When Will My Baby Sleep Through the Night?

Infant Sleep · Toddler Sleep

One of the most common questions asked of me is: “When will my baby sleep through the night?”  The first truth I tell parents in response to this ever-popular question: Your baby will never sleep through the night.

This is not a pessimistic answer, but rather a scientific reality.  No matter the age of the child (or adult!), nobody ever truly “sleeps through the night.”  Unless heavily sedated before going to bed, all of us will wake up multiple times throughout the night.  This is a normal part of the human sleep cycle.  Adults typically rise to the surface of sleep an average of 3 to 5 times per night.

How do sleep cycles affect my baby sleeping through the night?

Human beings sleep in cycles, which vary from light to deep sleep and back again.  During a light sleep cycle, you may hear a noise or shift positions, and that slight disruption is enough to wake.  Adults experience this thousands of times in their lives and can easily go back to sleep.  Most of us do not remember waking.  Instead, we roll over, readjust our pillow, and fall back asleep pretty effortlessly.

Unlike adults, when little ones fall asleep with assistance, they wake looking for help to get back to sleep during their natural sleep cycle transitions.  Babies accustomed to being rocked, bounced, held, fed or nursed to sleep will wake up and require similar external help to fall back to sleep overnight.  It is nearly impossible for a baby who falls asleep with help to learn to consistently sleep through the night.

When will my baby learn to sleep through the night on his own?

A baby will sleep through the night when he or she is developmentally ready to and after learning how.  A lot of parents worry that their baby won’t teach themselves the difference between daytime and nighttime.  In the sleep world, darkness is a friend of sleep – not an enemy.  A baby will eventually understand the dark and stop waking like they do when they are first born.  That may seem like a rudimentary answer, but it is true.  Most little ones will sleep through the night when they reach 12-15 pounds IF they have been taught how to fall asleep and stay asleep without any sleep props.

Sleep is not an innate skill.  Parents are often told that newborns are always sleepy, or they assume that all babies are born knowing how to sleep.  However, that’s not the case.  While “sleepier” babies do exist, the majority of little ones must be taught how to sleep on their own.  There’s a LOT more that goes into teaching independent sleep skills than just leaving your little ones alone in their cribs or beds and letting them figure it out. That is certainly not the approach at Sleep Wise.  While that method has worked for people in the past, it’s not the most gentle or effective way of teaching sleep skills.

How can I teach my baby to sleep through the night?

The traditional Cry-It-Out approach to sleep training is like leaving your child in front of a piano with sheet music and saying, “Figure it out.”  Eventually he might, and you may have the “Elton John of sleeping” on your hands. Assuming your child was not born gifted in the sleep department, he or she will benefit from clear lessons and support.

Practice is essential to learning new sleep skills.  Thus, letting your little one give it a shot is step one.  Naturally, there’s probably going to be a bit of protest while adjusting to the unfamiliarity.  This doesn’t mean you can’t offer comfort to your child through the process.

Sleep props are the equivalent of playing the piano for your child.  If your goal is for your son or daughter to learn to sleep independently, it is important to truly teach the process.  That means, we must provide a predictable bedtime routine and remove sleep props!  Initially, your child may initially express frustration over mastering something new and difficult.  With time, consistency, and practice, your baby will be transitioning sleep cycles overnight without assistance!

How long will it take to teach my baby independent sleep?

There’s no exact timeframe, date, or age when your baby will learn to sleep independently.  While children never truly sleep through the night due to sleep cycle transitions, they do learn to journey through those stages of sleep more soundly.  We often find that infants need 3 to 5 days to practice a new skill sufficiently.  When they master these news skills, you will all enjoy more peaceful overnight sleep.

Your children are capable of learning how to sleep independently, and it makes a huge difference when they do.  As for teaching your little ones to play piano, you’re on your own with that one!

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