When will my baby sleep through the night?
A phrase I found myself googling over and over. Brianna was waking up every hour. I was so exhausted and sleep deprived I didn’t know what to do. I was so new to this, so lost. Everyone gave me different advice, nothing worked. That’s when I started my research, asked questions, and tried my own techniques. I studied her sleep habits for 6 weeks. I wrote down and charted every little thing. Like many moms, I was guilty of the same common mistakes. Like nursing my baby to sleep. When she woke up crying, I just stuck a boob in her mouth, and thought I was doing the right thing. Hey she fell asleep, I must be doing something right…wrong! I also put her in her bassinet asleep, something I learned was a big no, no. I remember quietly slipping her into bed thinking, Yes she’s asleep! Only having to wake an hour or two later. I also had no consistent bedtime. Bedtime for us was whenever she would feel like falling asleep. Usually around 11-12pm…yea bad idea.
There is no magic for sleeping through the night, every baby is different. However everyone will agree on one thing, a solid bedtime routine is a great start. A consistent bedtime routine gives your baby predictability. If she knows what’s coming, she will more likely accept it. A decent bedtime is anywhere between 7 and 830pm, and most experts say no later than 9pm. Our routine now involves, washing up with a warm wash cloth, putting on jammies, 2-3 stories and straight to the crib, AWAKE.
You should never use “props” to help your baby fall asleep. Another thing most sleep experts and pediatricians will agree on. By props I mean rocking, nursing to sleep, or anything that your baby could possibly rely on to fall asleep. The theory is that if she falls asleep like that, what happens when she wakes up in the middle of the night? She will need that prop. And because babies have short sleep cycles they wake up alot, so they need to figure out how to soothe themselves to sleep independently.
Your baby should also be laid in her crib awake. This is something I learned from sleep specialist Dana Obleman. How would you feel if you fell asleep in your nice, warm bed, and woke up in the backyard? That is exactly how a baby feels when they fall asleep in your arms, and wake up in their own crib. Dana says that “everybody is very aware of their environment when they sleep so if you fall asleep on the couch and end in up in your bed, you are probably going to wake up feeling fairly alarmed. A lot of babies, if you watch them when they wake up, they wake up in a startled response, they usually throw their arms out, sit up or stand up if they can, and they are instantly upset because it’s a frightening experience. Also, in transferring, remember that your baby was nice and cozy in your arms and now you are trying to transfer them to the crib. Usually, they wake up on route or just a few minutes after they finally get in to the crib”. And to make things worse, the cribs are so firm. No blankets, pillows, or crib bumpers are allowed. This doesn’t make a baby happy, especially when she’s been snug in a womb for the last 9 months. So she really has learn how to soothe herself to sleep in her new sleeping place.
So now that we have falling asleep down packed, staying asleep can be more difficult. This is something we struggled with the most, especially when I had friends tell me their babies where sleeping through the night at such young ages. I guess it depends on what you mean by sleeping through the night. The medical definition for sleeping through the night is 5 hours. But for all of the sleep deprived moms out there it means, sleeping through without waking up at all, until the morning time. On good nights, Brianna slept 4 hours at 2 months, 6 hours at 4 months, 6-8 hours at 6 months and through the entire night from 9pm until 8am at 8 months. Once we put all the pieces together, (which took us over 4 months to figure out) a solid bedtime routine, got rid of props, and put her to sleep awake. She started sleeping through the night. I think she would of been sleeping through the night at a even younger age.
So here is my whole theory on when a baby should sleep through the night without needing to eat. If you do everything right from day one (put your baby to sleep awake, don’t use props to put her back to sleep etc.) Your baby will sleep through the night when her stomach matures enough to hold a substantial amount, to make it through the night. This is something that happens with age, and varies greatly. On rare occasions it can happen at a month, but can also take up to 9 months which is when 70-80% of babies sleep through the night (National Sleep Foundation). However, the American Sleep Association does agree that by 6 months of age nighttime feedings are usually not necessary (some experts will even say by 4 months). Human beings and even animals do not need to wake up in the middle of the night to eat a meal. I don’t ever remember waking up in the middle of the night, thinking “I’m hungry, let me go eat” (except maybe when I was pregnant, just kidding). So your baby will start sleeping through the nighttime when she reaches that milestone. Brianna was waking up at night for many months. She would eat, and immediately fell asleep when she was done. I tried feeding her more during the day, I tried adding cereal into her bottle at night. I tried skipping her midnight snack session, but nothing worked. Her stomach wasn’t mature enough and she was just hungry, that’s all. When I accepted that, we were both a lot happier. I got up for less than 10min a night to feed her. No diaper changes, no small talk. Just eat and 10 minutes later we were both asleep. The older she got the longer she could wait to eat, until she finally didn’t need to eat at all at night. When she was ready to sleep through the night, she did. Every baby is different so don’t ever try to compare your baby to another, it’s a bad idea and just leads to frustration and discouragement. Every baby has different needs and she will sleep through the night when she is good and ready. Just look at the signals your baby is giving you to facilitate her readiness.
If you have been making some of the very common mistakes of nursing or rocking your baby to sleep. Or putting her down completely asleep. Then chances are your baby will have a hard time learning to sleep through the night. For more help please refer to my article “Sleep Associations”.
You can also check out the Sleep Sense Program by Dana Obleman www.sleepsense.net. I came across this really valuable site that’s dedicated to teaching healthy sleep habits to children of all ages. Dana Obleman is a professional sleep and parenting consultant and offers a free customized sleep report right on her site. Her customer service reps are great at answering any questions. She also does live phone calls. She is really dedicated to what she does. I think she is a miracle worker when it comes to getting babies to sleep through the night. I used her strategies and within days my baby’s sleep habits improved until she was sleeping through the night.