Both new and experienced parents wonder when their babies will be able to sleep through the night. Experts say that by about 8 or 9 months of age, many babies can “sleep through the night,” meaning they can sleep for long stretches or self-soothe if they wake during the night. It's important to remember that what “sleeping through the night” means varies from baby to baby, and can even change as your baby gets older. Read on to learn more about when babies typically sleep through the night, and how you can help your baby sleep better at night.

When Do Babies Sleep Through the Night?

What parents would typically call “sleeping through the night” is when their baby sleeps for long stretches at night, or wakes in the middle of the night but falls back to sleep without crying out for soothing. Many, but not all babies, can comfort themselves and go back to sleep by themselves at around 8 or 9 months of age. Generally speaking, if your baby can wake up during the night but get himself back to sleep, then experts might say he is a “good” sleeper. But it's important to know that your baby’s sleep patterns may vary considerably throughout the first year. Getting to the stage where your little one can sleep through the night is not necessarily a linear process. Your baby might be able to sleep for longish blocks with no issues for several weeks or even months, and then revert to waking up in the night and crying out for attention. What’s more, “sleeping through the night” is actually a misnomer. No one actually sleeps right through the night — not even adults can do this. There are always periods of wakefulness and going back to sleep, and this is normal. It turns out that both daytime and nighttime sleep are important for your baby’s development, and it might reassure you to know that a recent study suggests that it’s normal, and not harmful, if your baby doesn’t sleep through the night by 6 to 12 months of age. In this study, “sleeping through the night” was defined as six to eight hours of sleep without waking up, and the researchers determined that babies who wake up more frequently in the night are no more likely to have developmental issues than other babies.

How Do Babies Learn to Sleep Through the Night?

Your baby has to learn how to self-soothe after waking so that he can fall back asleep without crying out for you. Even though the ability to self-soothe and fall back asleep could develop at around 8 or 9 months, this might not be the case for your baby. Every baby is unique, and many factors — even things like your child’s genetic makeup and temperament — can affect your little one’s sleep patterns. Sleep training might be able to help your baby get closer to being able to sleep through the night. Be patient in these early months; it takes time to get to the point where your baby can sleep through the night.

Nighttime Sleep Patterns by Age Group

Your baby's age is a key factor in how long your little one sleeps at night, and whether she can self-soothe when she wakes at night. We’ve described some typical scenarios below, but for more personalized advice it’s best to speak to your baby’s healthcare provider.

Your Baby’s First Month: Multiple Sleep Blocks at Night

In their first month, newborns generally sleep most of the time and wake every few hours, day and night, to eat. Breastfed babies may wake up about every two to three hours; bottle-fed babies may wake up every three to four hours.

If your newborn stays asleep for longer stretches than this at night, your baby’s healthcare provider may suggest waking her for a feeding until the time she starts showing some consistent weight gain. After this you can probably let her sleep for longer stretches at night. Your provider will be checking on your baby’s growth at your regular checkups.

You might find that this first month is the hardest on you, as having to get up several times during the night to tend to your little one will leave you feeling exhausted. If you can, take naps during the day to help keep your own energy levels up, and try to be patient; sleeping through the night may not be too far off for your baby.

1 to 6 Months: Longer Stretches of Nighttime Sleep

  • At 1 month old, your baby may begin to sleep for longer stretches in the night, perhaps including one longish block of 3 to 4 hours. It’s during this time that your baby’s circadian rhythms are forming, and he’s getting used to the difference between day and night.

  • By 2 months old, your baby will be more alert and sociable during the day, which means he may end up sleeping a little longer at night. At this point, you may even choose to skip one nighttime feeding.

  • From 3 to 5 months old, your baby may be able to sleep for a stretch of about 5 to 8 hours at night. If by about 6 months old your baby still has trouble sleeping for these longish lengths of time at night, you might consider shortening the length of his afternoon nap. If even with this fix he continues to wake up several times in the night, talk to his healthcare provider to get some personalized guidance.

6 to 12 Months: When Sleeping Through the Night Could Start

  • At 6 months old, your baby may start sleeping the majority (between 60 and 70 percent) of her daily sleep hours during the night.

  • Between 6 and 10 months is the period when your baby will start getting more active and mobile, as she begins rolling over, crawling, and pulling herself up on furniture. All these activities tire her out, resulting in these longer periods of sleep at night.

  • At about 8 or 9 months old, your baby might be able to sleep anywhere between 6 to 12 hours at night without waking up hungry.

Just remember that these typical scenarios don’t mean that your little one won’t wake up during the night occasionally. And, depending on when you put your baby to bed, she may wake up very early in the morning after a long block of sleep — meaning that you, as the parent, won’t necessarily be “sleeping through the night” just yet. For example, if you put her to bed at 8 p.m., she may wake up between 2 and 4 a.m., which will still be an early wake-up call for you.

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Tips for Getting Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night

First, it's important to remember that young babies can’t sleep through the night, as they need feedings, diaper changes, and sometimes even simply some comforting. Nevertheless, there are some things you can do to encourage your little one to sleep for longer stretches at night:

  • Help your baby learn the difference between day and night by keeping things bright and active during the day but dark and quiet in the night. For example, have your baby nap in an area of your home that has background noises, and at night keep feedings and diaper changes calm and quiet.

