4 signs your baby is ready to sleep through the night

This is for sleep-deprived parents looking forward to the day when their infant will sleep soundly through the night.

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Life with a newborn is an endless haze of diaper changes, feeds and sleep-deprived nights. So, the burning question on any worn-out parent’s lips is: When will my baby sleep through the night?

Of course, she will ― eventually. But the truth is, every baby is different. While there is no one age when babies sleep through the night, around the 4+ month mark, important developmental milestones can totally change your infant’s sleep, helping them snooze for a longer period.

Yet, April Lim, 36, recalls the comments made by her mother and mother-in-law when her 5-month-old daughter Isabella was still waking up several times a night. They made remarks like, “Your breastmilk is not nutritious or filling enough to keep your baby full”, “Don’t let your baby sleep so much in the day”, “Start her on solids earlier”, “Let her cry it out until she is tired”.

Sleeping through the night usually means sleeping for eight to 12 hours straight without needing to get up for a night feed.

The homemaker recalls, “It was frustrating because I had a crying infant every night and there were so many negative opinions from others on why she was not sleeping through the night. I was worried that she was not getting enough sleep.”

After poring through many parenting books on the topic, Lim was relieved to find that her daughter’s behaviour was normal. She says, “I realised that every baby is different, and some sleep through the night earlier than others.

“Isabella was not ready to sleep through the night as she had not passed several developmental milestones. All I needed to do was to implement and encourage good sleep habits rather than mull over the quality and content of my breastmilk.”

What sleeping through the night entails

Sleeping through the night usually means sleeping for eight to 12 hours straight without needing a night feed. For this reason, newborns generally are not able to sleep through the night yet as their sleep is dictated by their feeding needs.

Baby and child sleep expert Zoe Chu notes that it is important for babies to sleep through the night, “Important growth hormones are released during baby’s sleep and it helps with their physical and brain development.

“With good sleep, your child will get plenty of these growth hormones for proper learning and social adjustment as well. A child who is sleep deprived will usually get cranky and frustrated easily, and it also affects their learning abilities and appetite."

Chu adds, “Their tummies are still very small and would require regular feeding all throughout the day and night as many as eight to 12 times a day. Newborns are also unaware of the concept of day and night. It’s important to regulate their body clock by exposure to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness per day and make the day and night significantly different.”

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How to discern if bubba can sleep through the night

Before your baby can sleep through the night, they’ll need to hit several developmental and growth milestones:

#1 Decreased startle reflex
Also called Moro reflex, this is a baby’s involuntary response to being startled by sudden loud noises or sudden movement. They might suddenly jerk their bodies, extend their arms and legs, arch their back, and then curl everything in again. The reflex usually drops significantly and disappears after several months.

#2 Increased weight gain
“Generally, most experts believe once baby is over 3 months of age and weighing more than 6kg, then they can be expected to sleep through the night, say, for a good stretch of 7 to 8 hours for the night,” Chu points out.

#3 Fewer night feedings
For babies at between 3 and 6 months of age, Chu notes that sleeping through the night could mean bedtime from 7 or 8pm until 6am or 7am (11 to 12 hours) the next morning with one or two middle-of-the-night feeds say around 11pm or 12 midnight.

Babies who are 6 months and above and who have already started solids and are feeding well (full feeding and not snacking) during the day, they can be expected to sleep 11 to 12 hours at night without a needing a night feed.

“Generally, most experts believe once baby is over 3 months of age and weighing more than 6kg, then they can be expected to sleep through the night, say, for a good stretch of 7 to 8 hours for the night,”

#4 Increased ability to self-soothe
Can your baby go back to sleep on their own if they wake up in the middle of the night? As babies increasingly master the act of self-soothing, so does the ability to sleep for longer periods of time.

Helping your infant to sleep through the night

For mothers who want to instil good sleeping habits in their babies to ensure that they sleep through the night, Chu has tips:

Do...

* … Get your child into a routine from the start ― establish the EASY (Eat, Activity, Sleep and Your time) cycle, so that your child knows what to expect next.

* … Teach your child to self-settle.

* … Put your child to bed early.

* … Be consistent in putting your child to sleep.

* … Stick to the same safe sleep environment.

* … Make your child’s sleep a priority.

* … Get help from a baby sleep consultant if you are struggling to get your child to sleep well. A sleep consultant can put all the pieces of the puzzle together and customise a sleep plan and be your cheerleader and coach as you implement the sleep plan

Don’t…

* … Believe your child will outgrow those bad sleeping habits ― if you do not teach your child healthy sleep habits, it would be hard for your child to pick up these good habits on their own.

* … Put your child to bed too late, anything after 9pm would be far too late ― children who go to bed late are often overtired, cranky or hyperalert.

* … Overstimulate your child before bedtime ― no gadgets, TV or overly exciting activities before bedtime.

* … Skip the bedtime routine ― your child needs time to wind down and be prepared mentally for bed.

* … Introduce any sleep props such as rockers, baby hammocks, pacifiers or patting to help your child fall asleep.

* … Ignore your baby’s sleep window ― if you miss the sleep window, your child will be cranky and will not be able to nap or sleep longer.

Chu advises, “If a 4- to 6-month-old baby is still waking up multiple times at night, parents should start figuring out what is the reason behind the waking. If baby is not waking up due to hunger or discomfort, then most likely, the reason is because baby has some sleep associations. Parents can resolve these issues by implementing healthy sleep habits for their baby.”

Photos: iStock

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