Meg Faure (sleep expert) answers:
Being a new mom is utterly exhausting, and no-one tells you just how you will feel when in this state! Somehow the moms whose babies do sleep through the night early are the only ones we hear from (or the only ones who speak up). The reality is, though, that very few babies sleep through as early as four weeks. Most babies take until six months to sleep through the night.
To properly answer your question and address your expectations, we need to defi ne “sleeping through the night”. Sleeping through means sleeping more than eight hours at a stretch at night. In other words, if your little one has a feed at 6:30pm and wakes at 2:30am, he could in theory be said to be sleeping through.
In terms of age-appropriate wakings, a six-month-old can be expected to sleep 10 hours at night without waking for a feed, and a toddler should sleep 12 hours at night.
Babies younger than this are very variable, and it largely depends on their personalities, health, and feeds and weight. A four-week-old can be expected to start to sleep for one longer stretch at night. In other words, if you give your four-week-old the last feed of the day at 7pm, he should stretch to four or even fi ve hours before needing the next feed. Some settled babies do sleep longer than this, and if your baby does, be happy.
By 12 weeks you can expect your little one to only be waking once at night (at around 2 or 3am).
To improve your little one’s sleep, feed in the dark and don’t change his nappy unless it is soiled. Don’t burp him for too long and try to resettle him immediately after the feed. Night feeds need to be kept as calm and quiet as possible to discourage interactions.
If your baby continues to wake at three-hourly or even shorter intervals at night, you need to rule out two problems:
- He may be reversing his day/night sleeps. In this case, be sure to feed at least every three hours and interact more during the day and keep night feeds very quiet.
- He may be suffering from reflux, which will need to be ruled out and treated by a medical doctor.
Although this answer may not be the one you are looking for, you will find that night wakings are more manageable if your expectations are matching your baby’s capacity to sleep at night.