Whether it's your first child or your fifth, getting your baby to STTN (sleep through the night) often presents a challenge for any new parent. Most of us function best on a regular schedule; however, our little rascals often have other plans in mind. An infant's age and where they are in their developmental stage can factor heavily.
For the first few months, sleep patterns can dramatically change from week to week, even from one day to the next. Infants need a tremendous amount of rest—up to 18 hours a day. However, it's rare for them to close their eyes for more than an hour or two at a time, costing their caregiver's precious shut-eye.
With our advice and a bit of luck, that solid night's rest might not be so far away
When Can Babies Start To Sleep Through The Night
Your little munchkin will usually be capable of snoozing through the night anywhere from three to six months. Whether or not they actually will is another story entirely.
Below we'll discuss how to teach your baby, at an appropriate age, how to sleep through the night. However, these suggestions may need to be tweaked, as each child has unique needs.
You Have Safely Reduced Night Feeding
Newborns are tiny and naturally have small tummies. As your infant grows, they'll be able to eat more nutrients and stay fuller, longer. Gradually, they will need fewer feedings throughout the night.
Throughout their young life, you can expect them to go from needing to be fed every two to three hours to every three to four, and then at six months old, they'll hopefully be dreaming soundly up to five hours.
However, despite their age, your little munchkin may wake up sporadically throughout the night wanting to be fed, even if they're capable of sleeping the whole night. Often this happens because, just as adults enjoy food for reasons other than sustenance, babies want the comforting feeling a feeding brings. Feeding can be soothing for them, so they may express wanting to be fed simply to sneak a cuddle.
If we can gradually decrease this and enforce new habits that don't associate bedtime with eating, you'll likely have a better chance of putting your youngster down and getting a solid night's rest.
Baby Is Self Soothing
Ideally, we'd all like to put our children down for bed without a struggle or tears. But, like all new endeavors, it can take time to settle into new routines and learn new habits. When training your infant to sleep through the night, it can help if they're able to self soothe.
Self-soothing means that your kiddo can go back to bed on their own without Mom or Dad's help. That can seem like a big ask, but with a bit of restraint, they'll usually get there.
One way to do this is to create a nighttime routine around activities besides food. These can include soothing things, like bathing, reading, or softly singing or humming to your little night owl. Creating a dark and cool room can also help your munchkin develop their circadian rhythm and further help them to STTN.
Baby Is At Least 4 to 6 Months Old
When our little animals are new to the world, understandably, they'll take some time to adjust. Before they're three months old, their schedule will likely be all over the place as they settle into a rhythm, and while this may be unfortunate for parents' sleeping habits, this period will eventually fade out.
Around two months, your child may exhibit signs of self-soothing and be able to soothe themselves to sleep without any help. However, it isn’t out of the ordinary if they don't begin to do this until six months—every kid is different.
Additionally, they'll likely show a decrease in their Moro reflex. As this diminishes, your kiddo will have more control over their motor functions and reflexes, granting them greater access to comfortable positions during the night and greater autonomy. As a result, they may be able to sleep longer due to a slighter possibility of this sudden reflex jolting them awake.
What Is Considered STTN?
Sleeping through the night can mean different things to different folks. However, it typically means sleeping for six- to eight-hour stretches with no wakings. You can expect this to occur when your little one is between three and six months old.
Beware—even if your baby is snoozing for that long, you still may not be dreaming the entire night through. If you put your infant down at 8 in the evening, that means they'll wake up too early, in this example at 2 AM, even if they're fast asleep for 6 straight hours.
Something that helps is merely trying to sleep when your baby is asleep, as it will likely be your only time to get some shut-eye. When they're awake, they need constant attention, feeding, rocking, soothing, hugging, you name it. Don't be afraid to ask for help either; seeking out friends and family to help bounce your baby for a few hours occasionally is nothing to be ashamed of, and they will likely enjoy being involved.
At What Age Can Babies Sleep Through The Night
This is a great question; however, it's tough to provide a specific answer, as each babe brings unique and various resting habits. Even siblings from the same parents often have drastically different behavior, including what age they begin to self-soothe and STTN.
You can usually expect a child to begin STTN at about nine months. However, this time will go by quickly, and once they're able to fall asleep on their own, you may find yourself longing for those tiny baby days.
Newborns need a tremendous amount of rest. Because their brains are developing rapidly, they need a lot of rest to sustain their transformations as they grow. Most babies will sleep about 18 hours during each 24-hour period. It may sound like a lot, but that's because they need it.
In their very early days, they may even sleep more as they adjust to their new world. As they adapt in their early weeks, they'll usually be napping or snoozing. Since they're so tiny, they'll need to eat every few hours because their tummies aren’t big enough to hold large amounts of food.
2 to 3 Months
Once your baby has grown a bit and becomes more alert, their stomach will have grown as well. As their tummy size increases, they'll be able to stay fuller longer. However, don't get too excited because it may not be by much.
