Wednesday, November 9, 2011

When will my newborn sleep through the night?

It is 1AM and I just put E back down after a quick feed.  This is a milestone!  Recently he has been sleeping from around 7p to 1a... usually with a short 10 second cry around 10p.  If only the 6 hr stretch is during the second half of the night when I'm not on the computer!  So I should be sleeping but sometimes I just can't fall back asleep...

So when will baby sleep through the night?  That is a question a lot of parents ask.  Well, it is different for every kid... and it also depends on the definition of "sleeping through the night".  For a new baby 5-6 hours is considered sleeping through the night.  I'm more interested in knowing when my baby will sleep until the morning!

Although every child has different temperaments and may require different amounts of sleep, there is a general pattern that most children follow.  For example, most newborns sleep 2-3 hours at a time, waking up to feed.  Eventually they skip a feed.  Some do this as early as 2-3 months.  It looks like it is taking E about 4 months to reach this.  Will adding supplementation to breast milk help?  As in my previous post, I think it is debatable.  I chose not to supplement and just wait it out.  E is sleeping longer now without supplementation so personally, I think this supports the theory that there is no need to add rice cereal or switch to formula to help baby sleep longer.  It just takes time.  We did however, start giving a bottle of pumped breast milk in the start of the night so we knew exactly how many oz he was getting.  We tried doing it in the middle of the night as well but that did not necessarily lengthen his sleep.  He still woke up 3 hours later to feed.  So I'm concluding that the general sleep pattern for babies is such:
  • Newborns:  sleep / feed cycle every 2-3 hours
  • By 2-3 months to about 6 months or so:  drop 1 feed so there is a 5-6 hr longest stretch then back to 2-3 hrs rest of day
  • Between 6 months to 12 months:  drop the other feed to get the 12 hours sleep at night
With that said, not every child will follow this.  I've had parents report their 2 or 3 year old still does not sleep through the night.  I recall a couple of parents telling me their eleven year old still crawls in bed with them in the middle of the night!  So of course temperament plays a role.  Some children are naturally great sleepers while others are not.  For the bad sleepers, parents will have a harder job of sleep training if they choose to or will have to just adjust and go with it if they don't mind it or don't believe in sleep training.  My personal opinion is that sleep training works... not necessarily the hard core "cry it out" Ferber method... but I'm just referring to gently training the child to self soothe and develop a healthy habit of sleep.

Even adults who want good sleep should follow good sleep hygiene skills (which I'm breaking right now blogging in the wee hours while sitting in my bed).  If more adults have good sleep hygiene, I'd be prescribing less ambien!

So I plan to record how we end up training E if we get there.  Since I've gone through this twice before and both kids now sleep through the night, I have more confidence that there is an end in sight and this kid will soon be sleeping through as well.  Let's see when!