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Dr. Van Hala: Hi, I'm Dr. Sonja Van Hala, and I worked at Sugar House Family Health Center through the University of Utah. I'm a family doctor.
I talk to many parents who are wondering when they'll get a full night's sleep. You know, every baby is different and has their own rhythm. Really early on the baby is in charge, and especially if you're breastfeeding, you're going to want to respond to their rhythm. So when they awake and they start crying, you know, you'll check to make sure their diaper is clean and then you'll most likely be feeding them.
And then oftentimes, they're sleeping in between their feedings. But when the baby is small, their stomach isn't very big and so they need to feed about every two to three hours if they're breastfeeding. With formula, it might be spaced out a little bit more, every three to four hours, and then oftentimes they're sleeping in between.
You can start to expect around two months of age or so some longer stretches of sleeping, five to six hours perhaps at night. But really, we don't start fussing with trying to train them to sleep until closer to four months of age when their stomach is a bit bigger, we know that their growth is going well, and they're able to tolerate longer stretches of sleep.
One thing that I encourage, and I would start doing this early on with your newborn infant, is a bedtime routine, and this can include bathing, singing, reading, just really slowing things down prior to bed and getting the baby in the mood to go to sleep. Once the baby is closer to four months of age, if they start waking in the middle of the night, it's a good idea to just see if they really are fully awake and if they need your attention or if they're just making some noise and you can just let them be and then they'll settle themselves back down.
Certainly, in the middle of the night, it's important to not train them that they're going to have a fun time in the middle of the night. So ways to handle that is if you do need to give them attention in the middle of the night to either feed them or change their diaper, keep the lights down low, don't play, try to not do too much talking and stimulation, try to keep it boring. Do what you need to do and then put the baby back to bed, and then hopefully they'll eventually learn that awaking in the middle of night, you know, really isn't that much fun and so they'll start stringing more hours together.
So I would say if you get some good night's sleep in the first few months of life, that is wonderful and enjoy it. But usually, you're not going to have a full night sleep, meaning five or six hours, until probably around three to four months of life, and around four months is when you can start doing some sleep training with your child and try to extend those hours.
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