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When Do Babies Start Sleeping Through The Night?

When Do Babies Start Sleeping Through The Night?

The one question every new parent asks is when do babies start sleeping through the night? Babies may start having a few episodes of sleeping for 6 – 8 hours through the night by around 4 – 6 months. They may do it once, or a couple of nights in a row and on other nights they may need your help.

Every Baby is different but there are some common patterns

It is important to understand that there is no switch you can flip to make this happen. Babies don’t just start sleeping through the night and then keep doing it forever; there is a lot of stopping and starting because there are so many factors that contribute to their sleep development, but there are a few theories that work; both on their own and in combination. Our role as parents is to help them learn and feel secure to achieve it. By the time they reach their first birthday, they become very good at it and not only do they need to sleep through the night, they want to.

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The minute you announce a pregnancy, especially if it is your first baby, every other parent immediately tells you to cherish your sleep because it will diminish significantly when you have a new baby. This is true to some extent. Babies have very different sleeping patterns to adults until they adjust to their new world and learn to sleep outside the womb. However, as difficult as that first year can be, it doesn’t have to be unbearable and the more you know and are prepared about what to expect, the easier you will cope.

Babies have very different lives inside the womb. They sleep a lot during the day while the mother is active; essentially rocking the baby to sleep. At night when the mother is still, they move around and stay awake. Women find it the hardest to sleep during the last few weeks of pregnancy as the baby becomes increasingly active.

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When babies are born, they need to adjust to a different routine that we impose on them, one where they learn to be awake more during the day and sleep through the night. This does not happen automatically and babies must learn to do this as they develop.

Babies must first reach some physical and cognitive milestones that will help them sleep through the night.

  • Newborns have a startle reflex called the Moro reflex. Until they are around 4 months old they will respond to disturbances such as noise, sleep cycles and other stimuli by startling. They demonstrate this by flailing their arms and being surprised easily. Losing their Moro reflex will help them sleep through the night.
  • Babies gain weight and grow. Whether they are being exclusively breastfed, mixed fed or are only drinking formula, they double their birth weight by around 5 months and will start to require solid food by around 6 months. A baby’s sleep pattern will change during a growth spurt. They may sleep more or they may fuss more. Sometimes they will sleep more during the day, which could affect their sleep at night.
  • Infants will gradually require less feeding through the night (night weaning). Breastfed babies tend to feed more frequently because breast milk is digested faster, however all newborns need to be fed every 2 – 4 hours. As they grow and when they start solids, they don’t need to feed as frequently during the night. When they are fuller, they sleep for longer and they learn to ignore their hunger during the night.
  • Babies will learn to self soothe. Whether it is by using a pacifier, sucking their thumb, holding on to a favourite toy or blanket or listening to music or a noise machine, babies will start to get through their sleep cycles independently. When they wake up or go into a lighter sleep, they start to return to deep sleep by themselves, without needing assistance from their parents.

When do babies start sleeping through the night? Some ways to help them.

  • Establish a good bedtime routine. You don’t have to watch the clock; don’t focus on the exact minute, just thereabouts. Dinner, bath, pajamas, a story or song, a goodnight kiss and a favourite toy or blanket, some ambient sound or music and a darkened room. Maybe even a pleasant room spray; Lavender is very soothing for sleep. The trick is to be consistent so they know what to expect and feel secure.
  • It is important to find a reliable way to comfort them if they call out to you. The book French Children Don’t Throw Food by Pamela Druckerman talks about the way in which French mothers wait a little when the baby cries out. They claim that newborns will be able to learn to sleep by the time they are 2 months old if we let them. They may not do it every night as other issues arise throughout their development, but ordinarily, when all things are well, they learn to sleep through the night earlier this way.

“Waiting is the key: the French do not do instant gratification. It starts more or less at birth. When a French baby cries in the night the parents go in, pause, and observe for a few minutes. They know that babies’ sleep patterns include movements, noises and two-hour sleep cycles, in between which the baby might cry.” – Michele Hanson, The Guardian

  • There are several ways to help babies sleep through the night.

“Some common methods include the Ferber method, the “cry it out” method, the “fading” method, and the “no-cry” sleep training method.” – Tamekia Reece.

You may be comfortable letting the baby cry themselves to sleep. You may prefer to pick them up and rock them to sleep, especially if you have multiples or other children and you don’t want everyone else woken. Most people settle for somewhere in between.

  • Focusing on awake times is sometimes more beneficial than worrying about how long the baby is sleeping for. If you understand how long a baby should be awake for their age, their day naps fall into place and this influences immensely how they sleep at night.

An infant’s milestones may interfere with sleeping through the night. Knowing what to expect will contribute to how you survive them.

