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Expert Advice on Babies and Sleep

by Cathy of "Mamasource"
Photo by: Shutterstock

Bringing You Advice from the Pros – ASK AN EXPERT

Welcome to Ask an Expert where we reach out to industry-appropriate professionals for insights and answers to the complex questions mothers in our community are wrangling with.


When my twins were babies they had an unspoken agreement to never let me sleep for more than a half hour uninterrupted. I soon discovered the only way I was going to sleep through the night was to get them to sleep through the night. Now the girls are 15, and it’s more of a challenge waking them up in the morning, but I don’t mind because turnabout is fair play.

For all the Mamapedia mamas who have gone from sleep deprived to sleep depraved, I have consulted Andrew Lieber, M.D., of Rose Pediatrics in Denver, Colorado for some friendly professional advice.

QUESTION: Dr. Lieber, is there a certain age (or weight) that a baby should be able to sleep through the night?

Dr. Lieber: There is no set age or weight for a baby to sleep through the night. Each child is different. Sometimes children will sleep through the night by two months. Most children sleep all night between four and six months of age. Breast fed infants will often sleep later, possibly as late as nine months of age. On average, most children will be waking only once a night by six months.

QUESTION: Are there any methods you recommend? Any methods that commonly fail?

Dr. Lieber: My favorite book is Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Mark Weissbluth. I used this method with my children and they were sleeping all night by five months of age. At a bare minimum, it reassured me that what my baby was doing is what every baby was doing. Additionally, what’s great about this book is that Dr. Weissbluth takes a more scientific approach. Each chapter goes month by month explaining normal sleep patterns, what are normal times to put babies down for naps and for the night, and how to develop good sleep habits. I contrast this with other books that focus more on putting babies on the parents’ schedule. That approach is not helpful and generally does not lead to good long term sleep habits.

QUESTION: Will the baby feel abandoned if cries are ignored?

Dr. Lieber: This is an excellent question. It has recently been in the news that the methods telling parents to ignore cries and keep babies on a set schedule may lead to long term issues (i.e. feeling abandoned). Sometimes with older babies it is necessary to let them “cry it out.” But I usually advise people to wait until at least nine months of age for this. Before that age, babies really do not have the capacity to soothe themselves. But after nine months, this becomes a behavioral issue. In other words, you won’t spoil a young baby by coddling them, but you can spoil a toddler by letting them rule the home with screaming.

QUESTION: What advice do you have for sleep deprived parents?

Dr. Lieber: This is such a tough stage. Everyone who has kids has lived through the sleep deprivation. I once heard a saying that parenting children involves long days but short years. Try to find something positive in each day, because it will all pass faster than you think.

QUESTION: Last resorts?

Dr. Lieber: A hot bath, a nice bottle, and soft music……..for mom!

Cathy Kobre is a new member of the Mamasource team. She lives in Carmel, California, with her twin teenage daughters and Japanese Chin, Penny.

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