“When can my baby sleep through the night? When can I stop swaddling? and “ When can I drop the dream feed?” are some of the first questions as a Mom that I found asking myself (and Googling for hours). With so much conflicting information and advice from my friends and the Internet, I decided to really dedicate myself to learning as much about infant sleep as possible. Knowing what to expect and about WHEN to expect it made me feel just a little less crazy in the Motherhood department! Let’s take a peek at the sleep milestones for the first year:
When to Expect Your Baby to Sleep All Night
This is the TOP reason why you’re reading this post, am I right? This answer is dependent on what you consider “sleeping through the night.” A newborn will need up to 8 weeks to switch their internal clocks from Night to Day, and feedings will occur every 1-3 hours. By month two, a healthy full-term baby is capable of 4-6 hour stretches at night, and by month three, some parents will see that stretch to 6-10 hours. At month four, that will stretch to 8 hours for some children, and 10+ hours after the fourth month regression subsides. These are best case scenarios! Some children just pick it up sooner, especially those without pre-existing sleep crutches such as “needing to nurse to sleep” or always having something in their mouths to doze off. Comparing yourself to others will only frustrate you, so always team up with your doctor to see what your particular child is capable of. Expectations: Anywhere from 3-9 months.
When to Drop all Night Feedings
Information that you read online pertaining to this varies WIDELY. This is completely dependent on your child’s age, weight, growth chart, and how many calories they are consuming during the day. A 6-month old baby for example whom wakes up 3 times a night for a full 10 minute feed each time is NOT capable of cold-turkey night weaning. Always work with your doctor and review your child’s growth chart if you need assistance with this. Once you have the green light from your doctor or lactation consultant to stretch out feedings at night, give it a shot for at least a week. I’ve seen children as young as 3 months sleep 12 hours without a feed, and children as old as 12 months still receive a dream feed, so take it at your own pace. Of course I always recommend keeping a dream feed for at least 7 months to keep a happy, healthy and fed baby, and most doctors will agree that by 9 months, baby should be able to sleep all night (11+ hours) without a feed. Expectations: Anywhere from 5-12 months.
When to Drop the Swaddle
The quick & easy answer: When baby begins to roll from front to back. This can happen anywhere between 2-6 months depending on your child’s development, and I recommend slowly reducing the swaddle by one or both arms out for a few nights, followed by a sleep sack. By the time baby reaches 3 months of age, the Moro Reflex (that makes them feel as though they are falling) will begin to subside and baby can sleep much more soundly without his or her arms bundled up. Expectations: Anywhere between 3-6 months.
When to Drop the Evening Catnap
Parents often tell me that the evening catnap is the most difficult and frustrating part of their day, so it’s no surprise to me that this is a common question in my business. On average, babies whom are at least 6 months are able to drop down to two naps per day, and some take a little longer, depending mostly on how long they nap and how well they are sleeping at night. You’ll know your baby is ready to drop the 3rd catnap when he or she plays or fusses the entire time, or sleeps less than 30 minutes for 3 days a week, for 3 weeks in a row. Expectations: Anywhere between 6-9 months.
And Finally……The End of the Sleep Regressions
You’ll experience a total of THREE sleep regressions before your child’s first birthday, and some will affect children more than others. Sleep regressions at ages 4, 8, & 12 months old are usually a result of a cognitive explosion in baby’s brain (becoming smarter & more aware!) or a gross motor development. The 4-month regression usually affects all children, while the 8 & 12 month can sneak by sometimes completely unnoticed. It’s important when passing through these regressions that you are consistent, and try not to over intervene. Always give baby a chance to resettle themselves first, and stick with your routines. Expectations: After 2+ years
“So how do I help baby reach these milestones without regressing?”
- Option 1: Keep it simple and contact me at Hello@SleepandtheCity.com. We can help you through these milestones & any regressions that may result quickly and identify any underlying causes that could be hindering your success.
- Option 2: Ride it out and stay consistent in your response, and respond age-appropriately. And then drop us a line if it all goes south.
In the end, always be sure to use my “Sleep and the City” rules for successful sleep shaping:
- The same sleeping environment is encouraged ( meaning one place over and over, or to start, at least one nap in the desired sleep place per day).
- Swaddle (0-6 months) for nighttime and nap times as needed
- Comfy outfits for nap time
- White noise is continuously running; a one with low rumbling is best
- Room is completely dark for naps & nighttime (nightlight over 2+ years ok)
- Understand the Wake windows by age (download at www.sleepandthecity.com)
- Pause before rushing in to see if child can resettle on their own first if nap is less than 45 minutes
- Feed upon WAKING from sleep, not before (bedtime is the exception)
Looking for more detail on baby sleep? Lauren just published a Newborn Sleep Survival Guide specifically for infants from birth to 4 months. It’s the perfect resource for new and expecting mamas.
For more professional Baby & Toddler Sleep Ideas and Help, visit sleepandthecity.com
Lauren Olson, Certified Child Sleep Specialist at home with her two children
(Photography provided by Layce Bauman Photography)