I know you’re reading this thinking, ‘Thank you! Someone is finally going to answer this question for me!’ Unfortunately, we’ll need to really dive in to what sleep is before I can truly give you a conclusive response. I know, I know, you’re disappointed! You were looking for a quick, concise, time-based answer and it’s simply not that easy.
Seriously, though, I wish that I could say in “Three nights from now,” or “At six months old your child will be a rock star sleeper,” but there are a lot of factors to consider.
The first thing I feel parents need to understand is that your baby will never sleep through the night. That’s right, they won’t sleep through the night when they’re toddlers, or when they’re teenagers, or when they’re grown-ups, because nobody ever does.
As humans, we sleep in cycles. These various cycles begin as light sleep and move toward deep sleep and back again. Occasionally, when we get into a light sleep stage of a cycle, we hear a noise, or we’re in the middle of a crazy dream, or the dog jumps on the bed, or we just shift a little, and that little thing, whatever it may be, wakes us up. As adults, we have experienced this thousands of times so we simply shake it off and go back to sleep. Even more, most of the time, the wake-up is so brief that we don’t even remember it the next day.
But, for babies who are used to being rocked, sung, bounced or nursed to sleep, waking up in the night requires being rocked, sung, bounced, or nursed back to sleep. Makes perfect sense, right? I know, I know, that’s not really what you’re asking. What you want to know is, “When will my baby be able to get back to sleep on their own?”
That’s a much easier question to answer. Quite simply, this will happen when he or she learns independent sleep skills. When you teach your little one to go to sleep on his or her own, he or she will employ that skill multiple times a night, every night, for the rest of their life.
Now, there’s more to it than just leaving your baby alone in their crib and letting them figure it out for themselves. Don’t get me wrong, that approach has worked, but it’s not one everybody is comfortable using and, frankly, it’s not the most gentle or effective way of teaching your baby great sleep skills.
The traditional Cry-It-Out approach is a lot like leaving your child in front of a piano with some sheet music and saying, “Figure it out.” Eventually, they just might, and you might just have the Elton John of sleeping on your hands. However, assuming your child isn’t gifted in the sleep department, (and I’m just assuming they’re not, since you’re reading this) they could probably benefit from some lessons.
And, as with any skill, practice is essential! So, give it a shot. There’s probably going to be a bit of protest, but that doesn’t mean you can’t encourage, comfort and reassure your child as they develop this new ability.
What you shouldn’t do, however, is sit down at the piano and play it for them. Obviously, that doesn’t teach them anything. So, if you’ve traditionally given your child a pacifier, rocked him or her back to sleep, nursed at bedtime- yeah, don’t do that! These “sleep props” are the equivalent of playing the piano for your child to teach him or her how to sleep.
You child may be frustrated, he or she may get upset, but they’ll learn with a little time and practice.
In conclusion, although I can’t give an exact date or age of when your baby will go through the night without crying and demanding help to get back to sleep, I can tell you without hesitation that it will be much, much sooner if you stop doing it for them.
As for teaching your little one to play piano, you’re on your own with that one.