New parents gather around. At some point in the early hours of the morning, we bet your thumbs have frantically Googled “When do babies sleep through the night?” If you’re still wondering, bring those red-rimmed, dark-circled eyes this way, we’ve got some answers.
Baby sleep stages. Not a subject that featured highly in your dinner party chat pre-kids. But now that 3 am baby tummy massages are your reality, it’s probably creeping up the agenda.
So, when exactly will your baby sleep through the night? Experts agree that by the eight-month mark, around 80% of babies will be sleeping through. But, with everything from brain development and sleep regression, to colic and cluster-feeding, each baby will find their own sleep rhythm. Meaning it could be earlier or, gasp, later.
Here we’ve laid out what you can expect your nights to look like throughout the key stages of your baby’s first year. Complete with some handy tips to help baby sleep through, and stay in the land of nod for longer.
Baby Sleep Stage: Newborn to three months
Those early days. We feel you. Even with the hefty dose of love hormones pumping through you, getting used to broken nights of sleep can be tough. So why exactly is your newborn so keen to practice their screeching at 2 am? First off, the sleep cycle of a newborn is far simpler than our adult ones, with only two stages of sleep (quiet and active) compared to our adult five. This also means they’re much lighter sleepers, so you better oil those door hinges and practice your tip-toeing.
At this very early stage, you can expect your newborn to sleep for around two to four hour stretches at night. However, there’s a whole list of reasons why they might not be playing ball; including acid-reflux, hunger, or just being hyper-sensitive to their surroundings.
- Newborn sleep tip: Something most parents wish they’d mastered from the start, is getting their baby to sleep without their help. For example; it’s best if your baby doesn’t rely on you to sing “twinkle twinkle” 400 times, rock them endlessly, or feed them to sleep. However counter-intuitive at 4 am it may seem – it’s good practice to put your baby down when they’re drowsy rather than fully asleep. This all helps toward the holy grail of self-settling.
Baby Sleep Stage: Three to six months
The average three-month-old should be able to settle for around four to six hour stretches at night, rising to six to eight hour stretches at six months.
Now that the new baby-haze has probably started to wear off, if you haven’t already, you might be starting to consider a baby bedtime routine. Just think, you could have a chunk of the evening back to yourself again! Plus, babies thrive on predictability, so starting a sleep training routine as early as possible is a great way to form healthy sleeping habits. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Pick a time that works for you, then follow the same pattern – for example, bath time, pajamas, story, lullaby, feed, and cuddle. Dreamy.
- Three to six-month baby sleep tip: Could your baby be getting too much sleep during the day? At this stage of development, your three-month-old should be having up to three naps a day. Each one lasting around one to two hours per nap. Any more and it’s possible they might not be tired enough; leaving enough energy to squirm, squeal and breakdance the night away. Try cutting back on the number of daytime naps and see if it makes a difference.
Baby Sleep Stage: Six to nine months
The six-month mark. You made it halfway through the first year, good going. Statistically, from six months is when you can start to expect your little one to start sleeping through the night. But that’s not to say every baby will get the memo. Hopefully, your nights will have quietened down considerably from the early days; with your baby sleeping up to seven hours at a stretch.
But then, enter stage left, separation anxiety boo-hiss. At around seven months your baby will start to realize that you’re two separate entities. This is why they’ll get upset if they wake to find you gone, thinking you’ve packed your passport and shipped out on them. As they get older they’ll start to understand that, like a trusty boomerang, you always come back and will hopefully find it easier to settle themselves.
- Six to nine-month baby sleep tip: If you’re still sharing the same room during the six to nine month period, you may find that you’re actually disturbing your baby’s sleep. While it’s not always possible, some parents find that getting their baby into their own room or space makes for a smoother night.
Baby Sleep Stage: Nine to 12 months
Your baby is pretty busy at this stage. Crawling, eating, pulling themselves up and in some cases walking. Most babies will, fingers crossed, be sleeping through the night at nine months for around 11 to 12 hours. But, with all these developmental milestones happening, parents can often experience a bit of disruption on the sleep front.
- Nine to 12-month baby sleep tip: As adults, we often wake several times and can intuitively put ourselves back to sleep. Babies are yet to master this skill. This is why it’s important we don’t instantly rush to their side the moment they make a peep at night. If you hear your little one break out of slumber, give it a few minutes before you intervene. That way, they can flex their own ability to self-settle. Chances are they’ll drop off soon enough. If not, you know all the words to every lullaby ever written by now, so better get singing.