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When Do Babies Sleep Through the Night?
Babies Sleeping Through the Night: An Introductory Overview.
Babies do not typically come out of the womb and begin sleeping through the night right away, as much as her mother might want her to. A baby is born and instantly she needs to have her needs met. When the baby was still inside its mother, she was able to get fed constantly, and it was easy for her to have her other needs taken care of.
Once a baby is born, a baby still needs to be fed, changed, and have her tummy settled. This is a large part of the reason why it is so hard to get a baby to sleep through the night once she is born; all of these procedures and requirements have to be met in order for a baby to get a good night’s sleep.
When a baby is born, for the first several weeks, mothers can easily feel like zombies, as they are constantly getting up and trying to take care of not only their baby, but their house, and if they are able, themselves. Many times after the birth of my children, I heard the mantra, “You need to sleep when the baby is sleeping.”
But it can be surprising to new mothers just how hard it is to get a shower without feeling like you should be sleeping instead, and it is hard not to notice how dirty or disorganized the home looks once you have had a baby. On top of that, there are groceries to buy, laundry to fold, and bills to pay. Because there are a lot of things on the parents’ “To-do” list, new mothers and fathers can easily be overwhelmed by the first weeks of parenthood.
During this time, it is important to recognize that it will end, and that it is a good thing that it will, because it means your baby is growing. It is also good to keep that in mind because you want to be able to realize that your sacrifice of your sleep now will help your child do better and feel better. It can be hard, especially if the mother suffers from post-partum, to get to a point where it is easy to give grace to others. It is also good to keep a mental checklist of what you do and try to repeat it.
For example, many babies will feed before they go to sleep. Once the baby is asleep, if you do not feel like going to sleep, try to clean for ten minutes and then try lying down. I had a lot more success with my second child because I knew I would have trouble sleeping, and I was able to anticipate my moods better.
Cleaning is a way of physically demonstrating that you are able to do some good while also helping to keep your emotions under control. This is helpful, because if you do not get enough sleep, it will be harder to control yourself. Once the baby has been fed, and you’ve done some cleaning and most likely some laundry organization, you will be a little more relaxed enough to at least lie down, if not fall asleep.
Another good item to have on your checklist is the issue of diapers. When a baby is newly changed, they will have an easier time of sleeping. This is true of all children. If you have a clean diaper, you will sleep longer. I have done my share of midnight diaper changes, and it is always harder to put the baby back to sleep if I have changed her. I would envy my friends who were capable of changing a diaper without waking their child in the process.
Finally, checking your baby for her creature comforts can help. I had a winter baby and a summer baby, and to this day, I know which one needs a blanket and which one will kick all of the blankets off the bed if I dare to put on too many.
Temperature, sound systems, and even air purifiers have all been suggestions I have heard to use in order to help my children get to sleep at night. Some parents will use essential oils, rubbing little droplets into the sheets, in order to help keep their baby asleep. Others will make sure that their child is positioned in a particular way, or certain music is playing.
These are all great ideas which you can use as you need to. Babies can change, but many people have found success in using bedtime routines. Even later on in their lives, some kids will not go to bed unless it is completely silent; others will need everything from a blanket to water to music to the nightlight.
Making the Transition
As babies are growing, you can easily look for the opportunities to lengthen out their sleeping patterns as they grow. Many newborns will need feedings pretty regularly, every three to four hours, or with even less time in between. Once you see that you can go an extra fifteen, thirty, or even sixty minutes in between feedings, you can start to work in the different sleep patterns.
Transitioning slowly helps you as a parent as much as it can help the baby learn to sleep peacefully. Tending to their needs, and seeing to the conditions in which they need to fall asleep, really makes you learn more about your child’s temperament and personality. It also gives their mind and body time to adjust; while your baby is sleeping, plenty of things are still growing and going on inside of him.
Sometimes, with the transition, it is good to have a way prepared for your baby to self-soothe. This can include popular measures such as pacifiers to help get your baby to lull himself back to sleep in the even he is startled awake. My children used the pacifier, but many of my friends have had kids that never seemed to want to take them. Some parents have discouraged this, because some babies will use their fingers or other body parts in order to soothe themselves back to sleep.
By the time your baby is six months old, you will also see that his physical body has changed and developed, and more development is coming as he grows. It is around this time that many parents will see the eight-hour mark on sleeping through the night, as the brain is getting bigger and needs more time to recover from the events of the day. In later months, it will be easier for the babies to stay asleep as they grow and begin using more of their energy reserves for crawling, walking, and playing.
With multiple children, it can happen that the second or third child will mimic more of the patterns of the older children. My son and daughter are prime examples of this; my soon took eighteen months to fall asleep for the whole night, whereas my daughter was staying asleep for the whole night in six months.
When it comes to transitioning, you should keep in mind that there are days when you are allowed to backslide, and there are days where you have no progress. Many people think that routine and repetition will be positive, so recognizing that it is possible for this not to happen will help keep your expectations realistic and achievable.
Resources and Recommendations
When it comes to resources, your baby’s doctor can be a source of invaluable information. Your pediatrician, especially if you have known your baby’s doctor for a time, can really give you insight into your child’s health. One of the best things about my baby’s doctor was just that she had a lot of experience, too, so she was able to identify a lot of things before I even finished complaining about them.
For example, one of the things that she suggested when I was having trouble breastfeeding was to use the nipple shield, and she said I could use it for as long as I needed it, even though most doctors would not recommend using it past six months. Part of the reason she suggested this to me was actually because my babies had trouble sleeping, and most of it had to do with the fact that I wasn’t producing enough milk for them to feed. It is hard to get a baby to go to sleep when he is hungry.
Another common experience that I have had as a parent and as a friend of parents is the question of sleeping with a full tummy. I had a friend whose son had severe acid reflux; because of this, it was hard to send him to bed if he had just eaten, but at the same time, most babies will sleep right after they have been fed. Since she was unsure of what to do, she and her husband would take their baby out in the car for a ride.
The comfortable bumping would help with the baby’s reflux, and keeping him in an upright position in the car seat helped prevent him from waking up due to gas or reflux. She told me that because of that, she was eventually able to get her son to sleep, but he was over a year old before it happened. They didn’t think it was that big of a deal, but one they told their doctor, they were able to make better adjustments to their son’s routine.
Another friend had a baby that had allergy problems in the spring and fall, but she thought it was just a simple cold. She was able to talk to her doctor and decide on a treatment plan for her son.
If you are not sure of your child’s sleeping pattern, it is good to ask your doctor about it. Sometimes it seems like every little thing can ruin a baby’s slumber, so it can be very helpful to have questions prepared and ready to ask when you visit the doctor’s office.
After having children, sleeping through the night becomes one of the most ardent wishes. Many parents will see their newborns able to sleep in blocks of six to eight hours as early as three months, but more will likely see this later on. Some children do not fully sleep through the night until they are one year old.
Whatever the length of time, there are several techniques a parent can use in order to encourage them to go to sleep. Taking care of the baby basics—making sure the baby has been fed a good amount, making sure the baby is wearing a clean diaper, and making sure the baby is in a comfortable position as well as a safe setting—is a great way to start a bedtime routine.
In the event that you are unsure of the baby’s progress in this area, feel free to consult your doctor for insights into your baby’s health. Since every child is different, it can be hard to expect what will happen down to the smallest details. However, remember that it is part of the learning and growing phase, and while it can be unpleasant and arduous, it is rewarding and a special time for you as a parent.
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