When Will They Sleep?
When will they sleep?! When will they sleep?! If I had the baby-world equivalent of a crystal ball, I’d be able to provide you with a definitive answer to the first part of this question. You could mark that red-letter day on your calendar! Because I don’t have such a gadget, the best I can do is provide you with some baby sleep statistics:
- By age 3 to 4 months, your baby starts to develop a body temperature rhythm that helps to regulate their sleep cycles. This is good news for you: it means that their sleep cycles are maturing and that you’ll be getting more sleep soon.
- By age 6 to 9 months, 50 to 75% of babies are sleeping through the night most of the time. (Of course, illness, travel, time changes, and other curve balls can disrupt babies’ sleep schedules, so don’t assume your last night of disrupted sleep is behind you the first time your baby sleeps through the night.)
- By age 9 to 12 months, 70 to 80% of babies are sleeping through the night most of the time. (Again, you can still count on being up in the night some nights for many years to come. And you should be getting more sleep from now on—unless, of course, you decide to start trying to conceive again.)
As for encouraging healthy sleep habits, there are plenty of steps you can take as your baby’s sleep patterns begin to mature. Here’s a quick overview. (You’ll find more detailed information in my book Sleep Solutions for Your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler: The Ultimate No-Worry Approach for Each Age and Stage.)
When your baby is a newborn, you’re basically in sleep survival mode, so you don’t want to make life any more stressful for yourself than it already is. Your basic goal during this stage is to help your baby start to learn the difference between night and day. Emphasize differences in noise levels and brightness. In the morning, open the curtains to let in as much natural light as possible. Go about your day so that your baby gets exposed to the sounds of your daytime activity. In the evening, keep the light and sound levels low so that your baby learns that it’s time to start winding down for sleep. In the middle of the night, keep the light levels low and speak in quiet tones while you’re feeding your baby. You want your baby to learn that it’s still time for sleep.
When your baby gets older (around 3 to 4 months of age), she becomes more capable of understanding cause and effect relationships. This is the perfect time to introduce pre-bedtime routines. As you go through each stage of the routine, your baby will begin to anticipate what comes next (bath, pajamas and a diaper, feeding, song and a cuddle, bedtime). Some babies are stimulated by bath-time and end up being wide awake after their bath. If this is the case with your baby, you might want to schedule bath-time earlier in the day.
Give your baby a chance to start falling asleep on her own at naptime and before bedtime. When she makes noises in the night, wait a moment to see if she’s actually awake. (Sometimes babies make noises and then fall back to sleep—unless we rush in, pick them up, and wake them up!) A baby can’t learn how to sleep through the night until she learns how to fall asleep on her own and how to fall back asleep on her own. Every baby masters these skills at a different time and you can’t force her to learn these skills before she is ready. All you can do is provide her with opportunities. If she’s not ready, wait a few weeks and try again. A few weeks can make a huge difference in terms of infant development.
If your baby is struggling with sleep, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can conduct a physical examination to rule out any physical causes, such as ear infections or gastroesophageal reflux that can result in middle-of-the-night misery for babies and their parents.
All the best to you and your baby.