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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 December 20, 2019

Is Authoritarian Parenting Good or Bad for Your Child?

Is Authoritarian Parenting Good or Bad for Your Child?

Kate sits down to the dinner table and is eager to be a good girl and eat her dinner like her Mom and Dad want her to do. She is a sweet girl who wants the approval of her parents very much. It is not always easy though. During dinner, she stands up and starts to leave the table because she has to use the bathroom. Her Dad yells at her to sit back down. He tells her “we don’t just get up from the dinner table, we wait and ask to be excused after everyone is finished eating.” She begins to protest, wanting to explain that she needs to use the bathroom. Her father becomes more upset with her and yells at her that she is now talking back and she is not allowed to say another word at the dinner table until everyone is finished eating and then she can be excused.

Unfortunately for Kate, she can’t hold it, and she has a little accident because she is too fearful to say a word to her Dad. She doesn’t want to get yelled at anymore. She also knows that in her home, kids don’t have a say. What Mom and Dad say is like words carved into stone. They are strict beyond reason and they will not bend their rules. Therefore, Kate felt that she had no choice in the matter and when she could no longer hold it. There was nothing she could do about it.

Kate’s parents are an example of authoritarian parenting. They are strict, they are not emotionally engaged with their children, and they have very high expectations for their children. This type of parenting style leaves children feeling disconnected from their parents.

Kate wanted to communicate to her parents that she had to use the restroom, but she couldn’t even get her words out because her parents have such strict rules and demands of her. They did not care to hear what she had to say, because upholding their rules was more important to them. In their household, a child’s opinions and feelings do not matter.

This kind of strict parenting is not helpful for children. It can damage a child and leave them with low self-esteem, mental health issues, and doing poor academically among other problems cited by research in Parenting Science.[1]

What Does Authoritarian Parenting Look Like?

In the 1960’s, a researcher and theorist by the name of Baumrind established the well known theory of parenting styles. Those four parenting styles, which are well known today, are authoritarian, authoritative, passive, and neglectful. For proactive parents that are trying hard to be good parents, they will usually lean toward either authoritarian or authoritative.

Authoritarian parenting involves strict parenting and high expectations for children. This can sound reasonable and even like good parenting. However, the strict parenting is often characterized by lack of compassion toward the child, little to no flexibility in rules, and complete control sought over the child’s behavior.

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Parents who use this parenting style believe it is their job to control the will and behavior of their children. An article in Psychology Today explains how authoritarian parents operate:[2]

Authoritarian parents believe that children are, by nature, strong-willed and self-indulgent. They value obedience to higher authority as a virtue unto itself. Authoritarian parents see their primary job to be bending the will of the child to that of authority—the parent, the church, the teacher. Willfulness is seen to be the root of unhappiness, bad behavior, and sin. Thus, a loving parent is one who tries to break the will of the child.

For example, Jake has authoritarian parents. He wants to stay out past curfew on a school night because he has an opportunity to play in a jazz ensemble. He has been playing the saxophone for years and his ambition is to play in a college jazz ensemble.

With Jake still being in high school, his parents have a curfew. On school nights, it is 8:00 pm. This rule is instituted because his parents believe they need to ensure that Jake gets his school work done each night and that he needs to be well rested for school the next day. However, they don’t explain the why of their rules to him, they simply tell him that those are their rules. The jazz ensemble is practicing at 8:00 pm on a Thursday night and they have invited Jake to come play with them. It is a well known group and a huge opportunity for Jake.

Unfortunately, his parents say no. Their authoritarian parenting style is unwavering. He wants to discuss the opportunity and its importance, but his parents will not even entertain the conversation. They stop him mid-sentence and go over their rules again. There is no flexibility.

If Jake’s parents had been authoritative, they would have taken the time to hear out his case and would likely have granted him a later curfew for that one instance. They would see that, although they have a curfew, there are some instances when an opportunity is worth bending the rules. They would ask that he has his homework done before going to play with the group, and that he come home as soon as the practice was finished.

Authoritative parents have rules, but they are also flexible based on reasonable requests for exceptions. The authoritative parents are interested in how their children are thinking and feeling. Conversely, authoritarian parents are not likely to be interested in hearing their child’s thoughts and feelings, because they want to control the will of their child, not come to some middle ground.

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Here are some characteristics of authoritarian parenting:

  • They have strict rules that are unyielding and unwavering. This is often called “heavy handed parenting.”
  • They do not want input from the child about rules. They also feel that the child’s opinion does not matter, because they are the parent thus are the supreme authority over the child.
  • There are severe punishments when rules are broken.
  • There is an emotional disconnection between parent and child, because the parent is not interested in what the child thinks or feels. They are more interested in controlling the behavior of the child and having the child be compliant to their rules.
  • Children are expected to listen to their parents and follow the rules, there are no exceptions. A child that voices their objections will likely be punished for doing so.
  • The parents have high expectations, especially when it comes to compliance of their rules.
  • Parents expect that their child will be obedient and they do not need to explain the “why” of their rules and expectations. Compliance is expected out of sheer obedience, not because the child understands the reasons why the rules are set. Parents do not feel the need to explain why they set their rules.
  • There is a failure to have attached relationships between parent and child because of the overly dominant nature of authoritarian parents and their unwillingness to allow their children to have their own voice or free will.

