The golden question: “When should my baby sleep through?” is one that needs answering as it determines what is reasonable to expect from your baby. Sleeping through is not just a luxury, it’s a developmental necessity. Both for you and your baby, a good night’s sleep is important.
- Firstly, it needs to be pointed out that sleeping through constitutes sleeping 10 or more hours at a stretch. This would mean that if your baby’s bedtime is between 6 pm and 7 pm (as it should be) that could mean waking from 4 am to 5 am. Many babies will go back to sleep after this time with a feed or a cuddle. If your toddler wakes for the day at this time, keep interactions muted and take him quietly into your bed with you and see if he will fall back to sleep.
- Under 6 months of age, babies have nutritional needs at night that incrementally decrease as the baby gets older. Having said this, some babies do sleep through the night as early as 3 months of age but many of these will experience disruption once again between 4 and 6 months. Most babies should be expected to sleep through the night by seven months old.
- Like other developmental milestones, sleep has certain norms that obviously are flexible as with any other milestone. The following are the norms for sleep at night:
• 2 – 6 weeks: one 4 – 5 hour stretch between night feeds and 3 hourly thereafter
• 6 – 12 weeks: one 6 – 7 hour stretch between night feeds then 3 hourly through the night
• 3 – 6 months: 10 – 12 hours at night
• 6 – 12 months: 10 – 12 hours at night
• 3 – 5 years old: 11 hours per night as day sleep is dropped
- If your baby is ill he will not sleep through and will wake for comfort.
- If you have a low birth weight, premature or a baby with failure to thrive, he will not sleep through until later than other babies.
If your baby learns to self-sooth for incidental night wakings, i.e. those without organic causes such as hunger or illness, he will be a good sleeper. Even good sleepers who are sleeping through by 6 months old will occasionally suffer disrupted sleep for a few nights, but after the cause such as teething, hunger or illness is resolved, they will return to being good sleepers.
Broken sleep is debilitating but if your baby is young, hang in there it won’t be long before you see the light. If your baby is older and is not sleeping through you need to go through the process of elimination to establish why your baby is waking. Thereafter you may need to help your baby learn strategies to fall asleep independently so you can get a good night’s sleep.