Here’s when breastfed babies sleep through the night, plus proven breastfeeding and baby sleep tips for new moms.
If you’re a first time mom you’ll likely have lots of questions about baby sleep.
What’s the best sleep environment?
How do I keep my baby warm at night?
And most importantly, when am I ever going to get a full night’s sleep?
It doesn’t take long for new moms to get exhausted from waking up in the middle of the night for feedings.
So, when can you expect some relief?
Here’s when breastfed babies start sleeping through the night, plus other helpful tips to help your baby sleep so you can too.
When do breastfed babies sleep through the night?
When babies start sleeping through the night depends on several factors, including the baby’s age, weight, whether or not you’re breastfeeding, and your family’s nighttime sleep habits.
And to be clear, “sleeping through the night” doesn’t mean your baby won’t wake up at all. The definition of sleeping through the night is six to eight straight hours overnight.
That’s only a portion of the total 10 to 12 hours (or more) of sleep babies generally need at night
And 70-80 percent of babies are sleeping through the night by 9 months old.
Here’s a simple chart to make understanding baby sleep cycles much easier:
Newborns require frequent feedings to keep their tiny tummies full.
Breastfed newborns’ longest sleep periods are generally 2–3 hours. And they should sleep no longer than one four-hour stretch per 24 hours.
This means you’ll be up and down for night feeds every 2-3 hours to make sure they get the nutrition they require.
Needless to say, those early weeks and the first month or two can be really hard on new parents.
At 3 months, a baby averages a total of 5 hours of sleep during daytime naps and 10 hours at night, usually with an interruption or two. Most babies this age can sleep for a 5-6 hour stretch.
As your baby gets older and continues to gain weight, they’ll be able to sleep for longer periods and will start to drop night feedings.
Many moms start introducing solids at around 6 months of age. And as long as those solid foods incorporate protein and fats, breastfed babies will probably sleep longer at night, with a decrease in nursing frequency.
You may finally get that coveted, 8 hours you desperately need!
Your baby’s sleep patterns will continue to evolve as they become more mature. But, you may also experience some temporary setbacks.
More on that, below.
As your baby starts to go longer stretches at night without eating, you won’t need to worry about your milk production.
Most moms will stop making as much milk during the night because their babies will probably be drinking more during the day. Your breasts will adjust and make more milk while your baby is awake.
You may initially experience engorgement or a feeling of fullness as your body adjusts to fewer overnight feedings.
If that happens, you may want to consider either waking your baby for a quick “dream feed” (the practice of feeding a sleeping infant) or pumping just enough to relieve yourself.
As your baby matures and starts taking solid foods, the need for breast milk will decrease and your body will adjust for that too.
Why do formula-fed babies sleep longer?
Breast milk gets digested faster than formula, and therefore babies who are breastfed need to wake up slightly more often.
Formula-fed babies do tend to sleep a little bit longer than breastfed babies, but not by much (an extra 30-60 minutes depending on the baby).
And that’s probably not enough to merit making drastic changes to your baby’s diet.
Proven Sleep Tips for Breastfed Babies
Any baby can be a “good sleeper” under the proper conditions.
Now that we’ve covered when breastfed babies sleep through the night, here are some helpful baby sleep tips for new moms.
Follow these guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics to help keep your baby safe while they sleep:
- The APA recommends that babies sleep in their parent’s room, close to, but not in, their bed, for the first year of life or at least 6 months.
- Place babies on their backs to sleep every time.
- Use a firm sleep surface (making sure the crib, pack and play, or bassinet doesn’t indent while the baby is laying on it).
- Avoid co-sleeping and return them to their own bed after nursing.
- Remove soft objects and loose bedding.
- Consider offering a pacifier at nighttime or bedtime, once breastfeeding has been established.
- Avoid overheating and head coverings.
- Do not use home cardiorespiratory monitors as a strategy to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Tips to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night
1. Create and Stick to a Good Bedtime Routine
It’s important to prioritize good sleep habits and establish a regular bedtime routine from the beginning.
This will help your baby recognize when it’s time to sleep and prepare them for what’s to come.
You might start by bathing your baby, singing them a song, or reading a book.
Choose a routine that works for you and that’s easy to repeat each night.
RELATED: Here’s How To Wash Newborn Hair (3 Easy Steps!)
2. Avoid Changing Diapers at Night (Where Possible)
A late-night diaper change can rouse your baby and prevent them from falling back to sleep.
With an extra absorbent diaper, you can usually avoid diaper changes unless it’s a really bad blow-out, or your baby is currently suffering from a diaper rash.
RELATED: 16 Foods That Cause Diaper Rash in Toddlers
3. Move Baby Into Their Own Space
Try creating some space between you and your baby when age-appropriate.
You can either move them to their own room or further away in your bedroom.
This will help them gain some independence and encourage them to self-soothe.
RELATED: Baby Girl Bedroom Ideas on a Budget
4. Make Sure Your Baby Gets Enough Calories During the Day
If your baby doesn’t get enough food during the day, you can expect them to make up for it at night.
Make daytime feedings a priority so their bellies are more full at night.
5. Wake Baby for A “Dream Feed” Before You Go to Bed
You’ll likely put your baby down before you’re ready to go to sleep. Try giving your baby a quick dream feed before you go down, so you can sleep for a longer stretch of time.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Let Your Baby Cry
Night waking doesn’t always mean your baby is hungry. Babies often wake up during the night as part of their sleep cycle.
If you hear your baby cry, wait a little while before going into to feed or soothe them.
