We’re so happy to have another fantastic guest post from Marietta Paxson, Sleep Expert, and LMFT. We’re talking about something every parent goes through… when will your child sleep through the night and what constitutes “normal” sleep patterns for babies, enjoy!
Marietta Paxson is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of Utah. She specializes in parenting and baby and toddler sleep among other areas. She is the Founder and CEO of Little Dreamers Baby Sleep Consulting. She has a 4 year old and 2.5 year old twins with her husband of 5 years. Marietta is passionate about the work she does to help families sleep better to feel better.
We all want our children, and especially our babies, to sleep. No one wants it more than the mommy of a baby who just isn’t sleeping, except for maybe the daddy because he is the one listening to the ever-mounting complaints from mom. Sleep. Long. Blissful. Sleep. Is that really too much to ask?
Well yes, sometimes it is. I have learned that when a mom uses the phrase sleeping through the night or sleep through the night (STTN) it is always best to ask them exactly what that means. I’ve had moms tell me their 3-month-old can sleep through the night only to find out that they are sleeping 5-7 hours, which in the medical field is sleeping through the night. But can we please stop calling that sleeping through the night. Because it sure doesn’t feel like it to the mom.
I’ve also had moms try to tell me that their child is sleeping through the night when they are still feeding them at night. Um no. I don’t care if you are dream feeding them before you go to sleep so they will sleep while you sleep. Nope. Doesn’t count. I am happy you are sleeping uninterrupted, but your baby isn’t. Which means he is not sleeping through the night!
Sleeping through the night means you put your baby down for the night. And he sleeps until morning. That’s like 11-12 hours, people! It means that for 11-12 hours you do not see or feed that lovely little face. It means that instead of going into his room to feed him you get to stay in your bed and look at cute baby pictures before you fall asleep, and you get to sleep uninterrupted.
A baby that can sleep through the night is a glorious thing. And while there is a small percentage of babies who can STTN before 6 months of age, I would say 9 months is much more common. Please do not tell yourself your baby will be STTN at 4, 5, or even 6 months.
Remember, we are talking about 12 hours here! Even though your 5-month-old may not be STTN he can still be sleeping for 7, 8 or even 9 hours at night. You can still get the rest you need! And 4 months is the perfect age to start helping your baby sleep better, not 12 hours, but 5, 6, 7, or 8 hours better!
Expectations really make or break us. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT tell yourself your child will be sleeping through the night at 6 months. Tell yourself 9 months. Then if 9 months comes and you are still waking up for your baby at night, you’ll know your baby needs a little help to get him where he is capable of going.
There are definitely tricks you can do to help your child drop that last waking at night, and I will address those on another day in a different post. Chances are if you have done some sleep training, your child will get there on his own sooner than you thought possible. But today is all about setting the expectation right.
More important than regulating your child’s wake-ups during the night is making sure your child knows how to fall asleep unassisted (that’s called sleep training, folks!) and making sure he is well rested.
Overtired babies tend to wake more often during the night even when they are sleep trained. When I talk with clients, I am not too concerned about a child waking up once at night to eat. I am concerned about a child waking up frequently at night. Once a night means you and your baby are on your way to long blissful nights. More than once, and definitely more than twice for babies 4-8 months, and you may find yourself in a sleep regression headed for exhaustion fast!
Speaking of which, sleep regressions, are awful. You may know your child is in the midst of a sleep regression if he is waking more frequently at night, resisting bedtime, taking longer to fall asleep for naps, or taking shorter naps.
While there are generally times you can expect to see one pop up (4-month sleep regression anyone?) they really can present themselves at almost any time. Four months, 6 months, 8-10 months, 11-13 months, 16-18 months, 24 months, see what I mean?
Sometimes a sleep regression will work itself out and all that is required from the parent is consistency and time. I recommend two weeks. If your baby is still waking after two weeks it is likely a sleep regression that may need some parental intervention to work through.
Perhaps a simple schedule adjustment will do the trick, or perhaps it’s time to teach your baby to sleep train. Sleep regressions are caused by many different factors and it can be hard to identify which one is to blame for your baby’s poor sleep.
Most importantly please remember that when your friend posts a picture of her adorable kiddo stating that he slept through the night at only 3 months (!!), it’s probably not true. And if by chance it is, it probably won’t happen again. And if by chance it does become routine, don’t worry, their next child is guaranteed to be a horrible sleeper. It is the law of babies. I didn’t write it, but we all follow it.
If you are in need of some personal help to help you understand your baby’s night wakings and if there is anything you can do please reach out today, and sleep better tonight! I host a free Q&A on Facebook every single week (click here to submit your questions via Facebook messenger). I also offer a FREE 15-minute phone call to discuss my packages and find the right solution to your sleep issue.
If your kiddo (ages 3+) needs a little help getting to sleep, check out our Sleep Drops: