Tired parents frequently look for answers on how much their infant should sleep and how often they should be expected to wake at night. As much as it would be nice to know your baby would only wake up every four hours or only once at night, there is no set number of times that baby will or will not wake up. There are reasons for baby to wake up, too, that might not exist every night. For example, baby may be hungry, have a dirty diaper, and be cold or hot, or simply scared. In general, newborns will wake as often as every two hours because they are hungry. However, as they grow their bellies do to and by the time they are three months old many babies can sleep for five to six hour stretches. That might not seem like a long time to exhausted parents, but it is actually considered sleeping through the night!
Most infants should wake 2-4 times from 8 pm until 8 am, depending on what’s going on with them that particular day. Parents can eliminate some of these waking by putting baby to bed a little later with a full belly and clean diaper. This will encourage baby to sleep longer. Also, make sure the baby’s bed is not too cold or too hot. Many parents find that by co-sleeping with their baby everyone gets more sleep. This promotes nighttime nursing and also helps baby feel more secure. Co-sleeping is not for everyone, though, and should only be considered by parents who don’t smoke, drink, or do drugs.
Some nights baby will wake up a lot and other nights she won’t. That’s just part of the pattern and something parents should anticipate. On the other hand, if your baby is waking up every 20 minutes or so you need to find another way to help make your baby comfortable. Try co-sleeping or having baby sleep next to you in a side car. Many times when baby wakes up repeatedly it’s because they don’t want to be alone.
As hard as it is to be patient you need to understand that this won’t last forever. By the time your baby is 4-6 months old the sleep issues should be fading away and everyone will be getting more sleep. Talk with your pediatrician and other parents to find out ways to help your little one sleep longer.