Authoritarian parents are driven by a belief that they need to control their children. This means controlling their children’s behavior to an extreme. They are inflexible and don’t take into account the child’s desires, emotions, or well-being as being as important to enforcing rules to get the desired outcome. Authoritative parents on the other hand, seek to guide and direct their children instead of control. There is a distinction.

The Problems of Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritarian parenting has many negative consequences to children. Children who are raised in homes with extreme authoritarian parenting are more likely to become dependent on drugs and alcohol, have lower academic performance, and increased mental health issues according to Parenting for Brain.[3] Children who are raised with authoritarian parents are also more likely to have lower self esteem, inability to make decisive choices, and have social skills that are lacking.

When a child is raised to be taught day in and day out that their voice does not matter, then that child will likely be ingrained with that belief. They will not value their own opinions because they have been taught that what they think does not matter and is of no value. This leads to poor self-esteem and low self-worth.

If a child doesn’t believe that their thoughts matter, then what they think about themselves overall is going to be affected. They will not think highly of themselves or believe that what they think, say, or do is of value. This will contribute to low self-esteem long term.

Social skills will suffer because a child who comes from an authoritarian home will be trained to believe that nobody wants to hear their opinion and that relationships are based on compliance.

For example, Judy is raised in an authoritarian home. She is now 18 years old and has her first boyfriend. Anytime that he asks something of her, even if she internally disagrees, she feels that she is supposed to comply and do what he says in order for him to like her and continue wanting to be with her.

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He wants to have sex. She does not feel that she is ready, but she will not voice this to her boyfriend because she doesn’t think that her opinion will matter or that he will want to listen to what she is feeling. She goes along with sex in their relationship to be compliant. She doesn’t want to be punished by disagreeing with not having sex. He says that they are ready for that next step in the relationship and she fears that the consequence of saying no would be that he ends the relationship.

Therefore, she doesn’t even voice her thoughts or feelings on the situation because she doesn’t think they have value or will be heard anyway.

She has been taught by her parents that her opinions and feelings don’t matter. She has learned from the past 18 years with her parents that what matters most is that she is compliant. She gets along with her parents best when she is doing exactly what they want her to do. This is why she feels the need to do the same with her boyfriend.

Going along with his decisions, being compliant, and not voicing her feelings will keep the relationship going and avoid conflict or punishment. The ultimate punishment in her mind would be that he ends the relationship.

With her opinions never being valued by those who she has loved the most (her parents), she has learned that she should not voice her opinion if she wants to keep the other person in the relationship happy. In her mind, because of how she has been raised, compliance overrides all else, and her opinion is meaningless.

However, her boyfriend is not her parents. He is understanding and would want to know how she feels. He wants a long term relationship with her and he loves her so much. His true desire is for her to be happy. He would never want her to have sex if she wasn’t feeling the same way that he was feeling. He would gladly wait and would want to hear what she thinks and feels about taking their relationship to the next level.

Authoritarian parenting methods can inflict great harm on a child. The child becomes emotionally damaged because they grow up believing that their opinions, thoughts, and feelings do not matter. Instead they are taught that compliance and being obedient supersedes all else.

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The Solution

The solution is to move from authoritarian parenting methods to authoritative parenting practices.

Authoritative parenting has been deemed as the best parenting method by researchers, according to Psychology Today. Parents who use authoritative parenting methods have rules for their children, but they are not looking for blind compliance. They recognize that having a relationship with their child is of great importance and therefore valuing the child’s voice, opinions, and thoughts is important.

Authoritative parents seek to guide and direct their children, but they do not seek to control the will of their child.

Parenting Coach Plan explains the foundation of authoritative parenting as the following:[4]

Authoritative parenting can be described as a style of parenting that combines firm limits and clear boundaries with fair and consistent discipline. Authoritative parents are also nurturing, highly-involved, and willing to speak openly with their child regarding expectations and the consequences for failing to meet those expectations. Rules are enforced and fair consequences are put in place for when those rules are broken.

Children raised in authoritative homes follow the rules because they understand the “why” of the rules. They are also bonded to their parents because they are able to talk to their parents openly. This bond helps nurture a positive home environment and a two-way relationship that can last a lifetime.

To learn more about how to be an authoritative parent and how to discipline a child using this parenting method, check out my article:

How to Discipline a Child (The Complete Guide for Different Ages)

Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

Reference

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