The first year of a baby’s life is one of the most dynamic. So much happens to them in that first 12 months and they experience many changes. It is important to provide consistency and a sense of security for babies so that they feel safe. Sometimes giving them the space and opportunity to sleep is all that you can do and the most common milestones just need to be endured. Staying calm and positive to get through the nights and days of upheaval and always returning to the routine will help immensely.

  • Babies will learn to roll, crawl, sit upright by themselves and stand; not necessarily in that order and sometimes they will skip a step. Their brains are processing these new abilities and this could prevent them sleeping through the night. Often babies will practice their new skills through the night when there aren’t as many distractions and this tends to keep them awake or disturb their sleep.
  • Babies will experience pain and discomfort associated with teething, illness and vaccinations. Fever, aches and stress will almost certainly mean that they take longer to fall asleep and may sleep for shorter periods. They may need medication, but mostly they need comfort and support to get through it.
  • Traveling or going on holidays and sleeping away from home, changes in the home like a new bed or a new baby brother or sister or any other break in the routine will affect an infant’s sleep patterns. It is our job as parents to make any transition as smooth and secure as possible.
  • When babies start eating solid food their bodies will experience changes that may affect their sleep. Their digestive systems will be working harder, they will wet and soil their nappies in a different way and they will remember the different textures, smells and tastes they have encountered through the day.

When something is wrong. Sometimes there is evidence that we need more help.

  • A snoring baby may not be cause for alarm, they may just be congested or in a very deep sleep. However it may also indicate that they have a condition called sleep apnea, which means their breathing is being interrupted.
  • If you suspect that your baby is having difficulty breathing it is important to look for signs such as bluish lips and fingers, wheezing or a caving of the chest. Irregular breathing could be a symptom of conditions such as asthma or croup and may need professional investigation.
  • Some babies experience acid reflux, which is when milk is regurgitated back up from their stomach into their throat causing burning and discomfort. They will vomit or spit up regularly after feeds and this can be uncomfortable and distressing. Often the symptoms of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) will present when they are lying down, so sleeping becomes associated with pain and discomfort.
  • If an infant is not reaching their milestones including sleeping through the night on a regular basis by the time they turn one, they may need to be examined by a pediatrician. It isn’t a reason to immediately panic, but addressing issues early may contribute greatly to a resolution in the long run.

Ideally, a baby will sleep through the night sooner rather than later, but children, like adults, will have sleep interruptions and disturbances occasionally and with the right information and support, sleepless nights will become an exception rather than the rule. So next time you wonder when do babies start sleeping through the night, consider the facts listed above.

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Published on September 21, 2020

The Danger of Overscheduling Your Kids

The Danger of Overscheduling Your Kids

I am a parent of three children aged 8, 6, and 6. Like many parents, I struggle with knowing the right balance of activities for them. I don’t want my kids to miss out on opportunities to play sports and participate in activities that will enhance their lives and help them grow as individuals. However, I also don’t want them to become overscheduled kids, to the extent that they get worn out and stressed out.

There is a balance in providing activities for our children and overscheduling them. The tendency for the latter is prevalent these days. Our lives — and the lives of our kids — are increasingly overscheduled and overworked. Thus, we need to understand the dangers of having overscheduled kids and how to prevent this from happening in our own families.

What’s Wrong with Overscheduling Your Kids?

1. Overscheduling Can Burn Out Our Kids

When our kids are on the go and scheduled to the max from a young age, their potential to get burned out before reaching high school is quite high. The New York Times reported some research on burnout and found that burnout with kids relates to their workload, along with their parents’ propensity to experience it.[1] This means that overworked children are more likely to get burned out than others. Similarly, overscheduled parents tend to have overscheduled kids more often than not.

Burnout

When a person is burned out, they feel overwhelmed and exhausted by what others expect them to get done daily. Children who are involved in too many activities with little to no downtime have a high chance of experiencing burnout. When parents place too many expectations on their kids, they also have an increased potential to burn out.

If you get the sense that your child is feeling overworked or overwhelmed by their daily activities, you need to know which ones can be cut back. If they have too many activities outside of school work, for instance, then that is one area that likely needs to be downsized.

An overworked child will present various symptoms like moodiness, irritability, crankiness, despondency, anger, stomach aches, headaches, rebellion, etc. Cutting back their activities will help to relieve their stress and reduce the said burnout signs. If your kid has severe burnout symptoms, though, then professional help from a pediatrician or therapist for children should be sought.

Downtime

Downtime is key to helping relieve burnout. If children don’t have free time during the day to have any rest, they are more likely to become burned out than others. Downtime means unorganized free time to do what they enjoy or relax. Cut back your kids’ extra-curricular activities if they don’t have downtime in their schedule.

Here are more tips on creating downtime for the children: How to Create Downtime for Kids.

