While we all know that newborn infants don’t sleep for long periods of time (usually only 2-4 hours at a stretch), babies do start to have longer sleep periods beginning when they are about four months old. By the time babies are six months old, they are often sleeping through the night. Of course, “sleeping through the night” for a baby is still only about six hours at a time.
Still, you should begin to notice your baby sleeping for longer periods beginning sometime after four months. This is a good thing, of course. Unfortunately, many parents have trouble benefiting from it, because they find themselves continuing to wake up, whether the baby does or not. Part of this is undoubtedly because we’ve simply fallen into a routine of waking up several times each night, but a large part of it is also psychological.
Most parents remember that first time baby slept through the night. The first thought that comes to mind, inevitably, when they wake up and realize the baby isn’t crying to be fed is something along the lines of “oh no, I hope the baby’s OK.”
It’s perfectly normal to think that way the first few nights, until you become accustomed to baby sleeping through the night. The best thing you can do is get up and check on the baby. While odds are overwhelmingly in favor of your baby being just fine, it’s much better to get up and check on baby than to lay in bed and worry about whether or not your baby is OK.
Whatever you do, though, don’t wake your baby up to see if she is OK. If she’s asleep, is breathing, and doesn’t seem to be in any immediate peril, let her sleep. Remember, this is a good thing, something you’ve been waiting several months for. After you’ve checked on the baby, lie back down and try to get a little sleep. We know it isn’t easy, but you’ll get used to it.
If you are still having trouble sleeping while baby sleeps after a couple of weeks, talk to your health care professional. She might suggest cognitive therapy, medication, or other sleep aids. While we should all expect our sleep to be somewhat disrupted for the first few months of our baby’s life none of us wants to stay in those sleep patterns forever.