When Will My Baby Sleep Through the Night!? You Want the Good News or the Bad News First?

Photo Via API Click here for great info

Babies and children have needs at night just as they do during the day; from hunger, loneliness, and fear, to feeling too hot or too cold. They rely on parents to soothe them and help them regulate their intense emotions.

The GOOD News is babies are not meant to sleep through the night because it’s not safe for them to. The BAD news is babies are not meant to sleep through the night because it’s not safe for them to. So here is the ugly truth, being a parent is hard. There is no getting around it. For about the first five years of their lives MOST children will not sleep through the entire night. There I said it and I wish more people would. Being a parent doesn’t nor should it end when you go to sleep. Our children need us and like fire fighters we need to expect that they will need us at any time of day, and we should be prepared. Unlike fire fighters we don’t have to get dressed before we have to put out a fire/night terror. And hey isn’t that in the job description as a parent any way?

Sleep is important and without it some of us can get tired, even cranky, which can lead to frustration and when you are all of these things it’s easy to make decisions you may not have made  had you been well rested.

 ”Parents who are frustrated with frequent waking or who are sleep deprived may be tempted to try sleep training techniques that recommend letting a baby cry in an effort to “teach” him to “self-soothe”. New research suggests that these techniques can have detrimental physiological effects on the baby by increasing the stress hormone cortisol in the brain, with potential long term effects to emotional regulation, sleep patterns and behavior. An infant is not neurologically or developmentally capable of calming or soothing himself to sleep in a way that is healthy. The part of the brain that helps with self-soothing isn’t well developed until the child is two and a half to three years of age. Until that time, a child depends on his parents to help him calm down and learn to regulate his intense feelings.” -API

We Haven’t Always Slept Alone!

“It’s important to note that infant solitary sleep is a relatively new practice that has evolved in the western world only within the last 100 years. Recently, there have been efforts by various medical and professional organizations to discourage parents from sleeping with their children for fear that it contributes to an increase in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). However, new research demonstrates that co-sleeping, when practiced by informed parents, can be safe and beneficial. In fact, many cultures where parents routinely sleep with their children report some of the lowest SIDS rates. In some of these cultures SIDS is non-existent.

API encourages parents to respond to their children’s needs at night just as they do during the day. Parents are also encouraged to explore the variety of different sleeping arrangements, and to choose the approach that best allows them to be responsive at night. Individual babies’ sleep patterns and needs vary a great deal. Remain flexible and understand that it is developmentally appropriate and normal for babies to wake up during the night to feed and seek contact.”-API

Many of our generation cried ourselves to sleep as infants and sleep for most adults now is a major issue.

Do you know how you were parented at night? My husband and I recently discovered our Cry It Out  pasts.

I believe HOW we were brought up has a little to do with how we raise our babies.


Shared sleeping arrangements allow parents to pay attention to infants’ signaling which helps the infant learn to regulate emotional responses. According to Dr. Sears: 

” Nightwaking has developmental benefits. Sleep researchers believe that babies sleep “smarter” than adults do. They theorize that light sleep helps the brain develop because the brain doesn’t rest during REM sleep. In fact, blood flow to the brain nearly doubles during REM sleep. (This increased blood flow is particularly evident in the area of the brain that automatically controls breathing.) During REM sleep the body increases its manufacture of certain nerve proteins, the building blocks of the brain. Learning is also thought to occur during the active stage of sleep. The brain may use this time to process information acquired while awake, storing what is beneficial to the individual and discarding what is not. Some sleep researchers believe that REM sleeps acts to auto-stimulate the developing brain, providing beneficial imagery that promotes mental development. During the light sleep stage, the higher centers of the brain keep operating, yet during deep sleep these higher brain centers shut off and the baby functions on her lower brain centers. It is possible that during this stage of rapid brain growth (babies’ brains grow to nearly seventy percent of adult volume during the first two years) the brain needs to continue functioning during sleep in order to develop. It is interesting to note that premature babies spend even more of their sleep time (approximately 90 percent) in REM sleep, perhaps to accelerate their brain growth. As you can see, the period of life when humans sleep the most and the brain is developing the most rapidly is also the time when they have the most active sleep.”

