Hi Mamma! Did you know that a parent loses over 350 hours of sleep during her baby’s first year of life? I didn’t know exactly how much sleep I was losing at the time, but I certainly felt like a walking zombie for more than a few months. If you’re in the trenches of new motherhood I know one of your most immediate and urgent needs is sleep, so sleeping through the night is a HOT topic. Although every baby is different, read on for more information on baby sleep – and when you’ll FINALLY get to catch up on some much needed rest.
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WHY YOU GET NO REST
Before you had a baby you may have heard that newborns sleep all day, so once you have one of your own it’s only normal to wonder WHY you haven’t slept in what feels like years. While it’s true newborn babies sleep a lot – unfortunately for parents, it is usually in short spurts. They need to eat frequently, so you probably aren’t going to get much uninterrupted rest in the early weeks. Experts recommend feeding “on demand” which means you offer the breast or bottle whenever your newborn is hungry. This basically rules out sleeping through the night.
Feeding by the numbers
Here are some quick facts on how frequently your infant will need to eat:
- Newborns eat 8-12 times a day, which can be every 1-3 hours around the clock
- By three months old, feeding sessions are usually down to 7-9 times per day
- At six months, many babies are down to 4-6 sessions daily
At three to six months you may have reduced the number of nursing or feeding sessions and feel that you should be getting a full night’s rest based on the number of times a day baby eats. While technically this is true, many experts qualify sleeping through the night when an infant goes six-eight hours without feeding. Since many babies go to bed as early as 6-7 p.m. this still means an overnight wake-up for the parents.
DOES BREASTFEEDING MEAN MORE FREQUENT WAKEUPS?
You might have heard that breastfed babies need to eat more frequently, and will take longer to sleep through the night. Please don’t let this deter you from the amazing benefits of breastfeeding. While it’s true that breast milk is digested more quickly, many breastfed babies are sleeping through the night early during their first year.
Here are a couple of suggestions to get some extra sleep as a breastfeeding mamma:
- Try a dream feed. This is basically a nursing session while your little one is semi-awake that you do right before YOU go to bed, to hold baby over for a longer stretch during the night. Rouse the baby only enough for her to latch on and then put her right back down and immediately head to bed
- Top off with formula. If you’re having supply issues and are already supplementing, feel free to do a bottle of formula right before bed. This may get you some extra ZzZz before your next wake up. (DO NOT do this if you’re trying to keep up your milk supply and are exclusively breastfeeding. If your baby needs this milk and you tell your body he doesn’t by formula feeding – your supply WILL drop.)
WHEN WILL SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT HAPPEN?
After all that, I still haven’t told you WHEN you can expect to get some sleep. Fear not, the information you’ve been waiting for is right here. At six months many babies are sleeping through the night, but many still don’t. Every baby is different. Some breastfed babies sleep through the night at three months. My daughter didn’t sleep through the night until she was a year old. The good news is that the National Sleep Foundation estimates that 70% of babies will sleep through the night by nine months.
Ok. I know. When you’re on week two or month two (or ten) of what feels like zero sleep – nine months or a year feels like a lifetime. And I know you sometimes think you aren’t going to make it. Sleeping through the night feels like a mirage that may never happen again. Although I can’t make the wake-ups any easier, try reminding yourself of the amazing things that are happening each and every day with your little one. With each newborn nighttime feeding your baby is growing, and every time your nine-month-old cries out to be held at 3 a.m. try to remember that she won’t need you like this forever. While it absolutely doesn’t feel like it when you’re in the trenches, this will be a relatively short phase.
Sleep chart by age
The most important thing you can do is try to get as much rest as you can, whenever you can, and to make sure your little one is getting the appropriate amount of sleep for their age. Although there may be frequent wake-ups, infants definitely need a lot of sleep to learn and grow. Check out the handy table below for reference on baby and toddler sleep by age!
*Table adapted from information on Baby Center.
Remember, night-time sleep does not equal uninterrupted sleep, but this is a good guide to follow to ensure your little is getting the rest they need.
For more tips on surviving sleep deprivation in the infant stage, check out my post on surviving the four month sleep regression.
Each baby is different, and different factors such as birth weight and breastfeeding can impact sleep cycles. In general, you can expect to get more sleep by the time baby is about three months old. There will be regressions and interruptions due to illness to look forward to, but the continual days and nights of new parenthood should be a distant memory by the time baby has her first birthday.
Sleep tight Mamma.
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