For many new parents, the sleep debate is one of the biggest issues. Many experts agree on different ages for infants to begin sleeping through the night. Some within the first few months, others not until closer to a year. A new study puts the age at 4 months and says it is critical to do so.
The study involved the parents of 75 babies, who were asked to record sleep diaries to track how long their infants slept. The diaries were only updated for 6 days of each month, for the first year of the infants’ lives. The researchers then looked at the data recorded to see how well the infants were sleeping. Criteria such as sleeping uninterrupted from 10 p.m to 6 a.m., from midnight till 5 a.m, or for 8 hours was the main focus for the researchers.
The researchers found that most infants can sleep for five to eight hours by the age of 4 months. Half of the babies were sleeping the same as the rest of the family by 5 months.
Dr. Jennifer Shu, a practicing pediatrician, and CNNHealth’s Living Well expert, warns that infant sleep is very individual however. Not every baby will need to sleep as long, and some will want to sleep longer. She suggests parents look at how well their child is thriving and growing rather than the exact number of hours of sleep.
“There is always a caveat,” Dr. Shu notes: “It’s important to note that babies are different and we shouldn’t expect or force all of them into a cookie-cutter sleep mode. Some babies just don’t respond to the ‘cry it out’ method.”
Dr. Shu says that the first few months are critical in developing a good sleep routine, however. A consistent routine can help an infant learn to self-sooth and sleep through the night. Rocking, cuddling, and breastfeeding before bed can calm and relax a tired baby. Then place the baby down drowsy, though not yet asleep. If it does not work right away, however, parents should not feel guilty if their infant takes longer to reach that stage than other infants.
The study was published in the journal Pediatrics. – Summer, staff writer
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