  • Establish a bedtime routine, which may include a warm bath, massage, cuddling, bedtime stories, lullabies, and breastfeeding or bottle-feeding just before bed. Soon your baby will start to expect the routine you’ve established and associate it with going to sleep for the night. During this winding-down period, keep things quiet, calm, and relaxed.

  • Put your baby in his crib before he falls asleep. At bedtime, it helps to put your baby in his crib when he’s drowsy and tired but not yet asleep, taking care to always put him down on his back. That way your baby learns to associate feeling tired and being in the crib with falling asleep on his own. When he wakes in the night, the experience will be familiar to him and he may be more likely to learn to self-soothe over time. The converse is also true: if your baby always falls asleep in your arms, when he wakes at night he will rely on being in your arms to feel comfortable falling asleep.

  • Don’t mistake a little “restlessness” for your baby being awake. Babies often move in their sleep, perhaps twitching their arms, or make little noises. This can be a sign of your baby moving between different sleep cycles — not that your baby is awakening. There’s no need to respond to these movements; instead, wait a few minutes to see if your baby is actually waking for a feed or diaper change, or if he's still snoozing.

  • If your baby wakes up in the night, give him some time to settle before checking on him. If he’s not settled, a few reassuring words softly spoken from the bedroom doorway or a loving pat may be enough. If he needs a feeding or a diaper change, keep the atmosphere calm, and place him back to sleep in his crib afterward.

  • Offer your toddler a security object. Once your child is older than 12 months, it’s generally OK safe to give him a small soft toy or a security blanket that he can use to self-soothe in the middle of the night when you’re not there. Read all about how to choose a great security blanket.

Why Your Baby May Not Be Sleeping Through the Night

There are many reasons your little one may be waking up and crying at night. She may be waking up because she’s hungry and needs a feed, or crying out because she’s uncomfortable and needs a diaper change.

If your baby needs a diaper change or a feeding, try to do so without disturbing her too much. Keep the lights dim, speak in a hushed tone, and take care of things quickly so you can put her back to sleep. Avoid picking her up for a cuddle, which can reinforce the nighttime crying.

When your baby is still very young, experts recommend comforting her if she cries at night instead of letting her cry it out. You could do things like rocking her for a few minutes, playing some calming music, or singing to her.

As your baby gets older, one reason she may cry out instead of sleeping through the night is separation anxiety.

Separation Anxiety at Nighttime

Between about 6 and 18 months of age, your little one might show signs of separation anxiety.

This may lead your baby to cry out for you if she wakes up in the night and finds that you’re not there. Your baby is learning to recognize that you exist and that you have gone away (even if you’re just in the next room), and she will be upset that you are not there.

At this stage, if your baby does wake up in the night crying, give her a few minutes to self-soothe and settle back down. If she continues crying, try calming her with a soft pat or some gentle words to reassure her and help her settle back down to sleep. Resist the urge to pick her up, walk with her, or take her back to bed with you as these actions tend to reinforce her behavior.

At this stage, it’s also perfectly OK to encourage self-soothing habits like thumb-sucking. But don’t offer objects like a favorite blankie or plush toy until she is at least 1 year old. Experts say leaving stuffed animals or blankets in your baby’s crib in the first year can increase the risk of SIDS.

If you’re unsure why your baby is crying at night, consult your baby’s healthcare provider to get personalized advice and make sure that everything is OK with your little one.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • At 3 months old, your baby may be sleeping somewhere between 5 and 8 hours at night.

  • You probably won’t want to let your 2-month-old baby sleep through the night because he most likely will need feedings and diaper changes.

  • Sleeping through the night won't necessarily happen before your baby turns about 8 or 9 months old, and even if he does sleep through the night, it doesn't mean he won't occasionally need a nighttime feeding or a diaper change. Every baby is different, and some babies wake more frequently at night than others. Nevertheless, here are some things you can try to help your baby sleep through the night:

    • Keep things bright and active during the day but dark and quiet in the night.
    • Establish a bedtime routine, which may include a warm bath, massage, cuddling, bedtime stories, lullabies, and breastfeeding or bottle-feeding.
    • If your baby wakes up in the night, give him some time to settle back down before checking on him. If he's not settled, a few reassuring words softly spoken from his bedroom doorway or a loving pat may be enough to comfort him.
    • If your baby needs a diaper change or a feeding in the middle of the night, try to do these as quickly and as calmly as possible.
  • It may be too early for your 1-month-old to sleep through the night as she may still be waking up regularly during the night for feedings and diaper changes.

  • In their first several months, preemies tend to wake up more often in the night than full-term babies because their nervous systems are still maturing. Keep in mind that your preemie’s adjusted age, rather than her chronological age, may be the better indicator of the likely timing of sleeping milestones as she grows.

The Bottom Line

Sleeping through the night is a milestone that your child will eventually reach. It takes time and patience on your part, along with maintaining the kind of environment that encourages your little one to sleep for longer blocks of time at night.

Even though you may be feeling sleep deprived at the moment, this period of sleepless nights will eventually pass. Hang in there!

During this time, you might not be getting enough shut-eye, but you could be getting plenty of rewards points for all the late-night diaper changes you’re doing. With the Pampers Club app, simply scan all your Pampers purchases to receive points that you can then use to get yourself gifts or coupons.

How we wrote this article

The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.