Mother and Baby

When do babies sleep through the night?

When do babies sleep through the night

When do babies sleep through the night? is the most commonly asked question in parenthood, especially for new parents! New mums and dads everywhere will agree that by far one of the most — if not the most — painful, uncomfortable, cumbersome, exhausting aspect of childrearing is — no, not childbirth — the sleep deprivation, especially during those first few months after a baby is born.

One recent study reports that new parents face up to six years of disrupted sleep. So, it’s no wonder that one of the most common questions new parents ask is, “when do babies start to sleep through the night?” Even though it seems like you’ll never ever sleep again, you don’t have to retire your sleeping mask just yet.

We’ve got the answer to this question for you, and we think you’ll quite like it!

How much sleep do babies need?

Baby-sleeping In order to have a better idea of when your child could start sleeping through the night, it’s important to know how much sleep a baby needs in general — during the day and at night-time. According to Stanford Children’s Health, babies should be sleeping, on average this many hours at night:

  • Newborn: 16 hours (8-9 night, 7-8 day)
  • 1 month: 15.5 hours (8-9 night, 7 day)
  • 3 months: 15 hours (9-10 night, 4-5 day)
  • 6 months: 14 hours (10 night, 4 day)
  • 9-18 months: 14 hours (11 night, 3 day)
  • 18 months: 13.5 hours (11 night, 2.5 day)
  • 24 months: 12-13 hours (11-12 night, 1-2 day)

These hours indicate total sleep in 24 hours, and don’t necessarily mean uninterrupted sleep. Of course, every baby has different sleep schedules, and some could start sleeping for longer stretches or less, sooner or later than what is the average, and this is not disconcerting, as long as it’s not too far off from the above ranges. If your child is sleeping much/less than the average, consult your GP.

When do babies start sleeping through the night?

mum-with-sleeping-babyUp until they are two months old, your newborn baby will wake you up (or perhaps you’ll need to wake the little sleepy-head up) in order to be fed every two to three hours. A newborn can sleep for a maximum of three hours at a stretch without food, so they’ll need to be fed two or three times during the night. Sleep cycles during the night can gradually increase from two months onwards as they can start going longer without food.

By the time the baby is three months old — perhaps even slightly earlier, they can sleep for four to five hours at a stretch. When the baby reaches four or five months, there won’t be any need for a middle-of-the-night feed, and they could well sleep for seven or eight hours at a time non-stop — the dream, right?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, by six months, the baby is physically able to sleep a full eight hours non-stop without eating.

When you’ve finished your little happy dance, read on. Just because the baby technically can sleep through the night, unfortunately, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will. There are many reasons that a child older than six months may wake up in the night.

For instance, a baby might not be hungry during the night, but are you hungry when you snack on popcorn while watching a film? No, it’s comfort and enjoyment.

Similarly, a baby loves feeding time with you; it’s one of their favourite things in the world! When the baby wakes up in the middle of the night, it tends to have one thing, and one thing alone, on its little mind; comfort grub!

It’s safe to say that you shouldn’t really expect to be able to sleep much during the night with a baby under six months (although there are a lucky few!), but after six months, there are some steps you can take so you can eventually get some much-needed shut-eye, and for your baby to start enjoying sleeping through the night too.

How to help baby learn to sleep through the night

What can you do to encourage your baby to sleep through once they are well past the needing-food-during-the-night stage? Here are eight tired-and-tested tips:

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1) Babies should love their bedroom

One mistake a lot of new parents make is not getting the baby accustomed to their own bedroom. Come six months, they’ll try to put the baby to sleep in their room and meet great resistance.
If their bedroom is a room that they’ve never really even been in before, it’s logical they won’t have any pleasant memories in there and it could be quite daunting for them, especially if they have separation anxiety.
Even if you co-sleep for the first few months, try to spend time playing and chilling in their room before they make the transition to sleeping there, so that when the time comes to sleep train, they will recognise — and enjoy — their bedroom environment.
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2) Put them to sleep at the right time for their age

In addition to a bedtime routine, a standard bedtime is also important for increasing the chances of getting the baby to sleep through the night.
A consistent bedtime can program their body clock and soon, they’ll be the ones reminding you that it’s bedtime.
The Baby Sleep Site suggests that by the time a baby is six months old, up until 10 months old, the optimal bedtime is anywhere from 6:00pm-7:30pm. From 10 months to three years old, the window for bedtime should be 6:00pm-8:00pm.
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3) Babies should fall asleep where they wake up

How would you feel if you fell asleep at home and woke up in Tesco’s? Perhaps you’d be a tad confused. Perhaps your anxiety will start to rise. Maybe you’ll have a full-on meltdown.
Similarly, when your baby falls asleep in your arms and wakes up all alone in a bedroom and surroundings they do not recognise, it’s highly likely to trigger all sorts of negative emotions and separation anxiety. Putting them to sleep in their own room each night will start to pave the way for full nights of sleep in there.
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4) Keep the lights off

Try to stay away from night lights, or at least ones that are too bright. When a baby wakes up in the night, darkness helps them understand that it is night time and therefore sleep time.
If they wake up to light, the light receptors in their little eyes will trick their brains into thinking that it’s time to wake up and party!
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5) Decide on a sleep-training method

Consistency is key for babies and adults alike, so the best way to start getting your toddler to sleep through the night is by choosing a sleep training method that best suits you and your baby — and there are many to choose from — and sticking with it.
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6) Be prepared for the sleep regressions

You might have heard by now that babies will have sleep regression several times throughout their babyhood. These are instances where their sleep will be thrown off, and even “good-sleepers” may end up turning it all upside down. Get informed about sleep regression so you know what to expect and how you can deal with it when it strikes.
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7) Waking in the night is normal...

... as is a little bit of whinging! Just like we sometimes wake up in the middle of the night to turn around, get comfortable, or have a stretch, so do babies.
The thing with us is that we’ve learnt to put ourselves to sleep again, whereas babies need to get used to self-soothing and falling asleep again on their own. Unless it’s an urgent cry, or on-going, you don’t need to run to the baby if they wake up and start to whinge a little. It’s highly likely they’ll settle down again and get to sleep all by themselves, and if that happens, you’re on the way to great things!

It’s important to remember that each child is different and you should discuss with your doctor if you are worried about your child’s sleeping habits, or any other questions you may have.

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  • Author: Lorna White Lorna White
  • Job Title: Digital Writer

Lorna is the digital executive and regular contributor for Mother&Baby. After running the Yours magazine website which specialises in content about caring for kids and grandchildren, she has now brought her expertise to the UK's #1 leading pregnancy and parenting magazine. Lorna specialises on a range of topics from potty training and nutrition, to everything and anything that will keep your tot occupied!

Other contributors

Kat de Naoum - Freelance Writer

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