You want help getting newborn babies to sleep longer overnight. We hear you, Mama, and you have come to the right place!
Through my decade of sleep consulting, we know how much help families need in that first, brief portion of their baby’s life. And we also know there is a lot of contradictory information out there. Further, we acutely recall that when we had my first child, people would tell me, “Don’t worry, things get so much better after week 12.”
They may as well have said after year 12! That’s how it felt to hear that I’d need to endure another several week of the newborn stage. So, without further ado, here is a sneak peek of some of the best newborn sleep tips for the first 12 weeks.
Baby Nursery FAQs
To get a 6-month-old to sleep through the night, you should implement a schedule and establish a good bedtime routine. This will help your little one naturally feel tired at bedtime and get used to sleeping for hours at a time.
If your baby doesn't sleep at night, you should first make sure that they are getting enough sleep during the day to make up for their lack of nighttime sleep- putting an overtired baby to bed can be incredibly tricky! You should then look at your baby's bedtime routine and make adjustments. If your baby responds well to these adjustments, keep the routine going until they begin to sleep through the night.
Baby's do not have a sense of night and day, so they will sleep whenever they feel tired. For some babies, this will mean that they do not sleep naturally. A baby's timing systems for a 24 hour day are not fully formed at birth and will not be functioning until around six months old.
If your baby is not sleeping for long during the night, try cutting out nap times during the day. You should also try to establish a clear bedtime routine that will help your baby to develop natural sleep/wake cues.
As babies start to get older, they will naturally start to sleep less during the day but for longer periods at night. Most mothers will notice these changes around the age of 12 months, by which their baby should be sleeping for 11-14 hours every 24 hours. You may notice longer nighttime sleeps from the age of 6 months.
Getting Newborn Babies To Sleep Longer Stretches At Night (0-12 Weeks)
#1: Have Realistic Expectations.
We feel the need to put this at the top. Let’s remember. Newborns are busy learning how to keep their bodies at the right temperature and HOW TO BREATHE. So give them, and yourself, a little break when it comes to expectations.
Before we gave birth, we read a certain popular baby sleep book that made me feel like if we did A + B, then my 8-week-old should be doing C. If she wasn’t doing C, it was because we were doing something wrong. That’s crap. If your newborn isn’t sleeping well, DO NOT SWEAT IT! Please. Just don’t. Even if you’re doing everything you’re supposed to, there are many other factors at play.
Over half of all newborns suffer from painful reflux. Others lack the gut bacteria to properly digest many of the trace amounts of common foods found in breast milk and thus have excruciating gas. And many are just unhappy being newborns.
(This is just a personal theory here, but we SWEAR some children hate being helpless newborns. We don’t blame them! Being a baby sucks sometimes.) Anyway, please do your best (which we know you are since you’re here right now!), and let the rest go.
#2: Set Up A Proper Sleeping Environment.
The proper sleep environment will matter more and more as the baby gets past the 6-week mark. Set up a room for your baby to sleep for naps and bedtime. The sooner your baby starts to associate darkness and loud white noise with sleep, the easier their life will be.
People always worry their baby will become addicted to or dependent on darkness and white noise and then won’t be able to sleep without it. Newsflash: adults have sleep preferences too! We don't like to sleep on planes, trains, or automobiles.
We prefer sleeping in my bed, with my pillow, etc. Many adults swear they sleep just fine through any errant noise, but studies show that constant pink (what we think of as white) noise helps the brain go into more stable levels of sleep. You can also not use white noise or darkness and see how that goes.
Most (not necessarily all) babies sleep better with loud white noise and as-dark-as-possible darkness. This is a post about how to get your kiddo to sleep better, after all…
#3: Do Not Let Your Baby Sleep Longer Than 2 Hours, From 7 Am To 7 Pm.
This has become the single most effective thing you can do to encourage your newborn to have longer stretches of sleep at night. Granted, this will be impossible to accomplish for most babies before 4 to 6 weeks.
When those newborns want to sleep, try as you might, they will not wake up. But, as soon as you see that you can wake them up a bit, do so! Take off their clothes, expose them to cooler air, take them outside/expose them to sunlight, put them in a baby tub filled with lukewarm water…
Simply put, do anything to wake them up if they’ve been asleep for longer than 2 hours.
#4: Keep Wake Times To A Minimum.
Wake times matter much less after about 4 to 5 months, but they mean everything to a newborn. Keep those newborns awake for about 50 to 60 minutes (including feeding and changing time if they’re awake during the feeding), and then start to get them ready for a nap.
