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When Do Breastfed Babies Sleep Through The Night?

By Paula McLaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH | Updated - 13 September 2021

So when do breastfed babies sleep through the night?

Surely it's at the same time as bottle-fed babies... Right?

Well... not quite... See babies have a habit of living to their own rules and this is just one of those moments! 

So when you reach the 6 month postnatal mark and your baby still isn't sleeping through the night, what can we do to help them reach this crucial milestone?

Well, keep on reading to uncover my 10 Super Easy Tricks to get any breastfed baby to sleep through the night! And let me guide you through this exhausting and trying time so you can start to have a regular sleep schedule once again!

When do breastfed babies sleep through the night

When do most babies sleep through the night?

As is always the case with babies there are no hard and fast rules as to when babies achieve certain milestones and sleeping through the night is one of those. 

Most professionals will identify sleeping through the night when your baby has 6 hours or more of uninterrupted sleep at night.

While some babies will reach this milestone as early as 4 months, others will still be waking more frequently at 9 months or older. However, The Sleep Foundation states that ‘Most babies sleep through the night around 6 months old’.

When do breastfed babies sleep through the night?

Breastfed babies tend to take longer to sleep through the night than bottle fed babies.

This is because formula contains more calories and keeps baby fuller for longer. 

Breastfed babies tend to eat little and often and this is where it can become more tricky to get them to sleep for longer periods.

BUT... if handled correctly and using my 10 Super Easy Tricks I’ve outlined below, you should be able to get your breastfed baby to sleep for a stretch of 6 hours or more by 7 months old.

How long should breastfed babies sleep?

Whether your baby is breastfed or bottle fed, their sleep requirements are the same.

A baby of 4-6 months requires 12-16 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period and the main difference is that breastfed babies tend to feed more frequently than bottle fed babies and therefore are likely to sleep in shorter bursts. 

By 6-7 months your baby will still need 12-16 hours of sleep a day, but 11 of those hours should be taken at night where they will hopefully sleep for a minimum of 6 hours continuously, have a feed and then return to sleep for the remaining few hours.

Babies of this age will still be having about 2-3 naps during the day too.

when do breastfed babies sleep through the night Featured Image

How often do I need to feed baby?

The number of feeds your baby requires will depend on their age and whether they are bottle or breastfed.

Breastfed babies are generally slower to cut back on nighttime feeds than bottle-fed babies and are prone to eat little and often. 

Breastfeeding

Breastfed babies at 4 months of age will feed approximately every 3-4 hours (but this does vary from baby to baby).

By 6 months of age, nothing much will have changed for a breastfed baby as feeds will still be had every 3-4 hours.

Bottle Feeding

4 month old bottle-fed babies require 4-6 feeds of 4oz a day.

While a 6 month old bottle-fed baby requires 6-8oz feeds 6 times a day.

4 Curious Reasons why breastfed babies are not sleeping through the night

There are a number of reasons why a breastfed baby may take longer to sleep through the night than a bottle-fed baby.

Some are purely driven by the differences between the way breastfed and bottle-fed babies take in calories, while others are because your baby may be needing a more structured bedtime routine and a change in their sleep environment.

1. Lack of bedtime routine

Sometimes your baby not sleeping through could be due to the fact that you have not yet implemented a bedtime routine that gets your baby ready for sleep. 

Take a look at my post on Hacking the Bedtime Routine for tips on how to establish a good routine even at an early age.

2. Not taking in enough calories during the day

Whether your baby is bottle or breastfeeding, in order for your little one to sleep longer at night they need to take in enough calories before bedtime.

This is easier for bottle-fed babies as the adult that is feeding them determines how much milk they have, but for breastfed babies, they are in charge.

They determine how much milk they take at each feed and as a result, you may need to help them along to make sure baby is taking enough to last them through the night.

Read my post Breastfeeding 101 to learn more about how to help baby take a full feed.

3. Your baby is unable to self soothe or self-settle

If your baby has not leant to self settle or soothe yet, then they may be waking at night just to get the comfort from sucking to resettle themselves.

