Objective: Most infants become settled at night by 3 months of age, whereas infants not settled by 5 months are likely to have long-term sleep-waking problems. We assessed whether normal infant development in the first 3 months involves increasing sleep-period length or the ability to resettle autonomously after waking in the night.
Methods: One hundred one infants were assessed at 5 weeks and 3 months of age using nighttime infrared video recordings and parental questionnaires.
Results: The clearest development was in sleep length; 45% of infants slept continuously for ≥5 hours at night at 3 months compared with 10% at 5 weeks. In addition, around a quarter of infants woke and resettled themselves back to sleep in the night at each age. Autonomous resettling at 5 weeks predicted prolonged sleeping at 3 months suggesting it may be a developmental precursor. Infants reported by parents to sleep for a period of 5 hours or more included infants who resettled themselves and those with long sleeps. Three-month olds fed solely breast milk were as likely to self-resettle or have long sleep bouts as infants fed formula or mixed breast and formula milk.
Conclusions: Infants are capable of resettling themselves back to sleep in the first 3 months of age; both autonomous resettling and prolonged sleeping are involved in "sleeping through the night" at an early age. Findings indicate the need for physiological studies of how arousal, waking, and resettling develop into sustained sleeping and of how environmental factors support these endogenous and behavioral processes.