After becoming accustomed to caring for a new baby one of the first questions that comes to the mind of a parent is the subject of sleeping through the night. Most newborn babies will wake a number of times through the night for feeding and comfort and this is perfectly normal. As the child grows parents are often faced with the question “does she/he sleep through the night.” In Western society it is one of the biggest pressures on new parents and it is common for parents to worry about their child’s sleep patterns. It is important to understand that every baby is different and most sleep patterns before 12 months of age are perfectly normal (even if they don’t feel that way). Even the definition of sleeping through the night is quite moderate and if your baby sleeps from midnight to 5 a.m. they are considered to have slept through. Let’s find out when most babies achieve this milestone and when you should be concerned.
When will my baby sleep through the night?
Despite the long held beliefs about this topic, only 70% of babies will sleep through the night (from at least midnight to 5 a.m.) by the time they are 9 months old. While stories about the 3 month old sleeping six to eight hours may be true, this is simply not the norm for most babies. In fact, some babies take more than 12 months to begin to sleep through the night. It is important not to be concerned by nighttime waking because even babies that sleep through the night will have wakeful periods, but have learnt to put themselves back to sleep without crying. This often happens naturally without any intervention from their parents. It is estimated that 50% of babies learn to do this without crying by 8 months of age.
Newborn – 6 months
Very few babies sleep through the night at this stage. The most common cycle at this age is 3-4 hours asleep and then they wake to be fed. Newborn babies do not yet realize that darkness is associated with sleeping, but this changes in most babies by 6 months.
Sleeping for longer periods is common during this stage. At six months of age some babies become capable of putting themselves back to sleep without crying and most babies can do this by their first birthday. By 12 months of age many babies will be sleeping 8-12 hours through the night.
When to worry?
There is no cause for concern if your baby takes longer to sleep through the night than other babies. In fact, it is common for some toddlers not to sleep through the night. However, there are some warning signs that nighttime waking is not normal such as:
- Crying uncontrollably and/or seems to be in pain.
- Constantly waking after only short periods of sleep.
- Increased anxiousness, especially in relation to sleeping (especially in older children).
- Unable to self settle after 12 months of age.