4. Unsuitable sleep environment

Up until the age of 4 months, a baby will sleep almost anywhere and is not be easily disturbed. 

However, by 6 months of age, your baby is far more aware of their surroundings so they’re more likely to be easily woken by nighttime noises. 

Mothers of breastfed babies tend to keep their little ones close by for ease of nighttime feeding, but it may be time to move them to their own room to reduce the impact of these night noises.

White noise machines are also a brilliant investment to help baby sleep if you haven’t got one already!

Dream Egg White Noise Machine

What is it? Sleek multi option white noise machine.

Why do I recommend it? This a versatile white noise machine with 24 options that will definitely help your little one settle to sleep. It has a soft warm light that will help babies fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Top Tip

For more information about why your baby may not be sleeping through the night and how you can fix it, be sure to check out my post Why Do Babies Fight Sleep? to learn more!

10 Super Easy Tricks To Get a breastfed baby to sleep through the night

The good news is that there are things you can do to help your breastfed baby reach that crucial milestone of sleeping through the night! 

1. Establish a bedtime routine

It is never too early to establish a bedtime routine.

Once your baby is having a regular evening bath, you are ready to start a bedtime routine. 

Having a routine at the end of the day that signals a slowing down, such as dimly lit room and low energy interactions, will help to get your baby ready for sleep.

Ensure that the last feed before bedtime is given in a quiet dimly lit room and having additional sleep cues such as singing a lullaby or reading a book is an important way to stop your baby from relying on feeding to get them to sleep.

As I mentioned earlier, take a look at my post on Hacking the Bedtime Routine for tips on how to establish a good routine even at this early age.

2. Cluster feed or top up

Cluster feeding is one way of making sure your baby is full enough to sleep for a longer stretch at night. 

While young babies may naturally cluster feed, you can engineer a cluster feeding session during the evening to see if your baby will sleep for a little longer at night.

Try feeding your baby at 6pm, 8pm and again at 10pm before you go to bed and see if that helps them sleep for longer. Cluster feeds are not long but rather short, sweet and often.

3. Dream feed

Alternatively, a solution that I have found works very well is to try a dream feed.

This is when you feed your baby before you go to bed at around 10-11pm with the aim of them taking a nice big feed that will carry them through the night for 6 or more hours of sleep.

Don't fully wake your baby to feed them as the aim is to feed them while they are drowsy so they easily drift off to sleep after the feed. 

It might take some practice to get them to latch on successfully for a dream feed or you may want to offer them this feed with expressed milk from a bottle. The added benefit of using a bottle is that your partner can also give this feed. 

Again, for a more detailed look at breastfeeding and how to get it right take a look at my post Breastfeeding 101 to learn more.

4. Don’t rush in when baby wakes

I would also advise that once your baby reaches 6 -7 months of age that you try not to rush in as soon as you hear them make a sound at night. 

Wait a bit and see if they manage to go back to sleep.

Your baby will naturally wake at night several times and you don’t want them to associate every waking with you appearing and offering them a feed.

Of course, if they’re not settling and seem to be getting worked up, go in and soothe them as needed.

5. Try night weaning

Once your baby is around 6 months old, you can start to wean your baby off nighttime feeding. 

By this age, many babies will wake up out of habit and will need a feed to get them back to sleep. 

Night weaning cannot be rushed and you should start by reducing the amount of milk they take by shortening the feed. 

You should aim to drop night feeds one at a time with the ideal pattern ultimately being:

  • A dream feed at 10-11pm,
  • Weaning your little one off the middle of the night feed. 
  • Then giving an early morning feed.
  • You can then move on to weaning them off the dream feed in time.

6. Teach your baby to self-settle

As I briefly mentioned earlier, teaching your little one to self-settle will go a long way with helping your baby to sleep through the night. 

If baby is able to get back to sleep without your help, you may find that you don’t have to feed them so often. 