They may just fall back asleep on their own!
If you’re working on dropping night feedings or weaning from breastfeeding to whole milk, here are some tips to make the process easier.
1. Stretch Out Feedings
Add longer stretches of time between feedings to slowly eliminate nursing sessions. This will allow your baby and your body time to adjust.
2. Shorten Feedings
Instead of offering a full feeding, slowly shorten feedings until they’re no longer needed.
3. Wait to Feed
If your baby is six months of age, gaining weight at a normal rate, and able to eat as many calories as they need during the day, then chances are your baby isn’t waking at night because they need to eat.
They’re likely using nursing as a way to get back to sleep.
Wait to feed your baby, and see if they go back to sleep on their own.
Here are some common obstacles that may affect your baby’s ability to fall asleep on their own, and common reasons for sleep regression.
Teething can disrupt your baby’s sleep. Unfortunately, this is one of those things that just has to pass.
However, you can help to soothe your baby’s gums with things like breast milk popsicles or even letting them chew on a damp rag.
Once the tooth breaks through, your baby should get back to their regular sleep pattern.
2. Poor Sleep Environment
Your baby’s sleep might be negatively impacted by their environment.
Ensure your baby’s room is dark and try using a noise machine to mimic sounds of the womb and to block out jarring noises.
It’s also important to keep babies warm and feeling secure as they sleep.
Here are some tips to help you safely keep your baby warm at night.
And you can try this swaddle to help them feel safe and secure.
3. Bad Sleep Habits
If you’ve fallen into bad sleep habits, like an inconsistent bedtime or routine or rocking baby to sleep every night, make changes to help your baby feel more structured and regulated.
4. Illness or Discomfort
Your baby may have problems sleeping due to illness or discomfort like a diaper rash.
Here are some baby essentials to help treat a sick or uncomfortable child:
And check this post for the best ways to prevent and treat diaper rash.
5. Baby Doesn’t Self-Soothe
It’s important to teach babies to self-soothe. Otherwise, they’ll continue to rely on you to help them fall asleep.
If you’re not sure where to start, this proven newborn sleep schedule can help you initiate sleep training for babies as young as a week old.
This method can help you navigate daytime naps as well as infant sleep at night.
The basic idea is to use a feed-wake-sleep pattern that encourages babies to fall asleep on their own.
6. Growth Spurts
As your baby experiences growth spurts, he or she may need to temporarily feed more often to keep up.
Once your body adjusts to make more milk, they’ll be able to return to their normal sleep pattern.
Milestones may also temporarily disrupt your baby’s sleep.
Learning new skills like rolling over, crawling, or standing may keep your baby awake longer in their crib as they explore their new skills.
Continue with your bedtime routine and sleep training guidelines, and they’ll eventually get back to normal.
Traveling with a baby can be stressful. You may have trouble getting through the airport with your car seat or figuring out how to travel with frozen breast milk. And it may also affect your baby’s sleep.
While you’re away from home, do the best you can to create a similar environment to the one your baby is used to at home.
And try to follow the same bedtime routine.
Once you get home and settled back in, your baby should get back to normal within a few days.
9. Separation Anxiety
Around 6 months, your baby may also experience separation anxiety for the first time. Even babies who were previously sleeping well may “backslide” when this happens.
The best thing you can do is gently remind baby that you’re close by patting them on the back without getting them out of the crib. Go into their room with longer intervals of time in between (e.g. 1 minute, 3 minutes, 5 minutes) until they put themselves back to sleep
Important Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms
- Use a safety pin to help you remember which breast you nursed with last during nighttime feedings.
- Invest in a good nursing pillow to make nursing easier on your back.
- Use a good nipple cream like Lansinoh Lanolin to protect and treat sore nipples.
- If you experience engorgement, try using a cold compress or cabbage leaves to relieve the swelling and soothe discomfort.
- The Haakaa breast pump and other silicone breast pumps are a great way to collect extra breast milk to build up a freezer stash. And you can use them along with Epsom salt to treat a clogged duct.
- And try some of these fun ways to use leftover breast milk!
RELATED: 20 Important Things to Know About Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding works by supply and demand. So your body will continue to produce the amount of milk your baby needs.
However, you’ll likely produce less milk at night to adjust to fewer nighttime feedings and produce more milk for your baby during the day.
Babies typically start sleeping through the night (in 6-8 hour stretches) at around 6 months.
And they’ll likely be able to sleep a full 12 hours closer to 10-12 months.
Newborns typically need to eat every 2-3 hours. And it’s advised that they should sleep no longer than one 4-hour stretch in 24 hours.
However, every baby is different.
Speak with your pediatrician to get specific guidance for your child.
Make sure your baby gets plenty of calories during the day so they’re less hungry at night and establish a regular bedtime routine.
You should also:
– Avoid changing diapers at night where possible.
– Move them to their own space.
– Try incorporating a “dream feed” before you go down to sleep.
– When your baby wakes, wait a little bit before you go to feed them. They may not actually need to eat and they might go back to sleep on their own.
– Make sure you create a soothing sleep environment (dark, warm, and with white noise).
– Teach them to self-soothe using the feed-wake-sleep pattern.
– Make sure they’re not experiencing discomforts like a diaper rash or illness.
If this post was helpful, be sure to check out:
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- The ultimate list of mom hacks
- 3 First time mom books worth a read
- 115 Unique first birthday party ideas and themes
- 23 Creative monthly baby photo ideas
Did we answer all your questions about when breastfed babies sleep through the night? Let us know if we missed anything in the comments!