Parenting Counts is a product of Talaris Institute.


Goodnight, Baby (0-14 Months)

Will your baby ever sleep through the night? The answer is yes!

Some nights you need to get up and soothe a crying baby three, four, or what seems like ten times. You’re not used to waking up this often, and you’re exhausted. It doesn’t seem like you will ever have a complete night of sleep again. But hang in there, sleep is on its way. Becoming sleep-deprived can be one of the most challenging parts of being a new parent. It can affect almost all aspects of your life: your health, mood, relationships, career, and sometimes even your sanity. The good news is the sleepless nights don’t last forever.

As different as night and day

In the first weeks and months, it’s too early to expect a baby to sleep through the night. Most infants younger than three months old sleep around 18 hours a day. It’s also normal for some to sleep more and others to sleep less. Young infants tend to sleep for around 2 to 4 hours and then wake for short periods, often to be fed. These patterns of sleeping and waking can vary, and they go on around the clock. A newborn doesn’t know that people sleep when it’s dark, and a baby’s internal clock that controls sleeping and waking patterns is still developing.

In a few months, babies gradually begin to organize sleeping and waking according to daily cycles of darkness and daylight. The 24-hour, light-and-dark cycle affects most babies’ sleep patterns within the first three months. By six months of age, many babies organize their main sleep times in concert with darkness and daylight.

What does the research say?

The truth is, few babies truly sleep through the night. Sleep researchers have found that infants younger than twelve months typically wake up three times during the night. For the first few months of life, 95 percent of infants cry when they wake up. And most of them need someone to soothe them before they can go back to sleep. Several studies have found that by eight months, over 50 percent of infants who wake at night go back to sleep without any soothing from parents or other caregivers.

Hush, little baby

By the time your baby turns one, chances are she’ll be sleeping 8 to 12 hours a night, waking up only once or twice. She may also nap once or twice during the day, ranging from 20 minutes to around 2 hours at a time. Every baby is different, and your normal, healthy baby may have different sleep patterns from other children.

Helpful parenting tips

  • Don’t expect your baby to sleep through the night before she’s six months old.
  • Try taking naps when your baby is napping.
  • Respond quickly and with kindness to your baby’s cries.
  • If it’s not time for a feeding, gentle patting or rocking may soothe your baby back to sleep.
  • After six months, your baby may be able to self-soothe and return to sleep without your attention.
  • Try to establish a bedtime routine (such as feeding, bathing, music, and rocking).