until they’re about three years old – is full of sleep disturbances. Even though we love our babies so very much, the upkeep, lack of sleep, dealing with them angry and crying, and just about all of the joys of parenting – plus everything else – can tire out even the best of us out and leave us completely exhausted.

When Exactly Should My Baby Starts Sleeping Throughout the Night?

I know how exhausting the waiting can be for your child to sleep through the night uninterrupted.

Trust me, I’ve been in your position before. I kept counting down the days until my daughter would start sleeping throughout the night without any uninterrupted annoyances that caused me to be sleep deprived. And you’re definitely not alone, and your baby is most likely no exception. I’m going to explain why sleep is so important for each and every one of us, and give some helpful advice on how you can get your baby to fall sleep and stay asleep longer throughout the night.

Why the Amount of Time We Sleep Is Important

Before we dive deep into when your baby should start sleeping throughout the night, let’s start to begin discussing about why how long the amount of time you sleep is so important. Yeah, both mothers and babies alike and just about everyone and everything else needs sleep, but the quality of the sleep is what’s so important!

Your brain is still active while you sleep. It’s even more so for children and newborns alike. The duration of which babies sleep for helps with mental and physical growth/development. Why exactly?

Once you fall sleep, your body and brain experience multiple rapid eye movement cycles as well as nonrapid eye movement cycles. Ever heard of REM? I’m sure some of you have heard it mentioned around science and sleep studies. These cycles are vital in aiding your body to repair, relax, and recharge itself. Human growth hormone is naturally produced as well during sleep, and is very important for children when they are growing up and developing. Human growth hormone also slowly diminishes as we get older.

Ideal Baby Sleep Duration?

Sleep is vital for everyone, but is extremely important especially for babies and children. In a perfect world, children should follow these sleep cycles as closely as possible:

Newborns – 4 Months Old:

  • Total Sleep – 16 – 18 Hours
  • Night Time Sleep – 8 – 9 Hours
  • Naps – 7 – 9 Hours (from a total of 3 – 5 naps)

4 – 12 Months Old:

  • Total Sleep – 12 – 16 Hours
  • Night Time Sleep – Nine – 10 Hours
  • Naps – 4 – 5 Hours (from a total of 2 – 3 naps)

1 – 2 Years Old:

  • Total Sleep – 11 – 14 Hours
  • Night Time Sleep – 9 – 11 Hours
  • Naps – 2 – 3 Hours (from a total of 1 to 2 naps)

Obviously, it’s going to be pretty impossible to reach these numbers each and every night due to external factors, and simply because some babies/children/adults need more/less sleep than others.

Circadian rhythms a.k.a. sleep-wake cycles, are regulated through natural means via light and dark. It’s important to note that newborns and infants are NOT born with this ability to differentiate day and night. This is why it doesn’t make sense to sleep train them until they’re around 6 weeks old because these sleep-wake cycles aren’t developed yet.

At around 3 – 6 months old, your baby should start to fully develop their own circadian rhythm cycles. Essentially, some babies as young as 3 months old might actually sleep through the night. Six-month-old babies should typically be able to sleep for at least 6 to 8 hours straight. These aren’t universal numbers that apply to each and every baby though, as some might sleep less or more, and some might stay in this cycle until 12 months old. Although, the National Sleep Foundation says that roughly 70% of all babies who are > 9 months old are capable of sleeping through the night.

Signs of sleepiness

It’s super important to be able to recognize the signs of sleepy baby so that you can capitalize on the moment! Remember that your baby can’t exactly recognize the signs of sleepiness on their own, that might make it difficult to conform to their natural sleep-wake cycles. Signs like yawning, looking away, rubbing their eyes, and being fussy are some safe bets of a sleepy baby. Although, the only person that knows their baby best is you and/or your SO. During the first few months of their life, you should be taking note and trying to recognize the signs of your baby’s tiredness. They can eventually help you to create a night time and naptime routine based around them if you can recognize the signs. My daughter kept rubbing her eyes when she was tired and I started to eventually realize that this was her way of telling me “Look how tired I am Mommy!”. Usually followed by yawning, it was very clear when she was tired and when she want to go to sleep. If I missed the signs, it usually ended up in a very hectic and tiresome day for both me and my daughter!

Not only are signs of sleepiness great for creating naptime and nighttime routines, but during the day, these signs can help you realize that your baby might need to be more active – to help prevent them from sleeping when they shouldn’t. Unplanned naps can ruin your baby’s sleep schedule and lead to less sleep during the night, and a more cranky baby the following day.

Myths and rumors

There are so many myths floating around for the subject of babies and sleep. Not a lot of them are related to diet or size, and a common thing that all of these myths share is that they lack evidence as well as consistency for them to be true.

