It doesn’t take most parents very long to start asking, “When can my baby sleep through the night?”

It would be nice if there was an easy, cookie cutter answer, but there really isn’t. The short form answer is that your baby can sleep through the night when she’s ready to. Until then, you’re on mommy (or daddy) duty around the clock.

Some babies are capable of sleeping through the night as early as three months. Most can sleep through the night by the time they’re a year old. The average age for babies starting to sleep through the night is about nine months old. Of course, sleeping through the night doesn’t mean going to bed at ten and waking up at seven or eight. Most people consider a baby to be sleeping through the night when they can sleep for a solid five of six hours at nighttime.

So, what can you do to help your baby get ready to sleep through the night? That really depends on what approach you take to nighttime parenting. There are two basic approaches to handling older babies (older than four or five months old) at night. There are many variations of these, but the two main approaches are:

  • Cry it out. At some point, you decide to let the baby cry until she falls back to sleep. This is assuming, of course, that you have taken care of her needs (feeding, diaper, etc.). This should never be done with infants. Wait until the baby is at least five or six months old.
  • Attachment parenting. Parents who use some variation of attachment parenting make it a point to go to their babies immediately anytime they are crying, including in the middle of the night.

If you are using the attachment parenting method, there are still some things you can do to help your child sleep through the night when she’s old enough. These include:

  • Lots of stimulation during the day. Train your baby to think of day time as the time to be awake and have fun by giving her lots of attention and interaction. This can also help tire her out.
  • Feed and change baby close to bedtime. When you see that baby is getting droopy eyed, it may seem counter-intuitive to do anything other than encourage her to sleep. She’s likely to sleep longer, though, if you make sure to feed and change her when she’s starting to get tired.
  • Make nighttime parenting affectionate, but boring. The trick here is to care for your baby without adding extra stimulation. Keep the lights low and don’t bring out the toys.