Sleeping through the Night

Every new parent goes through sleepless nights. One of the most common questions parents of newborns ask is, “How long will it be until she sleeps through the night?”

The good news is that she will eventually learn to sleep through the night. The bad news is that it’s not going to be for a while.

If you’re struggling through sleepless nights with your baby waking up every two or three hours, be encouraged: not only is this normal for babies, it’s healthy. In fact, if your newborn doesn’t wake up at least every four hours (on average), it’s cause for concern.

Why You Don’t Want Your Newborn Baby to Sleep Through the Night Yet

It’s not uncommon to hear new, young parents say something like, “She’s such a good baby, she sleeps right through the night.”

If the baby is much younger than four months, that’s not a good thing. Newborn babies need to eat every two to four hours until they’re at least four months old. If they’re not eating that frequently, they’re not getting adequate nutrition. Breastfed babies should be waking up every two to three hours, and formula fed babies should be waking up every two to four hours.

Training Your Baby to Sleep through the Night when She’s Ready

It may not seem like it now, but four months will go by quickly. You should notice towards the end of that time that your baby is able to sleep for increasingly longer periods. With the right training, most babies are able to sleep through the night (eight hours or more of continuous sleep) by the time they are six to seven months old.

Training your baby to sleep through the night is a matter of establishing routines. The more you can do to establish a bedtime routine, the better off you’ll be. Your pre-bedtime routine could include:

  • A warm bath
  • Singing a favorite bedtime song
  • Reading a book
  • Diaper change
  • Feeding
  • Talking/Chatting with baby
  • Rocking
  • Bedtime prayers

These are just a few ideas that you could include before bedtime. Ideally, you should do them in the same general order every night. The more familiar the routine becomes to your baby, the more she will recognize that it’s time to go to sleep. Routines help babies relax, helping them to start sleeping through the night.

Dr. Karp’s Happiest Baby On The Block Method


One of the most successful ways parents have been able to help their babies that have colic is with the Happiest Baby On The Block method. This method was designed by Dr. Harvey Karp, and it relies on a series of basic concepts that will help your baby.

The Happiest Baby On The Block combines modern science with an understanding of how many cultures have appraoched colic. The whole point is to create a calming reflex in your colicky baby.

Here are the five principles in the Happiest Baby On The Block method:

Swaddling refers to a way to wrap a baby in a blanket such that the baby has continual touching, and can resemble the feeling that the baby had when he or she was in the womb. You can use a regular blanket to swaddle, or you can use a specially designed swaddling blanket or safety blanket.

Side/Stomach position refers to the idea that, while holding your baby, you should hold him or her on the left side to help with digestion. Alternatively, you can hold him or her on the stomach to help provide reassurance. Make certain, however, to reduce the risks of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), that you place your baby on his or her back to sleep.

Shushing refers to shushing sounds. Shushing sounds typically take the form of white noise, such as with a vacuum or a fan. You can use a white noise CD for this purpose.

Swinging, which is relatively self-explanatory, suggests that swinging will help your baby feel the sort of motion that he or she felt in the womb. Rocking or car rides are good ways to create this swinging.

Finally, a baby needs to suck. This can happen by feeding, such as with a bottle or breastfeeding, or using a pacifier.

There are a number of products to go along with the Happiest Baby On The Block that you should consider if your baby has colic.

Should You Come Running When Baby Cries?

There’s an age old debate about how to handle a crying baby at nap or bed times. Should you let your baby cry it out, or come to her every time she cries? If you want to start a heated argument in a room full of parents or baby experts, all you have to do is take a strong position one way or the other.

Despite what experts on either side of the debate will tell you, babies have been growing up with both parenting styles for millennia. Most of them turn out all right. If they don’t, chances are there were deeper factors involved than whether their parents allowed them to cry it out in the crib or not.

There are pluses and minuses to both nighttime parenting approaches. Proponents of attachment parenting are quick to point out:

  • Responding to your baby’s needs right away helps her to bond with you and trust you to take care of her needs.
  • Babies who are tended to right away when they cry tend to cry less and for shorter durations.
  • Responding to baby’s needs right away helps you, as the parent, to be more sensitive and responsive to baby’s needs.
  • Some experts claim that going to your baby immediately when she cries actually helps baby develop independence more quickly (though this is contested).

