When Do Babies Sleep All Night? This is the million dollar question on the mind of most new parents.
Even before your baby arrives, sleep deprivation has likely started. Let’s be honest. The weeks leading up to delivery are often exhausting and trying for a mom to be. The discomfort of the 3rd trimester can make sleeping seem nothing more than a nostalgic memory.
The experience of having a new baby is often euphoric but also utterly exhausting. Newborns typically eat every 2-3 hours (1). This means that just as you have finally started to drift back to sleep after feeding, burping, and changing your baby, she starts to fuss to eat again. This can make new parents (and even veteran parents) feel like they might just lose their minds. But don’t lose hope!
When Do Babies Sleep All Night: What Qualifies As Sleeping Through The Night?
What does it even mean to “sleep all night?” 5 hours? 6 hours? Baby staying asleep completely?
Sleeping through the night is defined as 6-8 hours of sleep. This isn’t to say that your baby will not wake up at all during that time. A baby’s body naturally wakes them periodically to help keep them safe. (More about this in “Magic Milestones” below.) But sleeping through the night does mean that your baby will be able to fall back asleep on his own (2).
When Do Babies Sleep All Night: Magic Milestones
There are four “Magic Milestones” that relate to when a baby begins sleeping through the night. It seems there is a strong correlation between babies hitting these milestones and your household finally getting some rest.
#1 The Moro Reflex
The Moro reflex, or the startle reflex, is when your baby suddenly throws his arms out in front of him. It happens involuntarily in response to a loud noise, a bright light, or a sudden loss of balance. It’s a clever built-in safety feature, but it can also cause your baby to wake themselves up unintentionally. The Moro reflex goes away around 2 months of age, and this helps prevent your baby from crashing their own sleeping party (3).
#2 Weight Hits 12-13 lbs
By about 3 months of age, most babies hit the weight of between 12-13 pounds. At this point, babies can go longer stretches without needing to eat. The American Academy of Pediatrics reassures us that 90% of babies sleep through the night once this milestone is hit (4). And this, of course, means more blissful time for snoozing for mom and dad.
#3 Begins To Be Able To Self-Soothe
Around the 3 month mark, babies begin the adorable process of staring at their hands, opening and closing them and trying to bring them to their mouths. By 4 months, they are able to get those cherub fists to their mouths and suck on their fingers (4). This can help them self-soothe and not rely on someone else to get them back to sleep.
#4 Breathing and Sleep Patterns Mature
Newborn sleeping patterns are different than in older infants, children, and adults. Newborns have what’s called normal periodic breathing of infancy. This is irregular breathing that may stop for 5 to 10 seconds, then start again with a burst of rapid breathing at the rate of 50 to 60 breaths a minute for 10 to 15 seconds. This is followed by more regular breathing until the cycle repeats itself later on.
This periodic breathing makes sleep cycles uneven and unpredictable (5). Not to mention the irregular breathing could cause a parent distress if they don’t know what normal periodic breathing of infancy is. At around 6 months, this irregular breathing begins to fade. More stable patterns emerge, leading to longer sleep stretches.
When Do Babies Sleep All Night: What You Can Do?
When it comes to sleep, it ultimately depends on the unique rhythm of each baby. Every beautiful baby is their own person, therefore each one will start sleeping in their own time. The good news is there are some things you can do while waiting for the sleep fairy to visit your house.
1# Learn how to swaddle your new baby.
Swaddling helps your baby feel secure and combats the Moro Reflex. An added bonus is the adorable arm stretches and faces they make once you remove the swaddle :).
#2 Create a night time routine with baby.
To create healthy sleeping habits and teach your baby to fall asleep on his own, create a calm bedtime routine. Then, place baby down to sleep on his back while tired but still awake. For both comfort and safety, make sure the room is cool enough and baby is not overdressed.
#3 Circle the wagons!
Gather your tribe! Send out the S.O.S! New parents need support. Asking and accepting help from others can save your sanity and also buy you some sleep time.
You might be a parent that wants someone to hold the baby while you shower or make food. Or you might be a parent that wants someone to bring food or run the dishwasher. Whatever is actually helpful for you, ask for it. On the other hand, maybe visitors are taking away sleep time from you or causing you anxiety. This is a great time to set boundaries and say no (and yes) when you need to.
Also, enlist your partner or a helper to help do a nighttime block of baby care if possible. Moms need support and care!
#4 Have patience and lower your expectations.
Those Instagram pictures with a beautiful mom glowing radiantly with their perfect bundle of obviously-sleeping-through-the-night-joy (ha-ha), aren’t real. A new baby is a perfect time to simplify your life. Now is not the time for Pinterest-worthy house cleaning or “impress your in-laws” dinners. Go for simple meals, simple routines, lower expectations, and giving grace to yourself.
The quote “The days are long, but the years are short” is so cliche but true. Though you might change the quote to “The nights are long but the years are short.” You will get through this and chances are these nights with your baby will be some of the sweetest memories you have as a parent 🙂
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(1) Jain, S., American Academy of Pediatrics. (2018). How Often and How Much Should Your Baby Eat? Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/How-Often-and-How-Much-Should-Your-Baby-Eat.aspx
(2) American Academy of Pediatrics. (2013). Sleep: What Every Parent Needs to Know. Retrieved from https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/Sleep-What-Every-Parent-Needs-to-Know.aspx
(3) Jana, L., and Shu, J. (2010). Heading Home With Your Newborn, 2nd Edition. American Academy of Pediatrics. Elk Grove Village, IL.
(4) Shelov, Steven. (2009). Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age Five. American Academy of Pediatrics. Elk Grove Village, IL.
(5) American Academy of Pediatrics. (2013). Stages of Newborn Sleep. Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/Phases-of-Sleep.aspx