A great routine: swaddle babies, take them to their room with darkness and white noise, and actively try to get them down for a nap.
Ideal wake times range depending on the age of your newborn and time of day. In a nutshell, the younger they are, the less time they’ll be able to stay comfortably awake (i.e. 30-60 mins). And as they get older, awake time can stretch to as long as 90 minutes.
#5: Perfect Your Swaddle Technique.
We can't tell you how many parents tell me their kid hates the swaddle. But nothing could be further from the truth. In my experience, while there are a few babies that truly hate the swaddle, most parents mistake their child’s fussing for hate. Try to implement the use of the swaddle for naps and at bedtime. Try it for several weeks for each sleep period before writing it off.
#6: Feed Your Baby Every 2.5 To 3.5 Hours During The Day.
If possible, try to establish a cycle where your baby wakes up and eats immediately (while staying as awake as humanly possible). Then the baby would remain awake to complete the 60 minutes of wake time.
Followed by sleep for some amount of time. Then, of course, waking and eating again. This is a great way to ensure your kiddo gets as many calories during the day as possible and hopefully sleeps longer stretches at night.
When Do Babies Sleep Through The Night?
When you can expect your baby to start sleeping through the night depends on several factors, including the baby's age, weight, whether or not you are breastfeeding, and your family's nighttime feeding habits.
Here's when babies start sleeping through the night, plus more info about babies' sleeping habits and patterns by age:
Newborns won't sleep through the night because they need to eat frequently. Two to four hours at a time is about as long as you can expect your brand new baby to sleep during those early weeks and months — depending on whether you're breastfeeding, formula-feeding or both.
2 To 3 Months Old
Two- to 3-month old babies can sleep for five- or six-hour stretches. Most 3-month-olds still need feeding or two during the night, especially if they're nursing.
Four Months Old
At this age, babies can sleep for a solid seven or eight hours, which constitutes sleeping through the night, though it may happen gradually. Most 4-month-old babies have reached that magic weight of 11 to 14 pounds, which means they don't metabolically need nighttime feeding. But they may still demand one!
5 To 6 Months Old
Babies can sleep through the night, so if your little one is still waking up more frequently to eat, you can be pretty sure he's not hungry. To help him learn to sleep for six to eight hours at a time most nights, your doctor can advise you on how to cut out those extra nighttime feedings slowly.
Physically, your baby will be ready for that transition, though he may protest it, especially if he's used to several overnight snacks and the sweet dose of cuddling that comes with them.
Getting Baby To Sleep Through The Night
You have more control over your baby's sleep habits than you may realize — and you don’t have to wait until he hits his half-birthday mark to encourage longer nighttime snoozes.
Follow these tips to help baby start sleeping through the night:
Establish A Bedtime Routine
Not only will your little one find the routine comforting, but it will also become a baby's signal that it’s time to sleep. Begin with a nice, relaxing bath — warm water is soothing and sleep-inducing. Follow with a story, cuddles and lullabies. Finish with a full feeding. If your baby is gassy, you can move the bedtime feeding to earlier in the routine.
Try Not To Change Your Baby's Diaper In The Middle Of The Night.
Unless your baby is an absolute mess, skip middle-of-the-night changes since they'll probably wake him up. If you need to change his diaper overnight, do it with dimmed lights and as little talking as possible.
Consider Moving The Baby Farther Away From You.
The AAP recommends that babies room-share with their parents until they’re six months old. But if your baby is sleeping in your room, or his bassinet or crib is very close to your bed, moving him farther away (or even into his room) might work better for some families.
It could be that the very proximity to you is contributing to more overnight wake-ups. Talk to your pediatrician for help with the transition.
Keep The Calories Coming During The Day.
Your baby will be less hungry at night (and better able to sleep) if his tummy gets filled enough during the day. Breastfed babies should eat every two to three hours or so, for eight to 12 feedings over 24 hours, until they start solids around six months. It then drops to five to six feedings a day and gradually tapers off as they get older.
Most formula-fed babies should get around 4 ounces every four hours, beginning when they're about a month old, though it depends on your little one (and most babies under one-month needless formula than that). Expect that to increase to around 6 to 8 ounces by the time they start solids at 4 to 6 months old.
Once solid food is introduced, babies need around four to five formula feedings a day. You can try adding an extra ounce to the baby's bottle during daytime feedings if he's taking less than the recommended 24 to 36 ounces overall.