Your little night owl will hopefully start to sleep for longer stretches, so instead of sleeping two to three hours at a time, their periods of rest may extend to three to six hours at a time. Pay attention to their sleep cues and what soothes them or makes them drowsy. Maybe bathtime puts them in a relaxed state or reading could put them right to sleep.
4 to 5 Months
At this stage, your baby will likely be sleeping for longer stretches and eating more less often. Some little munchkins will be snoozing through the night, and some will still need a few mid-night snacks. Either is okay and no reason to be concerned.
Some kiddos will be taking only two naps a day for a few hours each time, and others will need more. Either way, it's all to be expected. Something to look out for is the four-month sleep regression, which happens when your infant goes through a growth spurt. Not to worry; it's likely a phase that will balance out in the coming weeks.
6 to 7 Months
Six months is a critical milestone because many parents will be experiencing very different babies. If your friend's child is sleeping through the night and you're still struggling to find a four-hour chunk, try not to stress. You'll get there.
Keep track of the cues that relax your little one. Knowing the signs, and implementing them into a bedtime routine will help establish regularity so your babe knows when it's time to close their eyes. If they're still struggling to self-soothe, don't fret—every child is different, and they have plenty of time to learn.
8 to 9 Months
Often at this point, you can start to expect some quality sleep for yourself again. Your youngster should be snoozing anywhere from 11 to 12 hours a night and napping about 2 to 3 hours during the day. It may not be entirely regular, as they're still little, but it should vaguely resemble a routine. Yay!
Be on the lookout for sleep regressions because they typically occur around this stage. However, don't let yourself be discouraged. During this time, an enormous developmental leap occurs, and sleep patterns may regress. (Breath, it's temporary!) This only means their brain and body are quickly growing into a smart and healthy kiddo!
Learn more: Your 9 Month Old Sleep Schedule – Our 11 Helpful Tips
10 to 12 Months
Ten to twelve months may not look different from nine months. At this age, they need about the same amount of rest, 11 to 12 hours, and two to three hours worth of naps a day. If they're struggling to go down for naps during the day, they may need to be awake for longer periods of time between rest periods so they're properly tuckered out.
At this point, they should be able to self-soothe. If your child cannot hone this skill at this point, it's best to consult your pediatrician. At 12 months, it's not uncommon to see another sleep regression as well; fear not, it won't last forever. Your little trooper will need more zzz's to adequately process all the skills they're learning during the day.
Why Your Baby Might Not STTN
If your little one has yet to sleep through the night regularly, that's okay. They still may need a feeding here or there as they learn their new routine or a bit of consoling while they acclimate to snoozing without their parents nearby. Don't worry, there is hope!
Baby's Feeding Schedule Needs To Be Altered
Your tiny sleep monster may need something changed as simple as feeding time. Oftentimes we like to feed our children right before bed, as feeding or nursing makes them comfortable, happy, and relaxed. This result makes feeding seem like a clear reason to put them to bed right after feeding.
However, your little one could become reliant on feeding to go to bed, and if this isn't regular, they could have trouble going down. It's wise to nurse your child a bit before putting them to bed so they aren't associating the two and can go down without this prompt.
Your Infant Is Going Through A Sleep Regression
When a child goes through a sleep regression, there can be multiple variances in their sleep patterns. They could suddenly start sleeping more, and they could also start sleeping less. It can all be very confusing.
However, as every child brings their own uniqueness to the table, we have to roll with the punches. If you notice sudden changes in your child's sleep patterns seemingly due to no reason, they're likely experiencing developments in the brain. Enduring a developmental burst can be exhausting for a child, as their mind is exerting a tremendous amount of energy to grow.
While it's nothing to worry about, developmental bursts can often lead to a regression in sleep.
Your Baby Could Be Experiencing a Growth Spurt
Your little tiger might be having difficulty sleeping due to a common challenge for children—growth spurts. While adults understandably forget what these are like, they can be tiring for youngsters. As a result, they'll likely have more erratic slumber patterns and unable to follow their typical routine.
Growth spurts can cause exhaustion and irritability, leading to more waking hours. If your child is experiencing a growth spurt, try to go easy on them. Their bodies are likely enduring many physical transformations, trying to accommodate many shifts at once.
Your Baby Could Be Sick
An ill child can be a tired and cranky one as well. We often think that if our little munchkin is sick, they'll want to sleep it off as adults often do. However, if they're not feeling well, they may be more irritable or less consolable than usual, leading to fussy waking hours and difficulty falling asleep.
Even if they were able to self-soothe before, this skill might go out the window if they're sick. When any of us are sick, we often need more consoling or extra care, and just like us, our little angels need a bit more love as well.