With my kids sleep history the above means my kids are going to be super geniuses! While getting little sleep is no laughing matter, it s a part of early parenthood. I recently discovered that the word sacrifice in it’s origin means to make something sacred. Our early parenting years, as hard as they may be, in the end IS sacred and the loss of sleep that I had been so used to, up until my decision to have a baby is worth this very very sacred time in their and our lives.

OKAY OKAY you say, but WHEN is my baby going to SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT? More “bad” news…no one can say because babies are all so different from one another. Keep in mind the size of your babies tummy. You are saying, “Stomach?! Sleep?! What are you talking about?!” When your baby is born their tummy is about the size of a marble and even at three months it’s the size of a ping pong ball. In the first three months, tiny babies seldom sleep for more than four-hour stretches without needing a feeding. Then from three to six months, most babies begin to settle. Thank goodness!. They are awake for longer stretches during the day and some may sleep five-hour stretches at night. Between three to six months, expect one or two nightwakings. You will also see the period of deep sleep lengthen. The vulnerable periods for nightwaking decrease and babies are able to enter deep sleep more quickly. Dr. Sears calls this “sleep maturity”.


Please remember that your baby’s sleep habits are more about your baby’s temperament rather than how you parent at night. The ugly truth is that other parents usually exaggerate how long their baby sleeps, as if this makes you a good parent, it doesn’t. It is NOT  your fault baby wakes up. But they DO wake up. WHEN your baby reaches “sleep maturity” unfortunately, varies. now bear in mind even WHEN they achieve this “sleep maturity around the last half of the first year, they STILL wake up. WHY!?!? You say rubbing your eyes and yawning. Well painful stuff like teething pain, and colds pop up. When your little ones start doing big kid stuff like sitting, crawling, and walking, your baby will “practice” these new skills in their sleep. Then between one and two years of age, when your baby starts to sleep through the above-mentioned wake-up stimuli, other causes of nightwaking occur, such as separation anxiety and nightmares.

So now you know, but sleep is still important for you. In the early days of parenting, even before baby is born, set up your own village that it will take to raise this baby. Ask for help. There are plenty of folks in your life willing to play with or just look adoringly after your baby while you get some sleep. Having grandma or a best friend hold your child for four hours while you get your Sleep Maturity on can be a life saver. Consider registering for a post partum doula in those first few days and weeks after baby is born.

We did a series on Attachment Parenting on our radio show. These shows were emotionally moving for me. I always say I am not an expert & as it turns out, I am most certainly not an expert,  these shows have helped me reconnect, pause and strive to be a better mom. There is no such thing as a perfect parent. That’s not my goal. Personally I just want to do better for my children. I want to be responsible and I want to be kind. That’s it. AP isn’t about being perfect. It’s about finding out that there are different ways to parent, the information I get from API has helped me understand that the things I’ve done instinctually are backed up by science and common sense. I am grateful to API and if you are too please feel free to be as generous as possible and give back.


Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally Click Here to Listen to Broadcast

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This is the posts comments

  1. Erika January 26, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    Thank you for writing this piece. I am going to share this because it states this truth so beautifully. The idea that children usually night wake regularly until age 5 is refreshing! If only every mother could read this, she’d feel so much better! There is such a judgement about children who wake in the night….I’d get these looks of pity when people would ask me and I’d say (when DD was 2) I was waking usually twice a night with her….as though I was doing something wrong. But I was doing something RIGHT. I was responding to my little one. Today, she is a confident, kind, loving 6 year old. I know that is a lot of who she is in her soul, but I also know that it could have been a lot different if I ignored her cries in the attempt to teach her to “soothe herself.” To this day, I don’t know if I was left to CIO when I was a baby, but if I had to guess, I would bet big money that I was sleep trained. Because deep inside of me, I don’t trust….and I feel that the only person I can count on is myself. It is a lonely place. Maybe I would have been this way anyway…..but my intuition says otherwise. Or at least it wouldn’t be this pronounced. Thanks again for sharing this.

