Most babies are able to sleep through the night when they reach 6 months of age. Some infants that are at least 3 months old can have uninterrupted sleep for 6 to 8 hours while others can have the same stretch of sleep only when they turn 12 months old. Around 70 percent of babies who are 9 months old are said to be capable of sleeping through the night.
Babies who “sleep through the night” are those who can sleep for 8 to 12 hours continuously with no need to have some night time feeding. Sleeping through the night will help your baby get a good “sleep nutrition” which is important for his optimal cognitive, physical and emotional development.
Why would a baby wake up at night?
There are several reasons why babies would wake up at night. Some would start waking up at night even after they were able to sleep through for a couple of weeks or months.
However, babies who do wake up at night could be based on the following reasons.
- The baby wants to spend more time with his mother.
- He is teething.
- He has just learned a new skill and is keen on practicing it which is otherwise known as “developmental advances.” Some of these skills include turning over, crawling or talking.
- He is hungry.
- He has some illness or feels uncomfortable because of an allergy, eczema or diaper rash.
- He is doing the so-called “reverse cycling.” This is particularly true when the mother is gone all day and are able to spend time with her baby only in the evening. The baby would most likely reject all supplements while his mother is away and would prefer to nurse often in the evening.
When can I expect my baby to sleep through the night?
The ability to sleep through the night among infants depend solely on age and not on size or diet. This negates rumors that bigger babies and those who eat solids tend to sleep better. In fact, it’s normal for infants to wake up several times at night in order to stretch or just take a deep breath.
Newborns, particularly those who are into breastfeeding, are expected to sleep for as long as three hours. This is because they need to have several feedings whether at daytime or at night.
Babies who are 2 to 3 months old should be able to sleep continuously for 5 to 6 hours. Some babies tend to start skipping a feeding at 2 a.m. by the time they turn 3 months old. However, most babies at this age still require 1 or 2 night time feedings which is particularly important among breastfeeding babies.
When the baby reaches 4 months old, you can expect him to sleep at a stretch of 7 up to 8 hours. The reason is because most babies at this age had reached the desired weight of 11 pounds. In other words, feeding them at night becomes less significant at this stage.
If you still see your baby waking up at night to have some feeding on his 5th or 6th month, the reason may not be related to feeling hungry. Most probably, your baby has become accustomed to having a midnight snack and the thought that he could be with his mom when he gets it.
What can I do to help my baby sleep better at night?
Before you start on a strategy or a tactic to help your baby sleep better, you have to make sure that you will stick with it and that you will be consistent in what you are doing.
The first thing that you can do is to make daytime feeds as social and as lively as possible while night time feeds as quiet and calm. Doing this strategy will allow your baby to set his body clock and eventually tell the difference between daytime and night time.
When your baby is between 6 weeks and 8 weeks, you can give him the chance to fall asleep on his own. You can do this by laying him down on his back when you see him feeling sleepy but is still awake. Try to avoid rocking or feeding your baby to sleep because he may develop the tendency to depend on it which may hinder his ability to settle by himself.
Create a bedtime routine that would tell your baby it’s time to get settled for a night time sleep. This can be anything from giving him a bath, changing his nappy and then slipping him in his pyjamas, reading a story, singing a song, or even giving him a massage. Doing this bedtime routine should take no longer than 45 minutes and should be finished in your baby’s bedroom.
You can also try dabbing your favorite cologne or perfume on your baby’s blanket or pillow to give him that feeling of security. Babies can smell very strongly. When your baby startles awake, your smell will help to calm him down.
When your baby turns older than six months, you can opt for the so-called “controlled crying” method. This is done by leaving your baby a few minutes while he cries before you decide to return to his side. You may want to extend the time of your return between each visit. However, you should also avoid leaving your baby crying for long periods in the evening.
Red flags that you should be aware of
If your baby is already 12 months of age or has turned into a year old and you see him not sleeping through the night, you need to consult a pediatrician to find out whether there is a root cause of the situation.
You can also consider other issues that would need some professional consulting and advice. These can include your baby snoring; has difficulty in breathing; acts extremely fussy at bedtime and also after feedings. The latter can be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Babies with GERD have trouble in keeping enough food down which can affect a proper weight gain. Some babies also lose their interest in feeding because they feel some pain in the throat caused by the stomach acid pushing up into their esophagus. In severe cases, babies with GERD find it hard to swallow during feeding.