2. Overscheduling Kills Playtime and Creativity

Kids need time to be kids. When their schedules are filled every day with activities like organized ballet, soccer, and music lessons, and they only take a break for dinner and bedtime, then they are overscheduled. They need to have free time after school to relax and play. When they don’t have that and proceed from one scheduled activity to the next, they are missing out on playtime.

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Playtime is crucial to child development. If they cannot get enough time to play, then their ability to develop their creativity decreases. The Genius of Play explains that there are six major developmental benefits that children get from playtime:[2]

  • Creativity
  • Social skill development
  • Cognitive development
  • Physical development (i.e., balance, coordination)
  • Communication skills
  • Emotional development

If children don’t have time to play because they are always on-the-go, then they are missing out on the developmental benefits of play.

Children need downtime after school so that they can unwind, play, and decompress. Research from the Journal of Early Childhood Development and Care showed that kids need to play to deal with anxiety, stress, and worry.[3] Playtime provides an outlet for them to manage these emotions in a healthy manner and helps with the development of their creativity.

Children need free time to play every day. Fifteen minutes at recess is not enough. They need time for it after school, at home, outside of the constraints of scheduled activities.

Solution

Ensure that your child has time to play after school. This is especially important for young children who greatly benefit from playing. Limit organized activities so that your child is not scheduled every day and can play after school. If they have an activity every hour, then it doesn’t allow for playtime.

3. Overscheduling Causes Stress and Pressure

When kids are overscheduled because their parents are so intent on having high-performing children, then they will feel stressed. Parental pressure upon a child to do well in academics, music, multiple sports, and religious studies is a reality for many kids. The children scheduled in all of these activities can often feel stress and pressure, especially when they are expected to succeed in all of them.

It is hard enough for kids to be good or succeed at a single activity. For a parent to overschedule their child and expect superior performance in various activities, that is a recipe for a stressed-out child.

Solution

Parents should not schedule kids in multiple activities with the expectation of superior performance in all. They should also consider the child’s interests. If the child is not interested in one activity, then they are likely to feel stressed and pressured to do it.

For example, if Suzy has been taking piano lessons for four years, and she no longer enjoys learning the instrument, then perhaps it is time to take a break. If Suzy is forced to continue with the lessons and daily practices, then she may feel pressured to continue performing simply because her mom wants her to do so. This can lead Suzy to resent her mother for forcing her to keep on doing something that she doesn’t like anymore.

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Let your child help in selecting the activities that they get involved in. Also, put a cap on the number of activities they are doing. If they have a different activity every weekday, then they are likely overscheduled.

Kids need downtime and time to play, too. If they need to do a new activity every day, that downtime is diminished, considering the time at home or outside of the scheduled activities is limited. This limited time is then filled with homework, mealtime, and bedtime prep. Eliminating activities several days a week will allow the child to have some time to play freely. The younger the kid is, the more time they need playtime. As they get older, they can take on more activities; however, under the age of 13, playing daily is a must for children.

4. Healthy Eating Falls by the Wayside

Any parent who’s busy chauffeuring multiple kids to different activities after school knows how tempting fast food can become. Fast food, however, leads to less healthy food choices. French fries and hamburgers — the staple combo in most fast-food joints — cannot help your child thrive nutritionally.

When families are overscheduled, they tend to go for easy and quick meals. When rushed, many of us make poor food choices because we aren’t taking the time to think about a meal’s nutritional value and a balanced diet for our children.

5. Family Mealtimes Become a Thing of the Past

When we are taking our kids to sports and other extra-curricular activities that fall during dinnertime, the family often misses out on sharing a meal at home.

This is true in our own home. There are certain nights of the week that we have practices, and so we either eat together early (if possible) or eat separately, depending on what our schedules allow.

There is so much value in having family dinners. It provides an opportunity for family members to discuss their day, including their work and school activities. It is a time when technology is set aside so that everyone can truly focus on communicating with one another and catching up on what is happening in each other’s lives. When a kid’s activities are scheduled every evening, then that family time at the dining table gets lost. Dinnertime becomes a thing of the past as we overschedule kids and ourselves.

Try learning more about family time here: How to Maximize Family Time? 13 Simple Ways You Can Try Immediately.

Solution

Assess our schedule during the week to ensure that there’s always time for dinner with the family. Make it a point to establish a dinnertime schedule for the evenings that you do not have prior engagements scheduled. Remember: the time that you have with your kids under your roof is fleeting. Before long, they will be grownups and start living on their own. You need not dismiss or minimize the opportunity to bond with your children over meals.

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Having family mealtimes also allows you to make excellent food choices. This way, parents can create balanced and healthy meals and teach their children about the importance of eating good food for their bodies.

