When Will My Baby Sleep Through the Night?
From the first foggy, sleep-deprived night with your newborn, you start to ask yourself the all-important question: When will my baby sleep through the night? Knowing the day will someday come is a light at the end of the tunnel, for sure, but there are some things you should know about this mythical “sleeping through the night” that will help you set some realistic expectations.
For one thing, no one actually sleeps through the night. “It’s a term that’s often misunderstood,” explains Alanna McGinn, the founder of Good Night Sleep Site and a certified sleep consultant.
“People wake up all through the night, no matter what.” We sleep in cycles, and as we come to the end of one of those cycles, we briefly wake up — regardless of how old we are. The key difference between an adult, who may not even be aware of the wakeup, and a baby, who will most likely fuss or cry when they wake, is that we know how to go back to sleep on our own.
“Once your child can wake up and fall back asleep independently, they're ‘sleeping through the night,’” says McGinn.
A Tip From Hatch: Use your Hatch Rest to provide gentle sounds for your baby’s best sleep. Read more about how to safely use sleep sounds in your home.
So how old will they be when this happens? There’s a huge amount of variance. Babies begin to produce melatonin, the sleep hormone that cues our bodies to rest when it’s dark, around three or four months. “We don’t start formal sleep training until at least then,” says McGinn. But that doesn’t mean four months is a guarantee — for example, some babies who are able to fall asleep independently at four months old may still medically need a feeding (or more than one!) overnight.
Mary, a mom of four, says most of her children began to sleep through the night between seven and nine months (although her second-born took a year). “They all had to eat in the night for weight gain,” she says. “Our doctor wouldn’t give the OK to [sleep train] until they reached a certain weight.”
A Tip From Hatch: Experts believe that infants might find white noise soothing because it mimics sounds they heard while in the womb. Read more about using sleep sounds to help your baby fall asleep on their own.
Weight gain and medical clearance to go all night without a feed are huge considerations when it comes to how long it might take for a baby to sleep all night, so definitely talk to your pediatrician for guidance. “Depending on the child, the health of the baby, weight gain, and how the parent is responding to night wakings, they could drop night feeds as early as four months,” says McGinn. There are certainly babies who drop night feeds even earlier than that — as a mom of three, my second born stopped at around ten weeks — but it’s the exception, not the norm, and should always be discussed with your doctor.
Another thing to keep in mind is that lots of babies master falling asleep on their own at bedtime but only make it to four or five AM — so close to sleeping “through” the night, but not all the way there! Those first few nights where you get to sleep until 5 AM feel amazing, but it’s not a sustainable schedule for most people.
A Tip from Hatch: You can use your Hatch Rest to create a peaceful space for your infant to sleep. Try blocking out outside noise by playing a white or brown noise -- depending on what kinds of sound you’re trying to mask -- on your Rest.
“The first thing we always ask when we’re seeing early morning waking is ‘What time is baby going to bed?’” says McGinn. Early morning wakings can be a sign of an overtired baby, and she often suggests moving bedtime earlier. It also might be a moment to assess whether your baby is waking for a night feed they truly need, or have just gotten used to having. “Normally, no matter what sleep training method you’re using, we recommend parents try not to go in their baby’s room during those early hours,” she says.
It can take a few days or weeks to transition, but they can get the hang of it -- as long as it’s developmentally appropriate!
Waiting for that first uninterrupted night of sleep might seem interminable, but with the right tools, it will come. And remember that your baby sleeping through the night is only one of many exciting milestones -- like their first smile or the first time they recognize you -- that you have to look forward to. Take all the small wins!