A common myth is that the bigger the baby, the better they’ll sleep. Not only is this untrue for babies, this is untrue for adults as well. Many overweight or obese adults suffer from some form of sleep disorder or apnea which definitely does not help them sleep better. Talk to a few people who do have it and they’ll tell you how much they “sleep better”. What does have an impact on babies and their sleep is their age, and their napping and day time/night time sleep routines and cycles. Something like food doesn’t alter the natural circadian rhythm of your child. Only brain development that comes along with time and growth can affect this.

Another common myth suggests that you should be adding rice cereal to your baby’s night time feeding bottle. First off, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that babies should breast feed until they’re at least 6 months old. Obviously, this isn’t always possible, but breast milk is considered to be an excellent source of nutrients and is one of the best that are available for your baby. Adding rice cereal to your baby’s milk/formula does not help them at this stage in life. Not only is it ineffective, but this can be dangerous too. Rice cereal could be a choking hazard because at this age, your baby hasn’t developed the ability to swallow non-liquids yet. So, not only is it a stupid idea, but it’s also a dangerous one.

Expert and Proven Advice That Can Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night

Every single one of us is capable of being able to sleep for periods of time when we are born. Although later in life, some of us develop sleep disorders. People with sleep disorders are the only exception to not being able to sleep for extended periods of time. Common types of disturbances that we experience throughout the night while sleeping are being startled by a nightmare, a loud noise, maybe you are hungry, or have too much on your mind. Regardless of why or when we might wake up during the night, we can typically always fall back asleep. However, because babies haven’t developed the ability to fall back asleep by themselves, this is one of the main reasons why your baby isn’t able to sleep through the night.

Judith Owens, a pediatrician and a director of the pediatric sleep disorders clinic says that you should help your baby be more self-reliant. I know it sounds odd to ask for a baby to be self-reliant, but let me elaborate. Once your baby is around four months old, Judith recommends that you should aim to put them to sleep when they show signs of being tired but are still awake. 4 months is a great starting point to begin sleep training. Not only will this help them get sleep on their own faster, but it will let them get to sleep faster without relying on you as well. You might be wondering, why is this important? Well, simply because your baby will be able to improve and consistently fall back sleep without your own intervention, saving you lots of headache and interrupted sleep. In addition, babies who rely on their mother or father to help them fall back asleep are much more prone to experience separation anxiety, as well as constant crying throughout the night. Understanding all of these concepts and facts helped me train my daughter so that we could both get some sleep for once! These concepts work people. If they don’t, keep trying. I know that’s way easier said than done, but babies and children are like puzzles. Once you finally figure them out, they aren’t too bad!

Another way encouraging capitalize on natural sleep cycles for your baby is to establish a day and night time routine for them. You can prevent unplanned naps by encouraging a newborn to be more active during the day, setting the appropriate environment for them, and doing activities that can help show them when daytime is versus the night. Once evening starts to roll around, start to set a quiet, dark environment and try to be calm. By doing so, you’ll be able to help your baby obtain a natural circadian rhythm so that they can sleep in the best possible way that benefits both you and them.

Pacifiers are another common problem. Many experts agree that pacifiers can actually help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, a.k.a. SIDS, during the first 12 months of the baby’s life. The main issue with a pacifier is that most babies don’t have sufficient motor skills needed to put the pacifier back into their mouth once it pops out until they are about eight months old. Because they can’t put their pacifier back in the mouth, it often leads to crying for help well throughout the night. Founder of New York City Sleep Doctor, Janet Kennedy, advises parents to stop responding to cries. Not in a sense that you ignore them or anything, but you should eventually try to wean them off of having them depend on you to get them back to sleep every time after they cry. I’m sure it will take many nights of sleeplessness, but eventually if you’re consistent enough, your baby will start to be able to adjust and sleep throughout the night – even if their pacifier pops out of their mouth.

Occasional noises and sounds are other potential reasons for why your baby might wake up during the night. A white noise machine is definitely a worthwhile investment for both you and your baby. The best part is that even if you don’t have a dedicated machine, you’ll still be able to make white noise with something as simple as a fan. You can use white noise to help your baby associate that specific noise with sleeping. This can be very beneficial for them, and can help soothe them and prevent other noises from possibly waking them up during the night.

Not getting enough sleep can feel like death and dread. Getting sufficient sleep is essential for people of all ages. Trying to juggle everyday life, especially if you have multiple children, is an extremely daunting task. Remember that not all things and plans can be implemented overnight. The people who start to see results with their children are the ones are the most patient, consistent, and determined. If you can make it through sleepless nights, extreme discomfort, headaches, and hardships, it will be well worth it for everyone in your house in the end.

If nothing you’re doing is working and you can’t seem to get your baby to sleep and stay asleep, try speaking with your pediatrician. They can provide you with tips and can help go over anything you might not realize or that could be a problem/interfering with your baby’s sleep. It might better help you look at things from a different perspective and find out what the main issue is with your baby.

About the Author Elizabeth

Hi everyone, I'm Elizabeth. My beautiful daughter Alice keeps me awake occasionally...but when I'm busy and can't sleep, I post parenting tips and different ways you can get your baby to sleep soundly through the night, and even naps!