Teaching self-settling involves putting your baby down before they are fast asleep (drowsy) and trying to avoid rocking or feeding them to sleep. If your baby is struggling to fall asleep without you holding them, take a look at my post Help My Baby Won’t Sleep Unless Held to see how to remedy this.

Another way to help with self-settling is to allow your baby to spend short periods of time alone in their cot during the day while they are awake so that they become comfortable with being alone there. 

You should also start trying to end the feed before your baby has fallen fully asleep and put them down when they are drowsy rather than fast asleep too.

7. Move them to their own room

Once your baby is around 6 months old they should be ready to move into their own room. 

At this age, they are far more aware of their surroundings and are more likely to wake easily due to noises around them.

Although when you breastfeed having your baby close at hand makes nighttime feeding a breeze it may play against you when you want your baby to sleep longer at night when they're older. 

If they are aware that you are close by when they wake they are going to want you to feed them, but if they are in their own room they may just go back to sleep.

8. Have a healthy sleep environment

This applies to whether you are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding your baby but is worth mentioning. 

Having your baby sleep in a room that is dimly lit, has a white noise machine and is at the correct temperature will all help your baby stay asleep.

Dream Egg White Noise Machine

What is it? Sleek multi option white noise machine

Why do I recommend it? This a versatile white noise machine with 24 options that will definitely help your little one settle to sleep. It has a soft warm light that will help babies fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

9. Ensure your baby is appropriately dressed

The same goes for ensuring your baby is appropriately dressed for sleep. Ensuring your baby is comfortable at night will go a long way in helping them to sleep longer.

10. Use a nighttime nappy

And finally, use a nighttime nappy - these work well with both breast and bottle-fed babies.

Ensuring you use a nappy that allows your baby to go longer without a diaper change will also help them to sleep longer and avoid the possibility of them waking because they are uncomfortable.

What You Should NOT Do to Get a Breastfed Baby to Sleep Through the Night

Here are 4 things that you should NEVER do in an attempt to make baby sleep longer at night.

If you do try any of these shortcuts, you can put baby in a very dangerous situation and do them more harm than good.

1. Do Not Supplement with formula

You might be tempted to supplement your breastmilk with higher calorie formula to get your baby to sleep through the night, but this can easily backfire!

Changing to formula can trigger your baby to suffer from reflux or too much wind as their digestive system will not be used to it. This will cause them to wake up at night because they’re uncomfortable so you’ll still be waking up to soothe them regardless!

Do Not Co-sleep

In desperation, you may be tempted to co-sleep with your baby to help them sleep for longer at night and save you having to get up to feed them when they wake. 

However, this is not recommended and can be very dangerous.

Do Not Be tempted to wean too early

It is important that you don’t attempt to wean your baby in order to get them to sleep longer at night if they’re not ready.

Babies have immature digestive systems and should not be weaned before 4 months at the earliest to ensure they’re weaned safely.

Do not stop night feeding suddenly

If your baby wakes and needs to be fed, feed them.

You can start to wean your baby off nighttime feeds by feeding them a little less every time and gradually cutting back on nighttime feeds one at a time.

Final Notes

Helping your breastfed baby to sleep through the night requires patience and a bit of clever planning to ensure they are being fed at the optimum times!

So, remember to use my 10 Super Easy Tricks to make your journey to a full night's sleep quicker and easier for both you and baby and see if there are any reasons why baby many NOT be sleeping through the night that you can start to fix today.

I wish you all the hugs, support and love for this exhausting and trying time, but I know that you'll get there in the end and baby will sleep for 6+ hours soon enough!

So for now, with love and support, Happy Parenting!

REMEMBER

If you have any questions about 'When do breastfed babies sleep through the night?'...

Or if you have any blog ideas you'd like me to write about, then be sure to drop me an email at [email protected] and let me know!

Teething to Tantrums Author

Paula McLaren is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and has been in the childcare industry as a Norland Nanny since 1982. Since then, her mission has been to help parents become the best they can possibly be. And each year, she continues to help more families understand their child's development, the trials and joys of parenting and of course, how to care for their little ones.

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