If you are like most moms of young infants, you are holding your breath waiting for the time your little one sleeps entirely through the night. Unfortunately, your baby isn’t likely to be able to do that until they are over six months old, according to Danny Lewin, Ph.D., associate director of Pediatric Sleep Medicine at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
“The ability to sleep through the night is helped by the elimination of nighttime feedings, which the infant is ready for after six months. This may be delayed for breastfeeding babies because they metabolize breast milk relatively quickly and require more frequent feedings,” said Lewin to Parents.com.
And even if developmentally your baby is old enough to sleep through the night, that doesn’t mean he will. Each child is an individual and may take more or less time to develop that skill.
Another area that affects your baby’s ability to fall asleep on his own is routine. Babies under the age of four months don’t need a strict routine since they are not likely to sleep through the night yet, but by four months and older it is best to develop a bedtime routine and stick to it each night.
This can include stories, songs and snuggles, but choose activities that you find doable. This nightly routine helps the infant feel safe and secure, and the consistency clues them in that bedtime is approaching and it's time to ready themselves for sleep.
The fact is, even adults often don’t sleep through the night, so expecting babies to be different isn’t realistic. We as adults are just better at putting ourselves back to sleep.
Babies also have shorter sleep cycles than adults, Peter Fleming, professor of infant health and developmental psychology at the University of Bristol, told Buzzfeed.
Other reasons that babies have difficulty sleeping through the night run the gamut from needing to move about, teething or having other discomfort, needing to suck or just wanting to be close to you, which they need for comfort developmentally.
If your child is not sleeping through the night by the time they are 12 months, talk to your pediatrician.