    • Malak May 29, 2012 at 11:28 am #

      I started using bumbo seat when my dahgetur was about 4 months until having a little chat with my dahgetur’s doctor. Bumbo seat wil actually discourage a child from wanting to seat up on their own. Also, even if used on the floor, if your child is very active, they can tilt over and hurt themselves.Instead of using the bumbo seat, try offering them to just chill out on the floor with a soft blanket. Give them tummy time. Throw some soft toys on the floor and leave them to play on their tummy. If child is way too young, like younger than 5 months. Alway supervise while they are on their tummy.good luck!References :

  2. Lora January 26, 2012 at 11:37 pm #

    This is perfectly written it’s such a pity this isn’t given to every mother as she leaves hospital with her new baby. I have three children who I have responded to night and day, we believe it has paid great dividends as our children are confident, independent and intelligent kids. I have not had a full nights sleep in over 5 years but know that it has been worth ever wake up call. We gave had very little support from family and friends but we have stick to our guns and now we and others can see the rewards.

  3. Jespren January 27, 2012 at 1:50 am #

    Good post. I also think a lot of the parents who insist their kids slept through the night at an unusually (for human biology) early age just sleeps through the kid crying down the hall. (Not all, but a lot). Neither of my kids were ‘good sleepers’. My 3 and a half year old usually sleeps through the night, or rather goes back to sleep by himself and without complaint. But he was well past 2 before that was the case. And my 22 month old still wakes several times to nurse or just for comfort. Although she has cut back recently to just 1 or 2 times for the last week or so. But those phases seem to come and go, and are far outweighed by the 3-5 night wakings. But you know what, eventually I know they will both being sleeping through the night…probably just in time for baby #3 to start the hourly wakings!

  4. Ruth January 27, 2012 at 1:54 am #

    ok, i get all this, my baby girl is now 9 months old and i’ve been more than happy to wake during the night to feed her. her cot is next to my bed but she’s usually just in my bed and so several feeds through the night (i;m not usually sure exactly how many cause i don’t wake up fully to feed her anymore) have been relatively easily provided until now. but i am starting to wonder if i should do things a bit differently…. my partner is now sleeping in a different bed so there’s enough room for me and our baby girl, who loves to sleep totally spreadeagled – usually right in the middle of the bed, with me tucked around her! and i am starting to really miss longer stretches of truly uninterrupted sleep. in a few weeks we’re moving overseas for a few months and i don’t want to potentially miss more sleep now by changing things around now but when we arrive i was thinking of having our baby sleep in a bed just with her dad for a few nights so if she wakes there is cuddles and comfort but no boob and see if that encourages her to sleep for longer stretches, the plan would be to then encourage her to sleep more in a cot, still in our room, and we could get our bed back. does this sound like a plan worth trying? or any other advice?

    • gena kirby March 3, 2012 at 2:56 am #

      We missed this comment and I am so sorry. Please give us an update!!

      • Rodrigo May 29, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

        I’m kinda excited to read more arcielts about parenting tips. Getting pregnant and while you are in pregnancy period is so nice to read in advance about parenting tips, especially those newbies mom. From choosing baby names and to help kid’s development. I will share this link to my friends who’s currently pregnant with her first baby.

    • Mee May 29, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

      as soon as they can hold their head up reliably. My son was born with raelly strong neck muscles, we put him in a bumbo at two weeks old and he did great, he loved it, but only for short periods of time because it would tire him out holding his head up.References :

  5. Janice January 28, 2012 at 12:59 am #

    Great article and information!

  6. Janneke January 28, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

    Sounds just great to me!
    I think that taking care of myself too, which means, letting our son sleep in is own bed (from early on, in our room), made me a better, healthier, happier mom. And my opinion is that sleeping on his own next to us gave him the opportunity to sleep undisturbed by our movements too.
    During the day I would carry him a lot, that felt really good.

    Since 10 months he sleeps in his own room, still waking up every now and then (teeth, dreams, or…?), but usually sleeping trough the night.

  7. Korey January 29, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    I too, loved this article, especially the part about REM sleep and brain development. It is frustrating to have to endure the comments of others when I say my daughter does not sleep through the night or we don’t let her cry it out. To me, responding to my daughter’s needs, no matter what the time, is the most natural, instinctual and loving thing a parent can do, while leaving a small child to fend for themselves in the dark is not. In fact, I love spending time with my daughter at night, rocking her to sleep, cuddling her and smelling her sweet breath. I will cherish those memories forever! Thanks again for a great article and I look forward to reading more from you.

