Typically, babies have developed enough to sleep through the night somewhere between three and six months old. By that age, they are eating enough at each setting, especially once they have started taking in a little solid food, to be able to stay full for five to six hours at a time, taking away the main reason that infants need to wake up so often during the night.
Of course, every baby is different. Some may start sleeping through the night a little earlier, and some may take quite a bit longer. In time, however, all babies eventually sleep through the night.
You should never try to make an infant sleep through the night if she is younger than three or four months old. Before that, babies need to eat every two to four hours. Their tummies simply can’t hold enough breast milk or formula to meet their dietary needs for any longer than that. If your baby isn’t waking up every three or four hours as an infant, it may be cause for concern, and you should consult your pediatrician for advice.
Once your baby is old enough to sleep through the night, however, there are two schools of thought on how to help your baby sleep better. All parents have to choose for themselves which method they will use, and both methods have their strengths and drawbacks.
The first method is to simply start letting your baby cry it out if she wakes up. This doesn’t mean, of course, that you lie in bed and ignore her while she screams her head off for an hour. But, what it does mean is that, starting with short periods of time (a minute or two), you allow baby to try to cry it out, to see if she will soothe herself to sleep. If she doesn’t fall back to sleep in that time, go to her and tend to her needs. Gradually increase the amount of time you allow baby to cry before tending to her needs. The benefits of this method are that it allows baby to begin learning to self soothe, and it starts to break baby of the idea that crying always garners immediate attention.
The second method suggests being pro-active. Pay attention to your baby’s sleep cycles. When he is in a light sleep cycle, which you can recognize because he may make noises or faces, sing softly to him, rub his back or legs gently, and otherwise attempt to soothe him before he wakes up. Of course, if he has legitimate needs, he will still wake up, but this will often help babies stay asleep when they might otherwise awaken.