Wake Your Baby Up With A Dream Feed Before You Go Down
Before you go to bed, top your baby off with a late-night nibble or a "dream feed." You'll need to wake him enough so that he's not completely asleep, and you shouldn't feed him when he's lying down. Even if he’s too tired to eat much, a few sips might be enough for an extra hour or two of sleep.
If this tactic prompts your baby to wake more often, ditch it and make sure his bedtime feeding is ample.
Don't Put Cereal In Your Baby's Bottle Or Be Tempted To Start Solids Too Early.
Not only won’t it help your baby sleep through the night, but it could also be detrimental to his health. Introducing solids before 4 to 6 months (ideally six months as recommended by the AAP) can lead to tummy troubles as babies can't fully digest them at this point.
Plus, your infant could gag or inhale the thickened mixture into his lungs.
Don't Rush In At The First Whimper.
Give your baby a chance to self-soothe and get himself back to sleep before you go in to check on him. All babies wake up overnight (just like adults).
Start The Process Of Weaning Baby Off Nighttime Feeds.
When your baby is around 3 or 4 months old, you should be able to slowly cut back on middle-of-the-night feedings, with the ultimate goal of getting your baby to sleep through the night. But be sure to talk to your pediatrician first since some babies may need that night's feeds for longer than the first few months.
Night Weaning And Sleeping Through The Night
If you and your pediatrician decide that your baby is ready for night weaning, talk to your doctor about how to do it with your little one, and follow these tips:
Stretch Out Feedings
While newborns need to eat about every two to four hours, when the baby is 3 or 4 months old, you can usually start extending the times between feedings (though, again, it varies from baby to baby).
If your pediatrician gives the green light, introduce the concept gradually by adding an extra 15 to 30 minutes between feedings every other night. With any luck, the result will ultimately be a baby who sleeps longer.
Shorten Nighttime Feedings
Another way to wean your baby is to start putting a little less into his bottle or spend a couple of minutes less on each breast during night wakings. Keep slightly decreasing the amount of milk or the nursing time over a week until your baby gets the message and gives up an overnight feeding.
Don't Rush To Feed Your Baby At Night.
When your little one wakes up crying, wait before offering the breast or bottle. He might doze off again or entertain himself (those toes are fun!). If he starts protesting a lot, try soothing him with a quiet song or gentle pat first.
The sooner you teach your baby that night wakings won’t result in instant feedings, the sooner he’ll learn to sleep through the night. Just make sure that your baby isn’t truly hungry (and if he is, feed him). You can then start upping the amount he eats during the day if your pediatrician says he’s ready.
What Might Prevent Your Baby From Sleeping Through The Night?
There are plenty of things that can keep a baby from sleeping through the night, including:
- Teething: Baby's first tooth might be a momentous milestone, but it can also wake him up at night. And teething symptoms, like crying, ear pulling, and night waking, may crop up two to three months before the actual pearly whites appear.
- A less-than-ideal sleeping environment: If the baby is too hot, he might have trouble sleeping. Keep your baby's room at about 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit and dress him in a one-piece sleeper. You should also keep the room quiet and dark.
- Bad sleep habits: Try not to hold, rock or feed your baby until he falls asleep or be inconsistent with his bedtime routine. Instead, put him to bed when he's drowsy but awake, which will help him learn to fall asleep on his own.
- An inability to self-soothe: It's normal for a 6-month-old baby to wake up a few times a night, but he should be able to fall back to sleep again on his own. If he can't, he may not know how to self-soothe so you may consider sleep training.
- Sickness: Colds and ear infections can keep anyone awake at night — and your baby is no exception. Once he starts feeling better, your baby should start sleeping better too.
- Growth spurts: The baby will likely experience growth spurts at around three months, six months and nine months (though the exact timing can vary). When this happens, he'll likely wake up earlier from naps and more often during the middle of the night to eat.
- Milestones: If your baby is mastering a new skill — rolling over, sitting up, crawling — he may have difficulty settling down or staying asleep at night. (Who wants to fall asleep when there’s so much to explore?)
- Sleep regression: It's normal for babies — even those who are good sleepers — to wake up more often and have trouble falling back to sleep once they're 3 to 4 months old, and at other ages too. Blame sleep regressions — and know that those phases are only temporary.
- Travel: Jet lag and other disruptions can mess with your baby's Zzzs.