Baby's Room Isn't Conducive to Sleep
It may seem obvious to darken a room for a baby; however, what's dark to us might not be dark to them. Any slight cracks in the blinds or light sneaking through open doors can cause your baby discomfort when trying to STTN.
It's a good idea to invest in some blackout curtains or heavy blinds to block sunlight. Noticing any light as they go to bed can be confusing for their circadian rhythm, and hiding it can make a world of difference.
Additionally, make sure their room is a comfortable temperature and, if they're still not turning themselves over, that they're wrapped in a swaddle.
Baby Could Be Teething
The term “teething babies” can often bring about a cringe-worthy expression, as we all know that often equates to fussy babies and tears. When teeth start coming through your infant's weak gums, they're likely to endure a considerable amount of pain. To make this easier on your little one, you can give them a damp washcloth to gnaw on, as it's soft and malleable.
While this is ultimately a goal as we naturally want our babies to grow teeth, it can be painful for everyone in the household as they weather the pain. If your baby's teething experience is particularly awful, you can consult your doctor about pain medication for little ones.
How Can You Get Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night?
Finding what works for your child to STTN can be tricky. Below, we explore various avenues to get your little one that elusive full-night's sleep.
Begin to Space Out Feedings
Spacing out feedings towards the end of the day may seem counter-intuitive. Naturally, you don't want them to wake up hungry. However, this could help avoid wet diapers, spitting up, or gas, which could potentially wake your babe once they're fast asleep.
If your child is struggling with STTN, aim to have them eat a little earlier. Nursing well before bedtime could allow them to process food more thoroughly before being tucked in for a full night's slumber. We don't want them to be woken up by gas or a wet diaper at two in the morning.
Don't Introduce Solids Too Early
It may seem like a good idea to put cereal in a baby's milk bottle to slowly introduce them to solid food, but until your baby is old enough to process these foods (6 months is a safe bet), it's important to wait.
Introducing solid foods before your infant is at the proper stage to digest can cause them to choke, gag, or inhale a piece of food into their lungs. Even if they do seem to enjoy solid foods, ingesting nutrients too complex to pass efficiently could lead to stomach issues or, ahem, poop issues, with which you'll have to deal.
Create a Reliable Bedtime Routine
Creating a stable bedtime routine is one of the best ways of implementing a reliable sleep pattern for your little one. Choosing something your baby enjoys before bedtime, like a bath, reading a book, or singing, can help them begin to associate something pleasant with going to bed.
It may seem tempting to expose them to adult activities, like dinners or outings to socialize them, and while this is all well and good, if it comes at the cost of their slumber routine, it could derail their sleeping habits. When they're young, it's wise to keep a regular method so your little munchkin can rely on a predictable schedule.
Allow Baby to Self-Soothe
It may seem like a genius plan to put your child to bed while they're already asleep. However, doing this can limit their opportunities to learn how to self-soothe. Additionally, if they wake up in a place unaware of how they got there, this could disorient your kiddo, leading to confusion or panic.
Putting your baby down while they're drowsy but before they're fully asleep allows them to grow comfortable in their bedroom setting and begin to associate their crib with bedtime. Slowly, they should start being able to soothe themselves back to sleep if they wake up in the middle of the night.
Consider Implementing Sleep Training
There is an overwhelming amount of information out there on how to look after your baby, and how to get your child to STTN is no different. If you choose to implement sleep training, there are a few different ways to go about it.
Some prefer the “cry it out” method, and some prefer to co-sleep for years. There are pros and cons to all of them, so it's ultimately up to you to decide which is best for your child and family.
The Ferber method is a bit more of a happy medium. It involves allowing your child to cry for a predetermined amount of time before offering external comfort and waiting longer before providing parental support.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long should an infant sleep at night without eating?
How long your little tyke can go at night without eating depends a lot on how big they are. The tinier they are the more often they'll need to eat. Typically, newborns can only go about three to four hours between feedings before they're hungry.
You can avoid mid-night feedings to help them STTN longer using a technique called “dream feeding.” A dream feed is when you gently feed your little one well after they've been put down for bed and wake them just slightly enough to nurse in their sleep. However, it's wise to consult your physician to learn the proper technique.
If you're struggling to keep your eyes open while reading this, know you're not alone. Training a child to snooze through the night is something many parents struggle with. Think of it as a warm welcome to parenthood.
Learning about your little munchkin's needs and quirks can be an endless parade of tiny joys; however, learning about them in the middle of the night can be frustrating. We feel your pain. We have multiple resources to help in your journey so you can focus on enjoying your little ones while they're young.
Jill Zwarensteyn is the editor for Sleep Advisor and a certified sleep science coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.
Based in Los Angeles, she is an experienced writer and journalist who enjoys spending her free time at the beach, hiking, reading, or exploring new places around town.
She’s also an avid traveler who has a personal goal of being able to successfully sleep on an airplane someday.