Most new parents comment on the sleep deprivation that goes along with having a newborn baby. As a sleep consultant for 15+ years, a common question is when do babies start sleeping through the night? The short answer is babies start sleeping through the night more regularly around 6 months old. Some formula-fed babies will sleep through the night as early as 4 to 6 months old while some breastfed babies will sleep through the night around 6 to 9 months old. This article will share more details about when babies sleep through the night.
What Is Sleeping Through the Night?
First, I always need to ask what “sleeping through the night” means to you because, for some, they mean to have a baby sleep through the night, including feedings, and others mean sleep straight through 10-12 hours, with no feedings.
For me, “baby sleeping through the night” meant my baby sleeping 10-12 hours without feedings. It was around 4 months old, with both breastfed sons, that they started sleeping pretty much straight through BUT with two feedings at night, so I couldn’t really expect much more than that.
Sleep was not perfect (particularly with my eldest son because why else would I have an entire website about baby sleep?), but it was ten times better once I changed their sleep associations. They both ended up breastfeeding to sleep or wanted to be rocked to sleep all night long. Once I taught them a new way, they were able to sleep in longer stretches.
One thing I know for certain is regardless of whether you think “sleeping through the night” is with or without feedings, it can feel like your baby will never do it.
If it’s not one thing it’s another.
Maybe it’s a feeding, replacing a pacifier, or rocking them to sleep, or perhaps it’s cold in their room. If it’s not cold, maybe it’s hot. Confusing! There are so many reasons babies wake up! That’s the main reason to start sleep training.
When Will Your Baby Sleep Through the Night?
Obviously, I can’t really look into my crystal ball to tell you when YOUR baby will sleep through the night. I can tell you that I’ve heard it all when it comes to doctors telling parents when their baby shouldn’t need any more night feedings and should be sleeping all night.
I can also tell you that parents who are skeptical that their 3-month old breastfed baby can go without any feedings for 12 hours per night, you should be. 12 hours is a LONG time, even for many adults! And, if your baby is breastfed, they will likely need to eat at night a bit longer than their formula-fed friends.
But, if your baby or toddler is older than 6 months old and waking more than once or twice a night, there is definitely something you can do about it.
Of course, if you are fine with co-sleeping or feeding your toddler at night, then there is nothing much to worry about except the effect on the teeth without brushing and how it can lead to bottle mouth syndrome, in some cases.
The short answer is that NO ONE goes off to college needing a bottle in the middle of the night (at least that I know of), so don’t worry about it “never happening.”
What Do Sleep Experts Say?
If your definition of sleeping through the night is with feedings, your baby can sleep through the night by 4 to 6 months, usually, on average. If you mean straight through without feedings, most can be night-weaned by around 6-9 months old sometimes as late as 12 months or beyond. The “experts” all vary and offer conflicting advice:
- Dr. Sears (The Baby Sleep Book) says night feedings are normal up through 18 months or more.
- Pantley (The No Cry Sleep Solution) agrees.
- Weissbluth (Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child) says it’s normal for babies to need 1-2 feedings up through 9 months, and can then be night-weaned.
- Ferber (Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems) says a baby can go up to 8-10 hours without feeding by 3 months.
- Babywise agrees.
My pediatrician and yours would probably say something different, too. We’ve worked with pediatricians as clients even.
This is why reading all of these different opinions made my head spin and I wrote my own book on baby sleep (to save other parents time and money). No, I don’t have THE answer. I actually keep the option open so that YOU can find the answer that works best for you and your baby! Surprise!
If you think your baby or toddler is waking out of habit, then they probably are. Even if you think they are truly hungry, you might have the confidence that if they would just eat more during the day, they’d be able to sleep all night (I recommend at least an attempt at night-weaning once you feel this way). If you believe your baby or toddler “needs” to eat just to fall asleep and not because he’s hungry, then teach them how to sleep without eating.
You know your baby best and the key is not to have the answer (believe me, there is no ONE answer for all of us), the key is to have the tools to teach your baby to sleep more independently and when you have your tools, sleeping through the night will naturally follow when your baby is truly ready.