This is a tricky question to answer without getting into detail. People are often looking a for a definitive answer as though sleep skills develop the same as any other milestone (like teething or walking), but this isn’t the case.
The first thing you need to know is, no one ever really “sleeps through the night” -- not even you or I.
Sleep is not as simple as ‘asleep or awake’. As humans we sleep in continuous cycles, constantly shifting between light and deep sleep. During the lighter stages of sleep we are more likely to stir when we hear a noise.. or the person next to us rolls over.. or if we’ve lost some of the blanket… these little things can be enough to make us wake a little.
As adults we are accustomed to these slight wakings and we settle quickly back to sleep, often not even remembering it the next morning. On the other hand… babies who are used to being rocked, shhhed, and sung to sleep will seek all or some of these things to help them resettle during their night wakings.
READ: It’s not ‘sleeping through the night’ that is the true goal for healthy sleep habits, but the ability to self soothe for nap times, bed time, AND brief wakings.
So when will your baby learn to do this? Long answer short … when you teach them how.
While it sounds simple, there’s more to teaching this skill than just placing your baby down in the bassinet and letting them figure it out for themselves. It’s true that this approach has worked for many, but it certainly isn’t a method that everyone is comfortable using – nor is it the most gentle or effective way to teach your baby how to self soothe.
The well known traditional ‘cry it out’ method is much like placing your child in front of a piano with just some sheet music and saying “figure it out”. Eventually, they just might. You may just have the Beethoven of sleeping on your hands. However, assuming your child isn’t born a natural sleeper (which I’m assuming they’re not, considering you’ve read this far), they could probably benefit from some support.
As with any skill, practice is essential. So, give your baby the opportunity to TRY to self soothe – even if you don’t have great hopes of success. There’s almost definitely going to be some crying when you decide it’s time for your little one to learn to self soothe. But, there’s nothing to stop you from providing a little comfort and reassurance at this stage – provided you’re working towards fading out this support long term. Don’t fall into the trap of playing the piano for them.
Things that may seem so intuitive – like holding and rocking your baby, singing a lullaby, or giving a dummy – often turn into long-term sleep props and almost always require your presence. You’re the one getting your baby off to sleep at night and resettling them when they wake – not them.
When you encourage your baby to practice their sleep skills, it is almost certain that some frustration (on both sides!) will be involved. But you can rest assured that with a little time and practice your baby will learn how to self soothe and enjoy the journey of falling to sleep.
So, while I can’t give you an exact answer for when your baby will sleep through the night… I can assure you that it will be much sooner if you start encouraging them to self soothe.