  8. web site for my baby February 1, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    How will I know if my vomiting is morning sickness or the flu?~If it’s the flu, you’ll get better.

    • gena kirby March 3, 2012 at 2:53 am #

      This slipped through the cracks! I hope you are well! Update please!

  9. Emily Loupe April 24, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    This is a topic that has been on my mind very much lately since I have a 3 1/2 week old baby. I wrote a blog post about this yesterday and then came across your post today. I really enjoyed this post and am coming to terms with the fact that sleep will just be an elusive thing for the first few years no matter what I am being told by friends with babies “sleeping through the night”.

  10. Kate April 25, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

    I have enjoyed this post but I think there are limitations to how much a momma can get up in the night. You cannot run a household on 4-6 hours of interrupted sleep every night. In my experience with attending to my son every time he woke up this is what happened. I was losing my mind and I was also pregnant with our second child. I was doing harm to my body and my other baby. Once I hit my third trimester with #2 I said ENOUGH (my son was 10 months old at the time). I was not getting enough sleep to keep me going. There is a difference between sacrifice and martyrdom. I have used Dr. Weissbluth’s book “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child” and it has helped me and my son tremendously. No longer is my son sleep-deprived because he couldn’t sleep longer than 2-3 hours at a time and no longer am I so sleep-deprived. He naps so well and I get breaks every day, which refresh me and in turn his naps refresh him. I pray to God every day that the choices I am making as a mother will mold my sons into wonderful human beings that will do better for the world. In my heart, I felt that my son needed to cry it out to sleep better and for me to sleep better. I still feel this way.

    • louise September 29, 2013 at 7:28 am #

      You can survive on 4-6 hour interrupted sleep every night. Millions of parents do and always have done.

  11. Camilo May 29, 2012 at 7:53 am #

    Beautifully written, thank you for shranig this.Sleep is the one area where my wee angel has trouble as well, and always has done. Like you, I felt that leaving her to cry was not the right choice for her and so she has slept by my side since birth, snuggled into me, safe, secure.We’re just transitioning her out of our bed now, because we have another baby due at the end of June. I get teary thinking about not having her there with me as, like you say, they are only this small once and I will miss that closeness. I stay with her until she is asleep, and foresee that I will for as long as she needs me to also, though Daddy may have to step up and take a little more of a role in bed times when the new baby arrives I think!

  12. Erica Haberli December 8, 2012 at 2:29 am #

    Thank you for taking your time to write this. This is the most spot on article on this subject I have ever read. It solidifies my experience and all my maternal instincts and feelings.

  13. Randee Jennings March 3, 2013 at 7:32 am #

    That was so awesome to read!! I love this and shared on my feed.

  14. Jenny Bennett March 21, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    Awesome post. Sharing with my childbirth class students.

  15. Long Ashbach August 20, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

    Sweet blog! I found it while searching on Yahoo News. Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Many thanks

  16. Katie Jane Flower September 29, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    Marvellous stuff.

  17. Chali Patterson September 29, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    I have twins. They are almost 6 now. Once they were at the appropriate weight (13 – 20 pounds), they slept for longer stretches. My son started sleeping through the night and still does unless he has a bad dream or is sick. My daughter has never slept through the night. She has had colic, reflux, night terrors, and sleep apnea (related to tonsils and hypothyroidism). She will sleep a few hours and then wake up and come get me. She is very fearful of the dark and being alone even with white noise, soothing music, and 2 nightlights. We still use monitors! We don't let the kids sleep with us, but they both have beds big enough for me to sleep with them. I spend time with my husband until she wakes up, and then I make the transfer. I figure it will eventually work itself out. I've tried everything from "magic" spray, fairy dust, massage, self soothing techniques (that have never worked), to whatever anyone offers up in advice. I'm done! She is actually scared, but I know it won't last forever. So… If she needs me, I will be there! I can't imagine her as a teenager wanting mama to sleep with her. And, after all, haven't you ever said, "I just sleep better when my spouse/significant other is lying next to me!"?