Those who favor allowing babies to “cry it out” point out:

  • Allowing baby to cry for reasonable periods of time before going to them helps babies to learn how to self-soothe.
  • Crying is normal for babies, and crying for a reasonable amount of time won’t hurt your baby.
  • Children who were taught to sleep using the “Cry it out” method are less likely to throw a tantrum at bedtime later.
  • Most babies adapt quickly and learn to settle in and fall asleep within ten minutes.
  • Parents and children both tend to get more solid sleep when using the “cry it out” method.

It’s worth noting that no one suggests allowing younger babies to cry it out. Young babies need to feed every two to four hours. When they are crying, it’s generally because they need to eat. If you decide to use the “cry it out” method, wait until your baby is at least six months old.


Helping Baby Go Back to Sleep

We’ve all been there. Baby wakes up in the middle of the night, needing to be fed or changed, then decides it’s time to party all night. In the end, baby stays up half the night, and mom doesn’t get any sleep. There has to be a way to help an active baby go back to sleep at night.

There is, but it has more to do with how we handle baby’s feeding time than with the time we spend actually trying to help baby go back to sleep. A little planning ahead goes a long way when it comes to handling nighttime feedings or changings.

This assumes that you’d like to sleep through most of the night, of course. If you don’t mind being up half the night and sleeping the day away with baby, there’s no harm done. Babies will generally manage to get all the sleep they need one way or the other. Young babies aren’t really aware of the difference between daytime and nighttime until we instill that awareness into them.

Assuming you want baby (and mommy) to go back to sleep after you’re done feeding or changing her, you’ll want to make nighttime feedings and changings as boring as possible. That doesn’t mean they can’t still be bonding times. It just means that they’re not active play times. By keeping things as uninteresting as possible, you take away a lot of baby’s motivation for staying awake.

Here are some things you can do to help keep things low key during nighttime feedings and changings:

  • Have one designated area where you take care of nighttime changings and feedings.
  • Keep the area dark or dimly lit.
  • Make sure you have all of your nighttime parenting supplies (diapers, wipes, bottles, burp cloths, blankets, etc.) ready and at hand so you don’t need to look for them when it’s time to take care of baby at night.
  • Avoid overstimulation. Resist the temptation to play, coo, or otherwise indicate to baby that this is time to have fun.
  • Take care of baby’s needs as simply and quietly as you can.

It might take a few times before baby catches on that there’s nothing to do or see after she’s been fed and changed at night. In most cases, though, babies will quickly figure out that night time is for sleeping.

When It’s Time to Close Baby’s All Night All You Can Eat Buffet

When babies are first born, they can’t sleep through the night. Even if they could, it wouldn’t be healthy. A newborn baby needs nighttime feedings. They need to nurse every two to four hours. Their little tummies can’t digest enough breast milk or formula to tide them over any longer than that.

Needless to say, this can lead to some very sleepy mommies. This is especially true if you are breastfeeding your baby.

Until you train them, most babies have very little sense of night and day. When they feel hungry, they’re ready to eat. So, when is it OK to start making baby sleep through the night and wait until morning to eat? How do you train a baby to wait until the sun comes up for the next feeding?

First of all, it’s important to realize that there’s nothing wrong with nighttime feeding. If you’re doing OK with it, and don’t have any desire to make baby wait for the sunrise, don’t feel like you’re doing him a disservice by nursing him whenever he’s hungry. The vast majority of babies eventually figure out it’s more fun to be awake during the daytime. They will naturally start sleeping through the night sooner or later.

With that said, there comes a time when parents need a little sleep, too. It’s OK to make an older baby wait until morning for the next feeding, provided you’re feeding him enough during the day. Here are some suggestions for helping baby transition from viewing mommy as the 24 hour diner to understanding that Mom’s all you can eat buffet has closing hours:

  • Try to give baby a good feeding right before bedtime. If you have to, wake baby up for a feeding right before you go to bed.
  • Let dad take a turn helping baby get back to sleep (especially if you are breastfeeding).
  • Sleep in another room. Whether you move baby to his own room or sleep in the living room for a few nights, baby won’t see you when he wakes up. Many babies will wake up less frequently if nursing is not readily available.
  • Say no. It won’t hurt your older baby to be told no occasionally. Of course, you’ll want to stay firm but calm when you do this.
  • Talk with your baby. By the time your baby is a year and a half old, he understands short, simple sentences. He understands words much sooner. Tell him nighttime feedings are over. Make a habit of telling him when you lay him down that he can nurse again when the sun comes out.