How to Turn Things Around?

1. Fix the Displaced Ambitions

Parents with overscheduled kids often mean well. They want their children to succeed, so they give them every chance to make it happen. They sign them up for various lessons, sports, and activities that may help the kids find success in life.

In other cases, the parent probably didn’t get such opportunities when they were young and felt that they missed out on many things. Hence, they provide those missed opportunities to their kids during their own childhood.

Carla is an example of such a parent. Carla always wanted to take dance and ballet classes as a child. She heard her friends talk about dance classes and performances, and they would even bring recital photos to school, showing their beautiful, detailed costumes. Carla wanted to be in those dance classes and learn ballet and have the opportunity to perform in a beautiful costume in front of an audience. Unfortunately, her family could not afford to give her that opportunity.

When Carla gave birth to a baby girl, she had visions of her little one growing big enough to take dance, ballet, and even tap classes someday. She was looking forward to dressing her daughter in dance costumes and watching her take lessons and eventually performing in recitals. When Carla’s daughter Anna was old enough to enroll at a dance class at four years old, she was thrilled. However, after a few months, it became clear that Anna was not enjoying these classes. She would cry before every lesson, begging Carla to let her stay home and not go to class. Her daughter had no interest in learning to dance.

In truth, it happens to many parents. They would enroll their kid in an activity that they wanted to do as a child but never got to try. Unfortunately, a parent’s interest is not always the same as that of their kids’. The child may humor mom or dad for some time and do the activity out of compliance. But if the child does not enjoy it anymore, they will eventually make things clear to their parents.

Parents should listen to their children. If the activity is something that they do not enjoy doing, ask the children what they think they would like to do, and then eliminate activities that they are not into. Similarly, teach them commitment by finishing a program, but don’t enroll them again in the same class if they absolutely do not want to do it.

Let the kids try different activities at a young age. Sometimes they don’t know if they like something until they try it out.

2. Try Clinics of Camps Before Committing

Don’t enroll your child in three sports at the same time to see which one they like or excel at. Doing so will make your kid overscheduled. Instead, you can use the summer break or preseason camps or clinics to try a variety of activities they are interested in.

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As an example, all three of my children said that they wanted to do lacrosse. We had already tried soccer, and it was not successful for two out of three of them. They would rather chase butterflies down the field or play tag than actually participate in their games. Therefore, before committing to lacrosse and spending a great deal of money on their gear, I signed them up for a sample clinic. It was a one-day program that intended to expose children to the sport and see if they would perhaps enjoy playing it. I was surprised to find that the three kids enjoyed lacrosse, so we signed up for the season. It was nice to be able to see them try out the sport in a clinic before committing to an entire season.

Most towns and cities have parks and recreation department. This is often a good place to check for clinics and camps for various activities. Our local department even offers art and dance classes. Most of them meet between two and four times total, so the children can get some exposure to the activity before signing them up at a private facility for a more long-term commitment.

3. Take an Inventory of Your Weekly Activities

Often, we do an activity without reflecting on how much we are already committed to doing each week. Before we commit to any more activities, we must be willing to look at everything that each family member does. Every child’s commitment is another responsibility for the parent as well. Parents must take children to and from each practice, so you need to consider the drive time for any activity.

For instance, if each of my three kids signed up for three different activities each week, I would be running myself ragged. Three activities for three kids means taking them to nine activities during the week. That doesn’t include the games that will likely be scheduled on the weekends. Three activities for every child, therefore, is too much for our family.

If some practices overlap on the schedule, then you need two parents or responsible adults to transport the children to different locations. Before you sign them up for multiple activities, you need to factor downtime, stress levels, and your ability to take them to each activity in the equation.

Consider the following before your kids can commit to various activities:

  • What is the time commitment for the child each week? Do they have enough energy and stamina for the activities? Do they get enough downtime daily to prevent burnout?
  • Is practice time required outside of their scheduled team practices and games?
  • How long is the travel time for you as a parent, along with wait time during practices? Do you have time allowances for these activities in your own schedule?
  • Does the activity time conflict with other activities on the schedule? Will it eliminate family dinners on a regular basis?
  • Does the child really want to do the activity?
  • What is the motivation for signing up for the activity?
  • Is this activity or commitment going to cause a great deal of stress on the child or other family members?

Check out these time-management tips for parents: 10 Time Management Tips Every Busy Parent Needs to Know.

Get The Kids Active and Involved!

Despite everything, it does not mean that you shouldn’t sign your child up for different activities like sports, music, dance, karate, etc. They are all great activities that can help children develop a variety of valuable life skills. The goal is to enroll them in things that they genuinely enjoy and avoid overscheduling kids by not letting them sign up for too many activities at a time.

More Tips for Scheduling Kids’ Activities

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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