  18. Rachel Joshua Aaron Reviczky September 29, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

    I'm sorry but this whole "Your friends are LIARS if they say their baby sleeps through the night" is bullshit.

    My daughter, unless teething, as long as she's properly dressed and does not become too cold or too hot, and has had a proper bed time feeding sleeps for 8-10 hours STRAIGHT regularly (she started doing this HERSELF after 4 months of age starting in 7 hour bursts and slowly working her way up). She smiles ALL of the time, is happy and is a generally good baby. She is attended to when she's crying and we've never exercised the "cry it out" method. She's exclusively breastfed and is in the 90th + percentile for everything even though she was premature.

    Your whole "Every baby is different" is contradicted by saying every baby doesn't sleep through the night.

    EVERY baby is different, some will sleep through the night and some wont. It's not UNHEALTHY if they do, as long as you're not trying to force them to.

  19. Karrine Williams September 29, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    My son slept through the night starting at 5 weeks… weird I know, but true. And my daughter didnt until she was 9 months. So yes, every baby is different, these people who think they know everything yanks my chain. As long as youre doing what you can for the babys needs, there is nothing wrong with either scenario.

  20. Rachel Joshua Aaron Reviczky September 29, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    Karrine Williams I agree completely, everyone seems to think they have the right answers and it really irks me when people think they have all of the answers. Some babies will wake up every night until they're 5 and some will sleep through the night as babies. There's no right or wrong answer, as long as the baby is happy and healthy then nothing else matters.

  21. Lucretia Bowens September 29, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

    My baby started sleeping through the night at 3 months her older sisters began sleeping through around same time and my son was colicky so i didnt get relief of that til 5 month. There really isn't a wrong answer.

  22. Nichole Babel September 29, 2013 at 11:15 pm #

    Great article!! It is reassuring and inspiring. I have a 21 month old who still nurses and is up a few times a night. I keep reminding myself that it will pass. In the mean time the co sleeping and nursing are helping my son grow and develop. I am tired and far from perfect but after discovering API I felt even more confident in the way I was raising my two little angels. Keep it coming……..I love reading this stuff!!

  23. Nichole Babel September 29, 2013 at 11:25 pm #

    Take a deep breath!! Every parent has their own way of parenting that works for them. All of these different groups that support certain styles of parenting are just avenues for you to explore while on your journey. If you don't agree with it move on!! There is no need to bash different ideas or concepts merely because you don't agree with them. Now if you are feeling guilt because of some of the parenting choices you have made join the club. As mentioned above no parent is perfect and the best thing to do is learn from your mistakes and take steps to make better choices for the future. Good luck!!

  24. Gena Kirby October 7, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    Nichole Babel Thanks for your sweet response. I didn't bother responding to anger because that never gets us anywhere. I will concede though that the truth is closer to VERY FEW babies sleep through the night (because they are NOT supposed to, but there are exceptions to everything right?).
    Some people feel better after a good huff and puff and it can make them feel better about themselves to boot! Bully for them says I! Thanks again for being a gentle parent and apparently a gentle person!

  25. Toni Rae Carroll October 8, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    I have raised 5 children. I used the old fashioned "let them cry it out" method for the first 4. It was miserable. When the youngest was born, he seemed more needy, he did not sleep for over 24 hours when we first brought him home. nothing seemed to work. Then, I needed to sleep!!! so I laid him on my bare chest and I reclined. ZAP! he slept for a very long time, waking up just to feed. Then he slept again. For his first year, we let him sleep with us. First laying on our chests, then snuggled between us. We let him decide when to sleep on his own. At a year old, he moved himself to his toddler bed and slept well. He became my most confident and mature child. He didn't sleep through the night for several years still, but he knew all he had to do is call out and hear that we would respond, and he would go right back to sleep.

  26. Jake Carroll October 13, 2013 at 11:43 pm #

    Most comfident and mature? Hes the only kid that didnt pay family bills at any point in history. Have you met you otger son? Or your daughter who left gome at 17the for college?

  27. Gena Kirby December 29, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    Thank you!

  28. Gena Kirby December 29, 2012 at 5:13 pm #



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