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Ask Dr. Karp is a monthly Q & A series with world-renowned pediatrician Harvey Karp. Each month, he'll join us on the our site Blog to answer questions from our fans.
Q. When should my baby sleep through the night?
Dr. Karp: This question is a little trickier than it sounds.
Exhausted new moms and dads cross off the days on the calendar, in eager anticipation of that grand night when their baby sleeps "through the night." Thankfully, they don't have to wait too long. Studies show that half of 2-month-olds can last five hours (midnight to 5 a.m.) without crying out for help, and by 5 months, half can last an eight-hour stretch without making a peep. (Of course, that means that the other 50 percent of 5-month-olds are still making plenty of peeps!)
But just because your baby is resting quietly doesn't mean that she's sleeping. In truth, no baby ever sleeps through the night. In fact, no child, teen, or adult sleeps through the night either!
What I mean is that we all drowsily awaken three to four times a night. Fortunately, we don't remember waking up as long as everything is pretty much the same as when we sacked out. But if something in your room has dramatically changed since you went to bed (say, your pillow has fallen on the floor or there is a little smoke in the room), you'll wake up enough to remember it.
The same is true for your baby. If she rouses in the middle of the night and feels hungry or uncomfortable, she'll definitely pop awake. But, if she finds the world exactly as it was when she started snoozing (for example, still snugly swaddled with a rumbly white noise CD playing), she'll probably fall right back to sleep. On the other hand, if you always rock or feed your baby into sleep, when she rouses she'll soon notice that you've "suddenly disappeared' and left her all alone, in a stone-silent room...and cry out for you to return for more rocking and comfort feeding.
Photo: Lisa Rosario Photography, Flickr
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.