Is your baby ready to sleep through the night? We know it’s the million-dollar question that you’ve been asking ever since you brought your baby home. In fact, we often underestimate just how much sleep women lose after giving birth. Parenting may be the most tiring stage of your life!
What we have to understand is that babies aren’t like children or adults. They’re really not made to sleep for so long at once. The transition will happen over time. Slowly but surely, you’ll start to see these 7 signs that your baby is inching towards better, longer sleep. They won’t necessarily come in the order listed below, but you can keep a hopeful checklist to keep an eye on their progress.
Want to see where your baby is at now in their sleep-development journey? Before you read our full blog post, take our quiz below to see where your baby is at now!
What Does “Sleeping Through the Night” Really Mean?
When we’re talking about babies between 3 and 6 months of age, “sleeping through the night” can be a difficult term. What exactly does it mean? No, you won’t go back to the days when you could oversleep with no problem. Rather, you’ll be the parent of a baby that probably sleeps from 7 or 8 p.m. to 6 or 7 a.m. with two middle-of-the-night feedings around midnight.
Basically, we’re talking 6-8 hour stretches, which- for any parent- are HUGE.
So, how do you know your baby is ready to sleep through the night?
According to experts, there are steps along the path to sleeping through the night. Not all are sleep-related, either! Your baby’s weight, feedings, and sleep behavior all have clues about your baby’s progress in achieving longer sleep cycles.
Your baby’s body probably won’t go from sleeping for thirty minutes at a time one night to four hours the next. The baby’s body gradually adjusts as they become less reliant on the caregivers to keep their bodies fed and fueled.
Not sure how long your baby is sleeping? Monitors with Sleep Analytics can give you reports to track over time how your baby’s sudden wake-ups, crying, caregiver visits, and more sleep events change over time. This makes documenting your baby’s progress for yourself and for their pediatrician easier.
Alright, back to these signs of a better (sleep) future.
While some people really do have miracle babies that sleep through the night from day one, minus necessary feedings, most moms are not in that situation. Though waking up for necessary feedings are more tiring, they’re still perfectly healthy.
Sleep training- for those who choose to do it- normally doesn’t start until around month 4. However, around week six, you can expect to see some changes in your baby’s sleep. Keep an eye out after month three! If your baby hasn’t shown signs of longer sleep by then, maybe you can start to introduce some good sleep training practices.
For those who are waiting it out without formal sleep training, your baby will start showing signs of longer sleep around three months! Of course, every baby is different, so if at exactly three months your baby is still happy to be waking up sporadically during the night, maybe give them some time.
If you have any concerns about their health, always consult your pediatrician! That’s what they’re there for.
Note: Both this quiz and this post use sources listed at the bottom and are not intended as medical advice.
2. Reduced Moro Reflexes
Ok, so your baby is over three months old and their sleep is still not quite there. What do you look for now? First, let’s take a look at things that disrupt the baby’s sleep. What wakes them up? Until they’re about three months old, their bodies do! Hard to believe right? Your baby’s body has been plotting against you this whole time! Well, not quite. According to pediatricians, the Moro Reflex, which starts to see a decrease after three months, is a big sign that your baby is (or isn’t) ready to sleep longer.
Of course, looking for something you’ve never heard of before is hard, so here’s what we mean by “Moro reflex.”
What is a Moro Reflex?
The Moro Reflex is present since birth and is strongest from the newborn stage until about the 12-week mark, though it continues to be present until around six months. How Moro Reflex works is that the baby’s whole body moves, which often wakes them up. This often looks like big, quick stretches. As they grow up, babies’ Moro reflex calms down, extending only arms and legs until they’re eventually gone.
Swaddling can help relieve the baby from Moro reflex stress until they’re old enough to start rolling over when swaddling is no longer recommended. After that, their Moro reflex should start to reduce and parents can apply other ways to keep baby warm without a swaddle.
3. Weight Gain
After 3 months of age, another key sign that your baby is sleep-ready is the 6kg (13lbs) weight goal. Once they reach this weight, many experts say that they can sleep through 7 or 8 hours of the night with no problems.
This is a tricky one because if your baby is a heavy one from day one and reaches the “weight goal,” their weight may not be a good indication, so make sure to adjust your expectations accordingly.
4. Fewer Night Feedings
This, of all the signs, might be the most difficult to actually put into action both for the mom and the baby. It takes away not only the middle of the night wake-ups but also some bonding time.
If your baby is keeping up with the typical weight-gain schedule, experts suggest lowering or dropping night-time feeding. If they’re not gaining weight, that’s—of course—certainly not recommended in order to get your baby to a pediatrician-recommended weight schedule.
Of course, only you’ll know when the time is right to drop the night shift for breastfeeding (or formula feeding!) duties. At the same time, if feeding isn’t a part of your soothing-back-to-sleep process, this is definitely going to be an easier step to drop and help everyone get more sleep.
One way to tell that your baby is ready to drop the night feeding is when they wake up, nurse, or drink a bottle for a moment and then try to start playtime. Experts say this can mean the baby wasn’t actually hungry in the first place, they’re just used to interacting at this time of night.
The key? Remember that you’ll get to bond during the day and this night-time rest will be great for both of you.
5. They’re Eating Solid Foods
Breastmilk and formula both metabolize quickly. This is why it seems like you’re feeding your baby all the time- even at night.
This whole dynamic turns around when solid foods make an entrance. Since dinner will consist of heartier ingredients, their little tummies will be hard at work digesting during the night and probably won’t wake up to eat again. This paves the way for a long night’s sleep followed by a timely breakfast.
6. Fewer Sporadic Wake-ups
There are a few ways that your baby will wake up during the night. One is in a timely way, waking up around the same time of night again and again. This is a good thing, they’re on a schedule and are likely waking up to get fed.
If not, then your baby might be sporadically waking up, which means that they could use some help going back to sleep or that they’re not used to self-soothing.
If you wanted to sleep train, this would be a great time to do it! A time when feeding is slowly fading at night, and they’re needing a way to deal with those middle-of-the-night wake-ups without having to call mom or dad into the room.
7. Eating Less During the Day
At first, you’d imagine that fewer night feedings means more day feedings. Experts say no. If your baby is also seeing a slower appetite during the day, this could be a good thing. This means their calorie intake is sufficient and they’re ready to make some adjustments. This doesn’t mean you’ll feed them less during the day until they start asking for food again.
You can use these fewer night feedings to encourage them to eat some more during the day, and as a result, you’ll have an easier time taking at least one night feeding out of the schedule.
All of this is, of course, made to be applied only at parents’ discretion. If you see that these steps are fit, by all means, pave the way to better sleep using them!
Have you experienced these seven steps? Tell us in the comments!