If you buy something through a link on this page, we may earn a small commission. How this works.

You love your new little one to pieces and cherish every milestone. From squeezing your finger to first smile, your baby has you reaching for the camera and proudly sharing these moments with friends and family.

One thing you might not be so eager to share? How sleep deprived you feel.

We get it. You are in love. But you are also exhausted. And yes, it may show. Resist the temptation to go wild with the Snapchat filters to correct this — at least superficially — and know that you’re not alone.

As much as we might want to schedule our lives, for about the first 6 months of their lives, babies have different ideas. They have sporadic sleep patterns that can be puzzling and even change from one week to the next. They may sleep up to 17 hours in a day, sure — but perhaps only for 1–2 hours at a time in some cases. This can be disheartening for new parents.

But keep in mind that your newborn still has a small stomach. They’re (usually) waking up throughout the night because they’re hungry. And just like you, they’re vocal when they need food. (And unlike you, they can’t serve themselves.)

There’s no set timeframe for when your baby will sleep through the night — disappointing, right? — but it will happen. Some babies sleep through the night at 6 months, while others won’t until 1 year, but either way there’s more consistent sleep in the future for both you and baby.

Every baby is different, so try not to compare your baby’s sleep habits to someone else’s. (And never, ever compare your unfiltered selfie to a fellow new parent’s Snapchat or Instagram photo. Parenthood is beautiful, and so are you.)

Let’s take a deeper dive into what to expect.

Experts generally consider “sleeping through the night” as sleeping 6 to 9 hours at a time for children and adults. But for babies, sleeping through the night may mean your child still needs to breastfeed or take a bottle — remember, tiny tummies mean hunger calls often — but is able to fall back to sleep after.

So your 3-month-old “sleeping through the night” doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting uninterrupted sleep. But it does mean your child is getting some quality shut-eye to help with their development and growth.

Around two-thirds of babies truly sleep uninterrupted — for that blissful 6 to 9 hours — by the time they’re 6 months of age.

You were probably told that pregnancy consists of three trimesters. So what’s this about a fourth one?

The fourth trimester, or newborn period, is the timeframe when your baby is 0–3 months. It’s known as the fourth trimester because your baby is adjusting to time outside your womb — and sometimes, quite honestly, misses it and wishes to be back in it!

Some newborns have their days and nights confused, so they sleep during the day and are often awake at night. Their stomachs are tiny, so they need to eat every 2–3 hours. Your baby will usually make this need loud and clear, but talk to your pediatrician.

In the first couple of weeks, it’s possible that you’ll need to wake your baby for feedings if they’re not waking on their own at these intervals, especially if they haven’t gotten back to their birthweight yet.

A lot of development also occurs during these months, so your sleepless nights will pay off — with interest.

Breastfed vs. formula-fed babies

Breastfed babies may have slightly different sleeping schedules than formula-fed babies during this time. Breast milk tends to move through your baby’s digestive system faster than formula. So when you’re breastfeeding, your baby may be hungry more often.

You’ll also likely need to breastfeed at least 8 to 12 times every 24 hours until your milk supply comes in during the first week or two. Then your baby may still need to breastfeed every 1.5–3 hours for the first 1–2 months, but may be able to sleep longer stretches at night.

Formula-fed babies may need to get a bottle every 2–3 hours. Talk to your baby’s pediatrician for specific instructions for how often they’ll need to feed. And remember — breast or formula, a fed baby is the best baby.

Sleep averages for babies, 0-3 months

Age Total sleep in 24 hours Total daytime sleep hours Total nighttime sleep hours (with feedings throughout)
Newborn 16 hours 8 8–9
1–2 months 15.5 hours 7 8–9
3 months 15 hours 4–5 9–10

Starting at 3 months, your baby may start to sleep for longer stretches at a time. Hallelujah! If you’re interested in the reasoning — and not just the bottom line (more sleep!) — here it is:

  • Fewer nighttime feedings. As your baby grows, nighttime feedings will gradually decrease. At 3 months, your baby may go from feeding every 2–3 hours to every 3–4 hours. By 6 months, your baby will likely be eating every 4–5 hours and may be able to sleep even longer stretches at night. Talk to your pediatrician for exact recommendations for how often your baby needs to eat.
  • Decreased Moro reflex. Your baby’s Moro, or startle, reflex decreases by age 3–6 months. This reflex — while incredibly adorable — can jolt your baby awake, so it stands to reason that this decrease helps extend sleep. At this point, they’ll have more control over their movements and reflexes.
  • Self-soothing. You’ll start to notice self-soothing behaviors around 4 months, but most babies need help with soothing until they’re about 6 months. From early on, you can help your baby by (carefully and quietly!) putting them down to sleep when they’re drowsy, but still awake. Also, start to help your little one distinguish between night and day by putting them down for a nap in a dark room and their crib only.

Sleep averages for babies, 3–6 months

Age Total sleep in 24 hours Total daytime sleep hours Total nighttime sleep hours
3 months 15 hours 4–5 9–10
4–5 months 14 hours 4–5 8–9

After 6 months, your baby is capable of even more self-soothing at night.

