The Blog

Five Signs Your Baby is Ready to Sleep Through the Night

Baby in Towel at Bedtime“Babies aren’t designed to sleep through the night.”

If I had a dime for every time I’ve seen that posted on my Facebook page, I’d be able to retire to an island in Monaco.

I wouldn’t, mind you, because helping families find solutions to their sleep problems is more than a financial pursuit for me. I get more fulfillment from my work than I get from anything in my life, with the obvious exception of my own family.

So I would continue doing what I do now. From an island. In Monaco. No reason I can’t be devoted to my passion from a villa on the Mediterranean.

But back to my point… These aforementioned people range from subtle to militant when it comes to defending this point, and I think it comes from a misunderstanding of what I mean when I say “sleep through the night.”

I’m aware, being a mother of three, an expert on children’s sleep, and a functioning human being, that babies under a certain age need to feed during the night.

However, there is a big difference between feeding out of necessity and feeding out of habit.

Breastfeeding and Sleep Training Podcast

Many babies have learned that nursing is part of the process of falling asleep. To them, it’s just one of the steps along the way, and they have a hard time falling asleep without it.

Typically, after about six months, your baby is probably ready to start snoozing straight through the night without a feed, but age isn’t the only factor at play. Here are a few things to watch for when deciding if it’s time to pull that nighttime feed.

  • Eating solid foods

Breastmilk metabolizes quickly, and so does formula, to a lesser extent. That quick turnaround time can leave baby feeling hungry after a few hours, and leads to nighttime wakings in order to quiet their rumbling belly.

Solid food, on the other hand, digests rather slowly, and leaves baby feeling satisfied for longer. (Note:If you’re still breastfeeding, you’ll want to take steps to keep up your milk supply after you stop nursing at night.)

You may have heard that baby will sleep longer if you add a little cereal to her bedtime bottle. Well, she won’t. In fact, for babies under 4 months, it can make them gassy and poopy, so just don’t do it.

  • Gaining weight

I wouldn’t recommend dropping your night time feed if your baby’s not gaining weight, or keeping up with the typical weight gain schedule. Having said that, if they are putting on the pounds as your pediatrician has outlined, then it might be a great opportunity for both of you to start getting some serious shut-eye.

  • Sporadic wakeups

If baby’s waking up at predictable, evenly spaced times during the night, chances are she’s doing it because she’s hungry. If she’s waking up erratically at unpredictable times, it’s probably because she wants some help falling back to sleep.

This is a great time to start sleep training. Chances are, she’s got enough nourishment to get her through the night, but she’s coming around at the end of her sleep cycles. Out of habit, she’s looking for the familiar routine, which involves nursing and cuddles. Luckily, those habits haven’t been hard-coded by this point.

Teaching her how to fall asleep without those props will provide her, and you, with all the heavenly benefits that a solid night’s sleep provides.

Ending Nighttime Feeds Podcast

  • Eating less in the daytime

Baby’s appetite taking a dip in the daytime is a good sign that they’re getting the calories they need, and are ready to adjust their feeding schedule a little. If you can encourage her to eat some more during the day, you’ll have an easier time pulling at least one night feeding out of the schedule.

Mind you, I find that a lot of moms take this as a cue that baby’s not ready to stop feeding at night. “She doesn’t do well with solids, and doesn’t nurse as long in the day, so I need to keep those nighttime feeds.”

Truth is, it’s a bit of a catch 22, because until you end the night feeds, she’s not going to start eating more during the day. Once you pull the nighttime feed, you should notice a quick upturn in her daytime appetite.

  • Not eating much at night

One of the most common signs I see that baby’s ready to sleep straight through the night is when she wakes up, nurses a little, and then tries to initiate some play time. This is a confusing one for a lot of parents, who can’t understand why baby makes a fuss, only to nurse a half an ounce and then get all worked up.

That’s almost always the explanation, is that baby wasn’t hungry in the first place. She’s just used to a routine and you’re the central part of it.

Night weaning is a big step, I won’t kid you. A lot of moms find that they actually miss the experience, and that’s perfectly understandable. Mom and baby, alone in the middle of the night, sharing an intimate moment that’s so exclusively Mother and Baby… it’s beautiful, no doubt.

But so is eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, and that goes for both of you. There’s a lot of restorative, regenerative stuff going on during those eight hours, and it comes with a whole bunch of emotional and physical benefits for mom and baby alike.

So make sure you’re ready to go through with it, because you don’t want to pull it, only to start again a week later. It’s confusing for baby and will probably make the process tougher when you finally do decide to let her sleep through the night.

Baby Not Sleeping Through The Night?

Get One-On-One Help!

Yes, The Sleep Sense™ Program is a great Do-It-Yourself guide for solving your baby or toddler’s sleep problems!

But if you’re looking for full-service, one-on-one help, I’m here to help!

The Sleep Sense Philosophy

Cry-it-out? Coddle? Co-sleep? Attachment parenting? Ferberizing?
If you’re going to let me help you with something as precious as your child’s sleep, you probably want to know a little bit about who I am and exactly how I think...

Dana’s Sleep Blog

Straight talk about sleep, parenting,
babies, toddlers, relationships… and
just about anything else!
My blog is a great place to find opinions, advice, the occasional rant, and some great videos about sleep.

  • Free Baby Sleep Class: Tip #2

    Welcome to Tip #2 of my free baby sleep class! If you missed Tip…

    View Post
  • Free Baby Sleep Class: Tip #3

    Welcome to Tip #3 of my free baby sleep class! If you missed Tip…

    View Post
  • Free Baby Sleep Class: Tip #4

    Welcome to Tip #4 of my free baby sleep class! If you missed Tip…

    View Post

Client Testimonials