For a lot of sleep deprived parents, this is the $64M question! For every mum who has been blessed with a baby sleeping through without milk at 4 weeks there seems to be another who is feeding their 18 month old overnight and says that she still needs to. So when CAN a baby sleep through without being fed? When is it safe?
Well, in general the answer is around 6 months, provided your baby is on track growth-wise. You will find other baby sleep consultants who will tell you that it’s much earlier than that but The Baby Sleep Company prefers to err on the side of caution and go with what the majority of doctors and paediatricians recommend.
How can you tell if she’s on track growth-wise?
You know the height/weight/head circumference charts they normally give you in hospital when you give birth? Plot your 6 month old’s up to date measurements on that chart and see if they’re on the same percentage (or greater) than they were at birth (obviously in some unusual cases this will not be an accurate way to tell and you may need a doctor to help determine if your baby is able to sleep through.
So, if I were shown two 6 month old babies both on the 75th percentile for weight and asked if they are ready to sleep through overnight without milk my answer would simply be “I don’t know”. I don’t know if they’re ready to sleep through until I know which percentile those babies were at birth. If baby A was 75% and is still 75% then yes! She is probably ready to sleep through without milk. If baby B, however, was born at 98% and is now 75% then there is definitely a need to investigate further and find out why baby doesn’t seem to be growing at the rate we would expect him to. Another important factor to consider is whether or not solids have been successfully introduced yet.
What happens at 6 months to make babies suddenly able to sleep through?
Humans are diurnal animals which means we’re designed to be awake during the day. Therefore, as a species we are also are designed to consume our calories in the daylight hours. Small babies, however, simply do not have the capacity to consume enough calories for their intense growing duties in only half of a 24 hour block so they need to have milk through the night as well. Medical research indicates that it is at 6 months that a baby’s body matures to the point where they can get enough nutrients during the day and therefore do not need calories at night.
What if your baby has slept through previously?
We see a lot of clients who are frustrated that their 4 month old baby has previously slept through but is now waking again crying out – they feel like they know their baby ‘can’ sleep through so are reluctant to form a ‘bad habit’ by offering milk. This is totally normal and we would recommend that you do offer your baby milk if this happens. Babies go through growth stages and given that at this age milk is still provides pretty much all their vital nutrition it may be that they are genuinely hungry and needing extra milk while they grow more! An older baby going through a growth spurt can easily compensate by eating more protein rich solid food during the day.
As with any sleep advice on the internet, ours is general only. No one on the internet can see YOUR baby and give you personalised advice, so always seek specific advice from a medical practitioner if in any doubt.
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If you would like personalised help with any sleep issue for a child, newborn to 5 years, contact The Baby Sleep Company today on 0457 473 725 or click here to send us an email.