A note to new parents here: If your baby is still in the newborn stage, you may be longing for the more independent stage we’re about to describe. But strangely, we promise that when you get to this point, you’ll find yourself reminiscing about your newborn and wishing time would slow down. Our advice? Enjoy each precious stage as it comes.

During these months, you may be able to stick to a more set nap and sleep schedule. Your little one may go from having 3–4 naps a day to only a couple per day. And… drumroll, please… they may sleep up to 10–11 hours a night during this time.

After 6 months, you can encourage your baby to learn new techniques to self-soothe. Try checking on them if they cry to make sure they aren’t too hot or cold, but don’t pick them up out of their crib if nothing’s wrong. You can still stroke their forehead or speak to them gently to let them know you’re there.

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.

They may cry out or refuse to go to sleep without you in the room, and you may be tempted to give in — either because it’s incredibly sweet to be needed, or because you’re eager for the crying to stop.

Separation anxiety is a completely normal part of development. If you’re concerned about it, talk to your baby’s pediatrician for ways you can help get your precious little one to fall asleep on their own again (so you can sneak out to another room for a Netflix binge).

If your baby has not yet learned to fall asleep without being fed or held, this may be a difficult time to start this process.

Sleep averages for babies, 6–9 months

Age Total sleep in 24 hours Total daytime sleep hours Total nighttime sleep hours
6–7 months 14 hours 3–4 10
8–9 months 14 hours 3 11

By this point, you should have a set sleeping routine. Naps should be during the day when it’s light out. At night, you could give your baby a bath, read a book, and put them down for the night. Or, you may prefer a different routine entirely! The key here is that a consistent routine will help them know it’s time for bed.

After 9 months, your baby should be sleeping for longer stretches of time. But they may still be experiencing separation anxiety, making it difficult for you to leave the room after putting them in their crib.

We know it’s hard, but try to keep your bedtime visits to the crib shorter over time. Go check on your baby and make sure they’re OK. Sing them a lullaby or rub their back. They generally won’t need to feed or be picked up.

As always, talk to your pediatrician if you are concerned about your baby’s ability to sleep through the night at this point.

Sleep averages for babies, 9–12 months

Age Total sleep in 24 hours Total daytime sleep hours Total nighttime sleep hours
9–12 months 14 hours 3 11

Remember, in the first week or two, newborns need to feed every few hours, so it may not be safe for them to sleep for long stretches of time, even at night.

Sleep hacks

Place your baby in the crib when they’re drowsy, but not asleep. Learn to read your baby’s cues like a book. They may yawn or rub their eyes when they are sleepy, just like you do! Putting them down on their back in the crib when they are giving you these cues will help them fall asleep more easily. The last thing you want to is try to force a happy, playing baby to go to sleep, so have wind-down routines in your back pocket.

Develop a sleep schedule. A bedtime routine is helpful for you — it makes sense that it’s helpful for your mini-me, too. That may mean giving your baby a bath, reading a book together, and then putting them in the crib when they’re giving you those sleepy signs. Setting up these habits early may mean you’ll have more success later on.

Practice safe sleep habits. Always place your baby down on their back in their crib to go to sleep. Also remove all objects — hazards, really — from their crib or sleep environment.

Create an environment ideal for sleep. No one wants to sleep when it’s too hot or too cold, so watch the temperature of your baby’s space. You may also want to invest in blackout curtains if it’s still light when you’re putting them to sleep. While they have not been reliably shown to help for all babies (and some seem to not like them), consider shopping for a white noise machine or relaxing baby sound machine to help your little one rest.

Stay consistent. When everyone in your house is on different nighttime schedules, it can be difficult to stick to a routine. Try to stay consistent. This will set your baby up to be a good sleeper later on.

Q&A with Karen Gill, MD

Help! My baby is 6 months and still not sleeping through the night. Do I need to speak with a sleep expert?

A lot depends on how and where your baby is falling asleep in the first place and what it takes to get them back to sleep when they wake up. Start by talking to your baby’s pediatrician who can help you figure out why your baby is waking and then help you develop a plan for better sleep.

My 2-month-old seems to be a good sleeper, but I’m concerned they’re sleeping too long without a bottle at night. Should I be waking them up?

If your baby is gaining weight well and has no underlying medical conditions requiring more frequent feedings you do not need to wake your baby at night to feed.

How do I know when my baby is just fussy or really needs me during the night? Is it ever OK to let them “cry it out” in their crib?

A baby who has fed and is sleepy may be able to learn to fall asleep on their own around 4 to 6 months, or even before. Waking at night is still normal after this, but if they have not yet learned how to fall asleep on their own, they will usually want someone to comfort them when they wake, even if they are not hungry. Studies have shown that babies in families who use various “sleep training” methods are no more likely to have attachment, emotional, or behavioral problems later in childhood.

Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

The first year of your baby’s life can be challenging for sleep-deprived parents. But you’re going to make it to the finish line, we promise.

Keep in mind, you’re doing all this to help your little one grow and develop in a healthy way — even if you’re losing some sleep, too. And as your baby grows, they’ll start sleeping for longer stretches at a time, rest assured (literally).

If you’re concerned about your little one’s sleep habits, don’t hesitate to reach out to their pediatrician for advice. Chances are, you’ll hear that you and your baby are doing just fine.